Every year, Danika and the other Lesbrary reviewers talk about our favorite sapphic books we read this year, whether they were published in 2023 or not. This time, there are so many reviewers at the Lesbrary that we needed to split this into two posts. The next one will round up Danika’s top ten-ish sapphic books of the year, and this one is the top sapphic book from nine of the other Lesbrary reviewers.
These picks range from brand-new 2023 releases to a 1950s novel, and they include genres from fantasy and sci-fi to memoir to graphic novels, romance, and more. There’s something here for everyone!
Without further ado, here are the Lesbrary reviewers’ favorite sapphic books they read this year!
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
My favorite sapphic read of 2023 was The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo. This made me appreciate The Great Gatsby more, as I never really liked the original. But coming from Jordan’s perspective, it really fleshed the side characters out more and left Jay Gatsby on the sidelines.
The added magical elements gave it another dimension that melded well with the setting, including the racial tensions happening between Asians and Asian Americans in the country.
Check out my full review for more of my thoughts.
Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H.
Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H. is a coming-of-age memoir that connects stories from the Quran to the author’s own experiences, from discovering her sexuality and gender, to navigating crushes and dating, to moving to the U.S. and struggling to find community as a queer hijabi Muslim. With honest reflection, the author discusses such issues as having white Americans invalidate her queerness for, among other things, choosing not to come out to her parents, as well as the string of straight women she crushed on in order to feel safe from the murky waters of the next steps. In each case, her faith provides strength and solace.
This memoir is something special. Despite the audiobook not being narrated by the author, listening to it felt as personal as if it were. The book’s depiction of survival in the face of alienation particularly resonated with me, especially with all the ways the author finds to both connect with and stay guarded from themself and others. The book is beautifully written and deeply contemplative, with the stories from the Quran providing a compelling framework for each essay. I’m sure many readers will find meaning in this bold tale of reclamation.
Content warnings: suicidal ideation; bigotry including islamophobia, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny; and discussions of domestic abuse. —Emory Rose
If You’ll Have Me by Eunnie
Everyone who knows me knows I love, love, love graphic novels. Every sapphic I’ve spoken to this summer knows that I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS BOOK. It is the perfect blend of fluffy, sweet, funny, heartfelt, sincere, aching-but-not-torturous. The main characters are delightfully charming but still fully realized, multidimensional and struggling with their own conflicts and baggage.
I’ve already reviewed it here, but it’s basically a peak low-stakes slice-of-life fluff and healing relationship dynamics. It’s not a manhwa/manga, though there is a undeniable stylistic influence. But it is SO GOOD and should be right up there with Heartstopper and Bloom and Lumberjanes and all those other coming-of-age graphic novels, even if this one is set in college and deals with slightly older characters than those. —Anna N.
I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself by Marisa Crane
I Keep My Exoskeletons To Myself is a fascinating look at an autocratic society that relies on shame and guilt as a form of punishment. The story is told in the second person, with Kris (our protagonist) speaking to her baby and offering some small bits of background as the story progresses. It is very character-driven as we see Kris’s world form and change around her child, even as she questions the injustices of the world she was born into. For a book that deals with some incredibly hard themes, I Keep My Exoskeletons To My Self is surprisingly accessible and simple. I would recommend this book for fans of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Julia Armfield’s Our Wives Under the Sea. —Chloe
Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date by Ashley Herring Blake
As a massive fan of the Bright Falls series, picking my favorite book of the year was pretty easy. Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date has all the same emotional weight, charm, and humor of the previous entries in the series. The chemistry between Iris and Stevie is palpable, with plenty of tantalizing lead-up to their eventual realization that their “fake relationship” was something more. The way Ashley Herring Blake plays with common tropes in romance was also fantastic. Lastly, what really sets the book apart from so many other was how love and affection were represented as sometimes as just being there for your partner and putting in the work when they need you. It’s a definite must-read for any fan of contemporary sapphic romance. —Jamie
The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
This book is the epitome of sapphic yearning. I’m so glad to have finally read a sapphic classic with a happy ending. It was the healing I desperately needed. What I loved most about the book is how openly and intimately we delve into the character’s thoughts and feelings. The movie adaptation, starring Cate Blanchett, was brilliant and breathed new life into the characters! It was refreshing! Rarely do I love both the book and the movie adaptation and this was one of those remarkable exceptions!
I loved how Highsmith crafted each scene: it was profoundly contemplative and emotionally charged. A masterpiece! —SK
The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher
This felt like such a wonderful year of sapphic reads that it’s hard to pick just one, but I think that I’ll have to go with The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher. Maybe it’s cheating because technically I read it years ago and it’s one of the first sapphic books I read, but this was the first year that I revisited it to see if it held up. It absolutely did! It’s a reimagining of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” and is the perfect wintry read. The story follows Gerta, determined to find her friend Kay stolen away by the Snow Queen, but she quickly learns that perhaps this isn’t as simple of a story as she thought. It has bandits and witches and magical flying otters, and yet amidst all of this, Gerta feels so real as a girl finally coming into her own. I’ll read anything by T. Kingfisher, but a sapphic retelling with a snarky raven named Mousebones will always rise to the top for me. —Katherine
Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh
My favorite sapphic book of 2023 was Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh. Tesh wove an incredible queer space opera with complex worldbuilding, a space cult, and aliens. Then she gave her main character Kyr one of the best redemption arcs I’ve encountered since Zuko in Avatar: the Last Airbender. I’ve rarely experienced such a complete turnaround in going from finding a character insufferable to rooting for them completely, and I want everyone to enjoy this expert character work with me.
The field of hit science fiction has been joyfully crowded the past couple of years between The Locked Tomb and Murderbot, but if you’re in between books of those two worthy series, I would pencil Some Desperate Glory into your schedule. I couldn’t put it down once I got started. —Maggie
Those Who Wait by Haley Cass
My favorite sapphic romance that I read this year is Those Who Wait (2020) by Haley Cass. Hopeless Sutton Spencer meets the much more confident Charlotte Thompson after Sutton’s friend signs her up for a dating app. Sounds good, but what’s the twist? Sutton is a congressman’s daughter, and Charlotte is trying to get that congressman’s endorsement as she attempts to become one of the youngest people ever to be elected to Congress. Oh, and Charlotte is also the granddaughter of a former president. If you miss The West Wing but could live without the Sorkin gaze, then read Those Who Wait immediately. Here’s hoping a studio or streamer picks this novel up and gives it the Bridgerton treatment in 2024. —Liv