This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Soul-filled books that aren’t romances are especially important (and fascinating) because all too often, queer characters in books are defined by their sexual orientation. Don’t get me wrong – I love queer romance! but A queer character is still gay if they don’t have a partner. The queer character would still be weird if they weren’t interested in romance. We deserve stories that celebrate all aspects of life’s exotic – not just the ones we love.
I’m not going to lie: It can be hard to find weird books without romances. Novels without romance of any kind are actually much rarer than you might think – despite the fact that Romance is just one of many human experiences It is reflected in the books. Some of these books contain romantic subplots, but none contain central narratives. In order to qualify for this list, I made sure every book with a bit of romance passed this simple test: I imagined the story without the romantic subplot. If it still made sense – if the romance didn’t change the plot – the book passed.
So you might experience a bit of dating in these novels. Some of these characters have partners. Few of them fall in love. But these romantic entanglements are secondary, and often fleeting. These books are not about romance. It’s about family, friendship, career, and more. And they come in all kinds: action-packed space operas, meditative stories of maturity, and absurd fantasy adventures.
The realism of Queer fantasy books without the romances
Everyone in this room will die someday by Emily Austin
Gilda is a lesbian in her twenties who struggles with anxiety and depression. On a whim, she decides to take a job as a receptionist in the Catholic Church, where she hides her sexuality from her employers. Her observations about the world are often darkly funny, though the book itself is an intense and sometimes painful story of mental health, family, loneliness, and the chaos of discovering yourself.
wrong end of telescope Written by Rabih Alamuddin
This beautiful novel follows Mina, a trans Lebanese American physician who, at the request of a friend, spends a week volunteering in a refugee camp on Lesbos. While there, she meets her brother for the first time in years, approaches a Syrian woman, and befriends a gay nurse from Palestine. It’s a quiet, personal-driven book about cultural identity, what it means to help, and more. It’s especially refreshing to read a book like this – full of weird characters but not focused on specific weird experiences.
Johnny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
While there is dating, sex, and some romance in this novel, it is not the point at all. Johnny is a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer who is trying to save enough money to go back to rez for his stepfather’s funeral. Over the course of the book, as he goes about his life, he recalls his childhood, his beloved grandmother, and his past relationships. It’s a funny, sad, and touching story about being young, queer, and indigenous in the 21st century.
All the water I’ve seen runs by Elias Rodrix
This book begins with several scenes of Daniel, the main character, at home with his friend in New York. So I thought it would be a romance book, and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be about friendship, memory, and attraction to certain places. When his high school girlfriend Aubrey suddenly dies, Daniel decides to go back to his Florida home for the funeral. While there, he encounters all the chaos he has left behind – not just his relationship with Aubrey, but his family’s history in Jamaica and the United States, and his past.
How many of these hills of gold by C. Pam Zhang
This historical novel follows two Chinese American brothers who set out to try to bury their father in the American West after the gold rush. Alone in the world, they look to each other for support and comfort, even as they grow more and more. It’s a beautifully written book with characters who jump off the page.
Margaret and the mystery of the lost body by Megan Milks
It is almost impossible to categorize or describe this surprising and unique book. It’s about Margaret, who started a detective club in middle school with her three best friends. When the high school club falls apart, Margaret develops an eating disorder, and much of the story takes place in the treatment center she was sent to. But these are just abstract facts. Wise and funny, weird and delicious and painfully true, overflowing with joy and hilarity, heartbreak, and knowledge, this book is unlike any other educational book I’ve read in recent years.
Books of science fiction, fantasy and speculation without romance
Light from unfamiliar stars by Rika Aoki
This light-hearted sci-fi novel features a transient violinist who has just escaped her abusive family, a famous violin teacher who made a deal with the devil, and a family of alien refugees, who have escaped a galactic war, and settled on Earth, where they run a donut shop. strange voice? It sure is! It’s funny and eccentric, although not always easy to read – the main character, Katrina, has to deal with a lot of transphobia. Despite the sometimes heavy subject matter, the book is part a poem to founding the family, one part celebrating the music, and another part hilarious donut content.
Natural history of the transition by Callum Angus
In these strange and beautiful stories, trans characters defy expectations, living their lives out of tight doubles and crowded boxes. In one of the stories, a man gives birth through a cocoon. Another story revolves around the character of a swarm of insects. A person turns into a mountain and a group of nuns become men for half a year. Every story is amazing and fun. It’s about possibilities for transformation, the constant ways in which bodies change, and the blurry lines between beginnings and endings.
You find by Nino Sibri
If the book starts to break up, does it have anything to do with romance? I say no, because although this is a book about exes, there is no central romance: it is about friendship and other types of platonic love. It’s set in a huge furniture store, similar to IKEA, except for this one that’s full of wormholes in other universes. When one of these wormholes opens and swallows a customer, Ava and her ex-partner Jules are sent to rescue her. What follows is a hilarious adventure through a series of strange worlds, and a surprising story about the longevity of queer relationships outside of romantic love.
Psalm for building by Becky Chambers
This little book conditioner is pure joy. Dex is a garden monk who suddenly finds himself unhappy and dissatisfied, despite having lived a good and fulfilling life in the city. So they changed everything and became a tea monk, traveling from village to village to bring tea and rest. When this new career path doesn’t quell their craving for something else, they head out into the wilderness, where they meet Mosscap, the first robot any human has seen in centuries. Moscap and Dicks start talking — and they don’t stop. He is charming, optimistic, funny and thoughtful.
shadow life Written by Hiromi Goto and Ann Shu
This graphic novel is funny and action-packed, but it’s the absolutely gorgeous main character that makes it something special. Kumiko is a grumpy, funny, and extremely stubborn 70-year-old badass. Her adult daughters convince her to move to a subsidized living facility, but she hates it there, so she splits up, gets a nice downtown apartment, and sets out to live happily ever after. That is, until death comes calling. Kumiko is not interested in joining him, so she fights him with a vacuum cleaner and then invites her community to help finish the job.
Looking for more non-romantic books? paying off Designer book recommendations! A personal reference world (also known as a book nerd) can help you find your next perfect reading – whether it’s a whimsical book without romance or a hidden gem of that niche subgenre you’re interested in but have always been so eager to try. .