Skip to main content

Home Culture Culture Film & TV

Best British LGBT books of the last 12 months named in Polari Prize longlist

If you're looking for a gay-friendly read, these are a pretty good place to start.

By Will Stroude

The 12 books nominated for this year’s Polari Prize have been announced.

The longlist for the annual award, which celebrates the best debut works of British writers exploring the LGBT experience, was revealed at the Polari Literary Salon at London’s Southbank Centre on Tuesday night (June 26).

This year’s nominees includes a diverse batch of titles, from the memoir of trans YouTuber Alex Bertie (pictured above) to Jonathan Lyon’s violent, controversial thriller Carnivore.

The longlist will be whittled down to just six finalists next month, before the winner is announced at the London Literature Festival this October.

Chair of judges Paul Burston, said: “The judges were impressed at the range and quality of books submitted this year. There were far more submissions from major publishers, with equal numbers of books my women and men, and several trans titles – all of which is reflected in the longlist.

“There were some books we loved but which sadly didn’t make the final list. Choosing 12 titles from the huge number of submissions was difficult but shows that LGBT+ writing in the UK is growing in scope and confidence.”

Check out the Polari Prize 2018 longlist below:

Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard – Alex Bertie (Wren & Rook)


YouTuber Alex Bertie gives a ground-breaking first-hand account of his life, struggles and victories as a young transgender man.

Through Your Blood – Toby Campion (Burning Eye)

Toby Campion is a UK National Poetry Slam Champion and a World Poetry Slam finalist. His collection of refreshingly frank and funny poems are psalms of identity, broken tradition and desperation sung from the back lanes of a Midlands city. 

Mussolini’s Island – Sarah Day (Tinder Press)

In 1939, a group of gay and bisexual men were rounded up and imprisoned on a tiny Italian island, their lives changed forever. Based on a true story in 1930s Italy, Mussolini’s Island is a powerful exploration of wartime life and the desperate acts committed by individuals when fighting for their lives.

A Marvellous Party – Ian Elmslie (Ignite)


Comedian Ian Elsmslie’s engaging memoir charts his journey from his family home to the heart of the gay cabaret scene as one half of comedy duo Katrina and The Boy.

Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride – 30 years of Gay Britain – Paul Flynn (Fourth Estate)

Former Attitude columnist Paul Flynn comprehensively and colourfully charts the long road to gay equality through 30 years of cultural milestones, featuring interviews from major protagonists such as Kylie Minogue, Queer as Folk writer Russell T Davies and Will Young.

Pansy Boy – Paul Harfleet (Barbican)


Paul Harfleet has been planting pansies at the site of homophobia since 2005. An extension of that project, Pansy Boy is a picture book written and illustrated b artist Paul Harfleet. Rhyming couplets tell the story of a boy who revels in the joys of summer before coming up with a plan to reclaim his school after years of incessant bulling. 

Carnivore – Jonathan Lyon (HQ)

A dark, unsettlingly brutal thriller which sees a sadist using violence and manipulation to manage his own chronic pain sucked in London’s criminal underworld. Warning: you’ll need a strong stomach for this one.

Elmet – Fiona Mozley (John Murray) 

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, Fiona Mozley’s debut is a lyrical commentary on contemporary English society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.

Little Gold – Allie Rogers (Legend Press)

Set in Brighton in the summer of 1982, Little Gold is a boyish girl on the brink of adolescence, struggling with the reality of her broken family and a home descending into chaos.

Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney (Faber)

Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa ask each other endless questions. As their relationships unfold, in person and online, they discuss sex and friendship, art and literature, politics and gender, and, of course, one another.

Bravado – Scottee (Oberon)

Performance artist Scottee grew up around strong, brave and violent men and boys. Bravado is his memoir of working class masculinity, exploring the graphic nature of maleness and the extent it will go to succeed.

Is Monogamy Dead? Rethinking Relationships in the 21st Century – Rosie Wilby (Accent Press)

Mixing humour, heartache and science, Is Monogamy Dead? details Rosie Wilby’s very personal quest to find out why Western society is clinging to a concept that doesn’t work that well for some of us and is laden with ambiguous assumptions.