There are few experiences as profound as seeing oneself reflected in art, especially if a significant facet your identity has been traditionally shrouded in shadow. Books, of course, are the best vessel for self-understanding, articulating feelings and experiences you often lack the language to describe yourself.

Over the past three years, we’ve been asking queer authors—both emerging and established—about the books that became the keys to the latch of their selves. This list started in 2019 with 50 writers—on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots—and has swelled to more than double that, a testament both to the power of the written word and to the importance of representation and community.

Something that’s very true about the queer community is that we love to pay it forward and backward, paving the way for future generations while also celebrating those who paved the way for us. One of the unique pleasures of putting a list like this together is watching a lineage of life-changing queer literature unfold. So often we’re not alone in having discovered a book when we most needed it. An example: two authors on this list say their life was changed by Fun Home—and so it’s a thrill to see Alison Bechdel herself write about the book that shaped her own sense of self. There are so many wonderful instances of that here. What emerges is a vast and voluminous queer canon.

So read on to see some of the best LGBTQ books, the stories that changed the lives of some of the greatest writers in the world, the ones whose stories will undoubtedly go on to profoundly affect a whole new generation.