A gay novel deals with homosexual love and/or sexual activity between males. Novels that deal with homosexual love between women are usually referred to as lesbian novels. Some of the great works of Western literature were written by gay writers or by authors who are sympathetic to gay life and its concerns. Some of the more celebrated authors and works that touch on homosexual relationships, whether directly or indirectly, include:
- Nick Alexander - 50 Reasons to Say Goodbye, Sottopassaggio, Good Thing, Bad Thing
- Augustus, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg - Kyllenion [First modern gay novel, 1805]
- James Baldwin - Giovanni's Room, Another Country
- Alex Beecroft - Captain's Surrender, The Witch's Boy, False Colors, Shining in the Sun
- William S. Burroughs - Naked Lunch
- Ensan Case - Wingmen
- Truman Capote - Other Voices, Other Rooms
- Samuel Delany - Hogg
- Bret Easton Ellis: American Psycho, Glamorama
- Ronald Firbank - Valmouth, Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli
- E. M. Forster - Maurice
- Jean Genet - Our Lady of the Flowers, The Thief's Journal
- André Gide - The Immoralist, The Counterfeiters
- Andrew Holleran - Dancer from the Dance
- Christopher Isherwood - A Single Man, The Berlin Stories
- Thomas Mann - Death in Venice
- Armistead Maupin - Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Significant Others, Babycakes, Michael Tolliver Lives
- Herman Melville - Billy Budd, Moby-Dick
- Yukio Mishima - Confessions of a Mask
- Vladimir Nabokov - Pale Fire
- Petronius - Satyricon [First gay novel in world history, 1st-century]
- Pickles - Queens
- Edward Prime Stevenson - Imre
- Marcel Proust - In Search of Lost Time
- Manuel Puig - Kiss of the Spider Woman
- Thomas Pynchon - Gravity's Rainbow
- François Rabelais - La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel [First early modern gay novel, 1534]
- John Rechy - City of Night
- Mary Renault - The Charioteer
- Antonio Rocco - Alcibiades the Schoolboy
- Marquis de Sade - The 120 Days of Sodom, Philosophy in the Bedroom
- Bayard Taylor - Joseph and His Friend: A Story of Pennsylvania
- Gore Vidal - The City and the Pillar, Myra Breckinridge
- Edmund White - A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty
- Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Danny Wong - Drops in Nan's Ocean
To provide a general sense of the themes of gay novels, a brief description of the plots of several of the more celebrated books are included below:
- In Death in Venice, middle-aged Gustav von Aschenbach, experiencing writer's block, travels to Venice, where he becomes infatuated with a young Polish boy named Tadzio, seeking to persuade the youth that there is no need to flee the city because the news of an encroaching cholera epidemic are false.
- In Giovanni's Room, a man struggles with his sexual identity and the hidden desires that threaten his dream of living a conventional life. He proposes to a beautiful young woman only to find himself torn between his love for her and a newfound passion for another man.
- A Boy's Own Story is a coming-of-age story in which, during the 1950s, a teenage boy comes to terms with his homosexuality, learning that the love of other men gives his life meaning and value.
- Tales of the City and the sequels tell the story of a group of friends in San Francisco. The plotlines of all the novels evolve around central gay character Michael Tolliver.
- 50 Reasons to Say Goodbye is a coming-of-age story in which the author goes through gay dating hell, an experience familiar to many gay men exploring the gay scene for the first time.
- In his search for love among the gay hot spots of New York, Malone, the protagonist of Dancer From the Dance, visits Manhattan's Everard Baths, Fire Island's deserted parks, and sumptuous orgies. In Sutherland, a campy queen, he finds an enduring relationship with a well-traveled companion.
- After the adolescent protagonist of Yukio Mishima's Confessions of a Mask discovers his homosexuality, he must adopt a proper persona, or mask, in the gracious society of post-war Japan.
- In the ancient tale of the Satyricon, an early picaresque novel, two scholars travel the southern Mediterranean world during the reign of Emperor Nero, encountering a number of targets for the author's satirical censure: a professor, a lustful priest, a vulgar freedman turned millionaire, a poet, a superstitious sea-captain, and a femme fatale. The pair are attracted to the same youth, a boy with more wiles and peccadilloes than either of his would-be suitors.
- Drops in Nan's Ocean is a grandson's heartfelt tribute to his grandmother, his Nan, who raised him from a baby, and a history of four generations of one Chinese family.
- Set against the backdrop of a flourishing gay subculture in early 1980s London, Queens both profiles and parodies the anecdotal lifestyles for the archetypes of the Soho gay scene. Written by an author that to this day is known only as Pickles this iconic novel was among the first to depict gay life in London on all levels of society in the wake of the AIDS Crisis and after the legalization of homosexuality in England.