It’s getting steamy outside, which makes it the perfect time to get steamy between the covers – of a book, that is. Lose yourself in a few sexy tomes.
‘Leaves of Grass’
by Walt Whitman, 1855, first edition
There’s a reason why Bill Clinton gave this poetry collection to Monica Lewinsky – it’s totally sexy! “Leaves” was decried as obscene when it was first published thanks to its depictions of bodily pleasure among both women and men. Giving this book as a gift to your lover is a cliché, but a more beautiful exploration of human sexuality you shall not find.
by James Joyce, 1922
Joyce’s dense language obscures some graphic descriptions. This epic chronicles a day in the life of Leopold Bloom – a day when everyone gets laid, apparently, or fantasizes about it. The book’s myriad explicit sexual encounters earned it the obscenity label, but art eventually won out, and “Ulysses” remains one of the great masterworks of modernist fiction.
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’
by D.H. Lawrence, 1928
The titular Lady Chatterley finds, after her husband is paralyzed, that physical fulfillment is as important to her as intellectual stimulation. So she takes a lover. But it’s not just pruriency for the sake of it – Lawrence’s work is really a deep exploration of human relationships and what it takes for a person to be happy.
‘Tropic of Cancer/Capricorn’
by Henry Miller, 1934/1938
Miller’s fictionalized autobiographies were both heralded as brilliant and denounced as trash. The “Tropics” follow a young writer named Henry Miller and describe his sexual conquests so frankly that there was a legal battle to have them declared pornography in the ‘60s. However, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the books' publisher.
‘Fear of Flying’
by Erica Jong, 1973
Main character Isadora Wing narrates her casual-sex romp across Europe in this influential feminist text. The argument that women could enjoy no-strings-sex as much as men still doesn’t sit well in some segments of society, but Jong’s work became an important part of the conversation surrounding female sexuality.
'In Praise of the Stepmother'
by Mario Vargas Llosa, 1988
Vargas Llosa gets down and dirty in this satire of erotic fiction that happens to be pretty erotic itself. The novella, translated from the Spanish, centers on a love triangle among Don Rigoberto, his second wife and his son. The characters tell each other tales of fantasy and carnal desire – though the whole affair ends in tears.