The Sexiest Books You'll Ever Have The Pleasure Of Reading

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer
A few years ago, people around the world were completely incapacitated by a literary phenomenon. I saw rows of mothers reading the book in chaise lounges while their kids splashed in swimming pools. I saw people hiding the book's cover behind other books on the subway. I myself took the book out from the library and read it during college orientation.
The book wasn’t particularly well written or original – in fact, it began as Twilight fan fiction. Still, E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey unearthed some ache we’d forgotten we’d had in this age of constant bombardment with sexual imagery. We see sex in movies and on HBO shows; it’s far more rare that we collectively turn to novels. Yet, with Fifty Shades of Grey, that's exactly what happened. The book encouraged people to be swept away into an erotic world that was partly composed by their own imagination.
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But James' trilogy is far from the only erotic literature worth reading. With their stunning language and creative premises, each of these books will stretch your conception of sensuality and sexuality.
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If you want to laugh and be turned on, read:

Men in Kilts by Katie MacAlister

Katie MacAlister's hilarious, charming protagonists and their equally witty (and appealing) love interests were my introduction to the romance genre; to this day, she remains my favorite romance writer. In Men in Kilts, Kathie Williams meets a rugged Scotsman, Iain. A few banter-filled exchanges later, and Kathie and Iain's romance is at full capacity. The next step, naturally, is for Kathie to go to Iain's ancestral castle (!) and meet his quirky, charming family. The question is, can romance survive family? Whether she's writing supernatural stories or rom-coms set in Scotland, MacAlister will make you howl with laughter .
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If you want to get lost in a maze of manipulation and sexual tension

The Magus by John Fowles

Seeking a change from his dreary London life, Nicholas Urfe accepts a teaching position on a remote Greek island. This is the '60s, and the Greek islands weren't filled with tourists. The island's resident eccentric millionaire, Conchis, takes an interest in Nicholas – and Nicholas takes an interest back, especially in the beautiful young woman who lives on the estate. Soon, Nicholas realizes he's just a pawn in Conchis' game. A game that might follow Nicholas long after he's left the island.
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If you’ve outgrown the romance of Disney princesses, read:

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice (1983)

Do yourself a favor and put down your copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. After infusing vampire legends with erotic sensuality in The Vampire Chronicles, beginning with Interview With the Vampire, Anne Rice turned her unique sensibility to classic folktales. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty removes all innocent elements from the familiar tale of Sleeping Beauty. Instead of waking the princess up with a kiss, the prince awakens her through an S&M-filled sexual initiation.
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If you want to woo your partner with verse, read:

100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda

In this collection, written for his wife and muse Matilda Urrutia, Pablo Neruda captures the essence of desire, and traps it in 100 poems. Thanks to a fantastic English translation, you'll be able to tell your boo: "I love you as one loves certain dark things, secretly, between the shadow and the soul.” Downright irresistible.
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If you think sex would be enhanced by a twinge of magical realism:

Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin

Though Nin had been commissioned by private client to write pure erotica for the stories found in Delta of Venus, she approached each story with a clever literary sensibility, resulting in a truly singular reading experience. Each of these 15 stories is set in a lush, imaginative world, where characters explore their sexuality in unexpected ways.
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If you think all first loves should be set under the Mediterranean sun, read:

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman (2007)

As he does every summer, 17-year-old Elio waits for a visiting scholar to arrive to his family's villa on the Italian Riviera. But Oliver, a 24-year-old charming professor at Columbia, is different than prior years’ stodgy academics, brought on to help with Elio’s father’s research. Over the course of lazy days and aching nights, Elio and Oliver forge an intimacy that the rest of us read novels to experience.

Later this year, Armie Hammer will star in the film adaptation of this unforgettable coming-of-age novel. There’s no better time to read Call Me By Your Name.
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If you’re looking to expand your dirty talk vocabulary, read:

Vox by Nicholson Baker (1992)

The premise of Vox is deceptively simple, and can’t convey quite how sensual the book really is. The book consists only of the dialogue held between two strangers set up through a party line — a relic of the pre-internet age. What begins as blisteringly clever conversation about life and family swerves swiftly into a discussion of sex and fantasy.

Vox also has a special place in '90s lore. Legend has it that Monica Lewinsky bought a copy for Bill Clinton.
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If you’re not afraid of a little darkness, read:

Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill (1988)

You’re probably familiar with the image of Maggie Gyllenhaal crawling across the floor in the movie Secretary. The film was adapted from a story in Mary Gaitskill’s collection of the same name. In each story in Bad Behavior, Gaitskill peers into a different facet of sexuality — in a way that's not always sexy, per se.
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If you can’t resist a Scottish accent, read:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991)

After serving as a combat nurse for the duration of WWII, Claire Randall finally reunites with her husband at the war's end. During their second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands, Claire finds herself drawn to a mysterious standing stone. When she touches it, Claire is transported to the year 1745, an era where Scotland is fighting for independence and independent women like Claire are burned for being witches. Aside from Claire’s bravery and resilience, what readers (and viewers of the show) relish is the love affair between Jaime, a 17th century Scottish Highlander, and Claire.

You won't run out of Outlander lore anytime soon. Gabaldon has just finished her eighth installment in the series.
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If the first love is the deepest, read:

A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

Many years ago, our unnamed narrator was an itinerant young man, roaming through the French countryside. While in the village Autun, he met the young, brave, bold college dropout Phillip Dean — just the kind of man our narrator wishes he were. Phillip has an affair with a young French local, Anne-Marie. In vivid, poetic detail, the narrator retells (or reimagines) their time together. This American classic sets the standard for rendering erotic encounters.
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If you think truth is better than fiction, read:

The Sexual Life of Catherine M. by Catherine Millet

The best part of The Sexual Life of Catherine M. isn't its descriptions of 150-person orgies, or its litany of sexual encounters, each more elaborate than the next. The best part is that they're all true. Catherine Millet, the editor of a French art journal called Art Press and a firm member of the French intelligentsia, strings together the highlights of her "eventful" life in this memoir. More than a recollection of her past, The Sexual Life of Catherine M. is also a meditation on desire, pleasure, and why we want what we want.
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If you want to be scandalized, read:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

However shocked you are by Lawrence's graphic descriptions of the affair between a married woman and her gardener, the book’s initial audience was infinitely more. After Constance Reid’s husband returns from WWI paralyzed from the waist down, their relationship becomes cold and distant. She reawakens herself through an affair with a younger man.
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