Dirty Words – A Few Great Books About Life Between the Sheets

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photo by flickr user wakest

photo by flickr user wakest

People who live and work in the world of books – folks like librarians and indie booksellers – tend to pride themselves as huge supporters of free speech.  No matter where you fall on the political, religious or philosophical spectrum, we can usually find something to recommend to you.  In the world of the written word, pretty much nothing is taboo.

Except getting it on.

Granted, the difficulty selling books about sex almost always comes from squeamishness on the part of a customer, not a bookseller.  The culture around sex in the US isn’t exactly a welcoming or celebratory one.  It is all too easy to offend someone by suggesting a book about s-e-x, but there are so many good books on the topic that it would be unfair to write them off as a whole.

These titles are certainly engaging enough to attract even a casual reader, and are all well-written, well-researched, interesting and entertaining.  So snuggle up with someone and get reading!

Bonk by Mary Roach – 14.95 – W. W. Norton

Mary Roach, whose previous books have focused on the curious science of cadavers and ghosts, turns her wit and wisdom towards sex in her latest book.  In Stiff, Roach looks at the science behind sex – from the groundbreaking studies by Kinsey to the futuristic technology and devices of contemporary sex and sexuality.  I can’t imagine a more entertaining book about sex studies and research than Bonk, nor an author that is as hilariously involved in their own research as Mary.  From a “marital aid” factory in California to a Danish sow furrowing farm, there is hardly an aspect of sex research that she left, ahem, untouched.  If you want a fairly in-depth book about the intersection of science and sex (or a quick and entertaining casual read), Bonk is highly recommended.

Sex; A User’s Guideby Stephen Arnott – 7.99 – Delta

Did you know the graham cracker was initially made to lessen the sex drive?  Or that Cleopatra had a bee-powered vibrator?  These are just of the trivia tidbits from Sex; A User’s Guide.  From a history of contraceptives to a glossary of sex slang, Arnott’s book is basically a really awesome, really filthy version of Schott’s Miscellany or an Uncle John reader.  If you are a trivia nut, or aren’t squeamish about tossing sex-themed fun facts into conversation, or just want to know more about the history of sex in different cultures, you can’t do much better than this slim volume.

Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice for All Creation by Olivia Judson – 16.00 – Holt

Written under the guise of an advice column, Sex Advice for All Creation looks at the gonzo sex practices of the animal kingdom.  Answering “letters” from insects, birds and lizards, Judson takes a wry and ultimately compelling look at evolutionary biology.  The question-and-answer format makes the book a real page-turner, and manages to keep the book entertaining while educational.  If the oddest sexual trivia about the animal kingdom you’ve heard is the well-known fate of a male praying mantis, you’ve only scratched the surface of the bizarre practices of non-human mates.

Sex for America, edited by Stephen Elliott – 13.95 – Harper

The subtitle of Sex for Americais “Politically Inspired Erotica”, which was enough to pique the interest of this blogger (my undergraduate degree is in Political Science).  Elliott should be commended for the mix of up-and-comers and established voices in the world of sexual fiction he got for this book.  The stories in the book tend to take a liberal slant, but certainly offer “adult” tales for people of every taste and sexual orientation.  The 24 tales include, among other topics; a tryst between a liberal and conservative, a funny bondage story where the threats are of conservative policy rather than physical acts, and a campaigning competition between husband and wife.  Though the book does fit into the realm of erotica, Sex for America is interesting as a examination of the place of sex in modern America, and the clash of “free love” versus conservative social policy.

Guide to Getting it Onby Paul Joannides – 24.95 – Goofy Foot Press

The Guide to Getting it On is the only “instructional” title on this list, because it is really the best one I’ve seen.  Equally fitting on the shelf of a couple or as the text in a sex education class, the nearly-1,000 page book talks about sex frankly and with a sense of humor.  Published in over a dozen languages, 6 editions, and a winner of multiple awards, Joannides’ book deserves all the praise it has received.  Although the tone is hip, light and informal, the Guide to Getting it On is meticulously researched and covers every sexual topic under the sun, from the benign to the kinky.  The book deserves a place on the shelf of anyone who has had sex, is currently sexually active, or thinks they will be in their lifetime.

4 responses to “Dirty Words – A Few Great Books About Life Between the Sheets

  1. As bookseller with a background in sex research (yup, got that Master’s in clinical psych and did a thesis on social construction and sexual orientation…then decided the whole therapist thing wasn’t for me), I wholeheartedly concur with the endorsement of The Guide to Getting It On. If you can think of it, there’s a chapter in there about it.

    And you’re right about nothing being taboo but sex….customers will boldly ask for even the strangest of items, but very few feel comfortable asking for a sex book. Or worse, a book to explain sex to their kids. I swear the universe sends those people to me so I can help them. And tell them it’s okay to say “vagina” to their 10 year old daughter.

  2. Pingback: Dirty Words - A Few Great Books About Life Between the Sheets … | Famed Story

  3. Joshua,

    Thanks so much for your kind words about my book, and thank you for including it on your short list. I don’t know if running a tiny indie publishing company is any more challenging than running a small brewery, but I suspect that brewmasters and self-published authors alike truly appreciate kind words when they come our way.

    I also want to thank you for your “Seven Things” post of Feb 5. I admire what you had to say and how you said it.

    You say you are a bookseller, and so I hope that you are not working at a Borders Group store, as it will take a miracle for the new management to make up for the sins of the old. And if you are at an indie, that is noble indeed.

    These are clearly transitional times in the book world–and I suspect it’s not just the economy and I’m not so sure there will be a going back to what was if and when the economy recovers. I’m very lucky with The Guide, because with its behemoth size and style, it’s often used as a conversation starter. So it serves more purposes than the average book. Plus, I work like hell to keep it and hopefully myself evolving. (I’m finding that as you get older, it’s frighteningly easy to become irrelevant. I think we get caught up in the comfort of what we know instead of continuing to take risks. It’s so much easier to leave the risk-taking to people your age!)

    I don’t know if you’ve read the recent magazine industry posts by Shirky–the first one appears to truly nail what’s happened in magazine publishing, and I think the second is interesting for book publishing because I suspect the big publishing houses in New York are looking at the iTunes and Kindle model as their salvation:



    Thanks again for your kind words, and I look forward to reading your Brews and Books in the months ahead. We live on the Pacific about 20 minutes south of Newport, Oregon, and I pass the Rogue Brewery every day when taking my daughter to school.


    PS. If you don’t have your own copy of the new 6th edition of my book, let me know where to send you one.

  4. Pingback: What do sex, MC Hammer, feminism, and reading have in common? « The Book Lady’s Blog

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