A recent report claims that Americans have less active sex lives than in the past. Annabel Hollister looks at some of the current, and past, best-selling fiction titles that might reignite America’s flagging libido.
Despite their re-knowned reserve, the Victorians were probably the first purveyors of mass produced Erotic Fiction (though the Greeks and Romans were not averse to the odd risqué literary outing as well). Some of the most famous examples include: The Romance of Lust published in the mid 1860’s by an anonymous writer, the delightfully named The Autobiography of a Flea (1887) by another unnamed author, to the Lustful Turk published in 1828. And, of course, the most notorious of them all: Fanny Hill published in 1749 by John Cleland- that was banned from publication in America until 1966! (For a fuller list go to www.listverse.com).
There are no such inhibitions now. Amazon has a complete section devoted to ‘Erotic Fiction’. E.L James’s ‘Grey’ series has sold over 125 million copies worldwide; introducing a whole new readership to wonders of literary sex (and more). The public can’t get enough of this titillation, it seems.
The rise of the self-published e-book has also allowed a flood of ‘indie’ authors to produce a staggering number of low cost books, of which a large percentage fall into the Erotic Fiction category. Many, like the “Grey” books, are now published as a series.
In fact, every one of the top 50 books on the Goodreads.com list of top Erotic Fiction are now published in this way.
So from this abundance of choice, how do you select the ones which might, ‘do the trick’?
In compiling this list, the author makes no claim to their literary merit, or how ‘erotic’ they may be, that’s in the eyes, or minds, of the reader. In an attempt to provide a broad choice, we have reviewed the countless lists out there and gone for a mixture of ‘the classics’ and the new.
Writing about sex and eroticism is not easy!
It’s easy to criticize the abilities of some of these authors, but the subject matter is not an easy one to write about. Even the most accomplished authors, when it comes to penning a titillating piece can, inexplicably, seem at a loss for words-or at least the right ones. To recognize these failings, every year in England there is an annual “Bad Sex in Fiction Awards.”
For the last 24 years, organizers of the Literary Review have highlighted some truly unsuccessful, embarrassing and downright dreadful attempts by authors to write erotically charged prose in their books.
Delightfully tongue in cheek, the Awards have regularly deflated the egos of some well-known authors who should know better including: Sebastian Faulks (Charlotte Gray), A. A Gill (Starcrossed), Tom Wolfe (I am Charlotte Simmons) Norman Mailer (The Castle in the Forest) and the 2016 Winner Erri De Luca’s squirmingly awkward effort in The Day before Happiness. For the complete run down on these inept attempts at eroticism, go to www.literaryreview.co.uk.
1) The “Fifty Shades Trilogy,” by E.L. James
Well, we had to get this one out of the way first. 125 million people can’t be wrong, can they? And while it’s no literary masterpiece, the story of the innocent Anastasia Steele embarking on a career of passion, sex and other adult activities with entrepreneur Christian Grey has clearly enlivened the lives of countless millions of couples. Why not find out for yourself what you’re missing?
2) Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
Now, this is a masterpiece. Written by D.H. Lawrence back in 1928 and banned for public consumption in many countries until the mid-1960s, the book was notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working class man and an upper class woman. Its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then- unprintable words, shocked the censors for decades.
3) The Deep End, by Kristen Ashley
This is currently at the top of Amazon’s Erotica Charts. Its readers, though, seem to have fairly mixed reviews about it, but not bad enough that the author has already churned out a second book in the series that “once again delivers a smoldering hot story that is achingly romantic and populated with intensely raw characters that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.” That’s their claim, anyway.
4) Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
Described as “notorious for its candid sexuality” and responsible for the “free speech that we now take for granted in literature,” this was first published in 1934 in France, but was banned in the United States until its publication in 1961. Largely autobiographical, it relates the author’s life-and escapades-during the 1920’s in Paris.
5) Dark Lover, by J.R. Ward.
If you like a bit of “Twilight” in your erotic reading, then this book, and the series that follows it, may be for you. Published at the height of the ‘vampire’ genre back in 2007, it’s highly rated on Goodreads.com. And if you get hooked, or dare one say, bitten, you’ve eight more to keep you going.
6) Bared to You, by Sylvia Day
From #1 New York Times bestselling author comes “the provocative masterstroke of abandon and obsession that redefined the meaning of desire and became a global phenomenon,” so gushes the publisher’s blurb. But its appeal is borne out by the fact it is also in Goodreads.com Top 10.
7) A Kingdom of Dreams, by Judith McNaught
If you like a little historical fiction with your sexy reading, this may be for you: “a medieval tale of passion: Jennifer Merrick is taken from her convent school and held captive by an aggressive and arrogant Duke, only to find that their clashing egos give way to uninhibited desire.” Maybe a bit on the romantic side, but hey what’s wrong with that?
8) The MacGregor Brides, by Nora Roberts
Set in Scotland, it tells the story of a powerful patriarch of the MacGregor clan who schemes to see his three eldest granddaughters happily married. So Daniel MacGregor handpicks three unsuspecting candidates he believes would make perfect husbands. One of many from Nora Robert’s vast library of Erotic Fiction.
9) Dirty, by Megan Hart
Another serial erotic writer, so if you like her style, you’ll have plenty more to keep you amused. Familiar stuff, man meets woman, both looking for something they haven’t found, until NOW! With a 4.5 star reader rating on Amazon, and apparently several rungs up the erotic ladder from the ‘Grey’ series, get ready to join the Megan Hart club.
10) Forever, by Judy Blume
“Blume catapults you back to that first time you fell in love, and the sexual curiosity that comes with it.” Apparently, it’s a book guaranteed to ‘awaken your libido’. Published over 30 years ago, while it didn’t get banned, it was pretty controversial at the time. “Modern readers may giggle at the lack of cell phones and other modern accoutrements, but they are sure to be drawn into this time-tested tale of first love,” said one reviewer.