The muscular torso of Fabio and the red room of Christian Grey may come to mind when you think of erotica. This kind of book isn’t just about cheesy book covers and hunky billionaires who like BDSM. There’s a lot more to it than that. It is possible for erotic books to be sensual, provocative, and even praised. Don’t believe us, then? 14 books show how sexy and well-written good smut can be.
Erotic Novels That Won’t Make You Cringe
Delta of Venus by Anais Nin
It’s an anthology of 15 short stories that breaks the mold. It was published after the author’s death in 1977. Most of the stories were written in the 1940s. There are still lurid stories about Hungarian adventurers and Peruvian opium dens on the pages decades later.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
She is reunited with her husband after World War II, but then she is zapped back to 18th-century Scotland and can’t get back home again. Outlander: In Scotland, she is called a “Sassenach,” or Outlander, and is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a soldier who has had a rough past and a fiery temper. During the eight-part series, Claire is torn between her desire for two men from two different times. First, read the books. Then, on Netflix, watch the show that is just as good.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
This book is a modern classic about love and politics in communist-era Czechoslovakia. It tells the story of four lovers who have conflicting desires. Kundera talks a lot about love and how we make decisions about it in this book. If you want to read something that’s both sensual and thought-provoking, this is the book for you.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
This coming-of-age story is a beautiful story of love and attraction set in Italy in the 1980s. When Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet are on screen, the movie is great, but the book will give you goose bumps.
Forever by Judy Blume
The same author who wrote Are You There God? has written a YA book for teens. Check it out! “It’s Me Margaret” is a book that tells the story of a New Jersey teenager and her relationship with Michael. They have sex! When this book came out in 1975, it was a big deal because it was so honest about first love, including how awkward it was to have your first sexual encounter. It still feels relevant today.
Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Eva Tramell is a 20-year-old who wants to be an advertising executive. Billionaire Gideon Cross is a sexy businessman, but he’s also a little shady. There are fireworks when their paths meet. They work in the same building. When they start dating at work, things quickly get complicated because they both have to face their sexual pasts. Sounds like something I know. Fans say that the writing is less cringey and more sultry than in that book.
Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
Love these nine short stories about modern love, friendship, and sex, all told in Gaitskill’s unique and provocative voice. We think they are great. One of the most well-known tales was made into a movie in 2002 called The Secretary, which stars Maggie Gyllenhall. If you’ve seen “Pretty Woman,” you should know that Gaitskill called her story “the Pretty Woman version.” The written version is a lot darker.
Women by Chloe Caldwell
When a woman has her first relationship with someone of the same sex, she learns a lot about herself and her feelings. This short story is full of love and longing, with a sense of urgency that you can’t put down.
The Story of O by Pauline Réage
First, there was The Story of O. This book about a woman’s BDSM training at an elite and secret club was written anonymously in 1954. It has become a favorite erotic book. This is where you can read about passion, desire, and obsession mixed with social commentary, all in one place.
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
One of the best stories ever written about forbidden love in the Australian Outback. It has captivated people for generations (seriously, ask your mom about it). You’ll be rooting for a lot of people in the Cleary family, which is a group of ranchers. But especially their only daughter, Meggie, and her strong connection to the handsome priest, Ralph de Bricassart.
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
Semi-autobiographical: This book is based on the author’s sexual exploits in Paris in the 1930s. It was banned in the United States for nearly 30 years and only cleared by the Supreme Court in 1961. Shocking, bold, and totally gripping.
The Sexual Life of Catherine M. by Catherine Millet
It’s time to introduce the female version of Tropic of Cancer. Unapologetically and graphically, Millet tells us about her sexy adventures in Paris (Isn’t it always Paris?). This one is salacious, funny, and very explicit.
Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Teen movie Cruel Intentions is based on this sexy book that is full of passion. During the 1800s, two nobels named Vicomte de Valmont and his ex-lover Marquise de Merteuil come up with wicked plans to mess with other people’s lives just because they’re having a good time.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
I like this book because it is fun and flirty but has some very racy bedroom scenes. It happens by chance that Drew and Alexa get to know each other. They decide to go on a date with each other. But soon, what starts out as a fun weekend away turns into so much more than that. One that makes you happy and doesn’t take long.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Stella Lane, who has autism, wants to get better at all kinds of physical things so that she can find the husband her parents want her to get married to. In the modern world, she hires an escort named Michael Phan, who is both Vietnamese and Swedish. He is a sex god of sorts who agrees to help Stella out. We don’t like to give away anything, but the steamy nature of this book is sure to make some windows cloudy.