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What to Read After ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

October 15th, 2012
Galina · Staff Recommendations

The 50 Shades of Grey series may be wildly popular, but even its most diehard fans would likely admit that it doesn’t present readers with the most realistic view of relationships and sex. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little fantasizing now and then, but at some point you’ll likely find yourself wanting to read something a bit more down-to-earth.

When you think about sex and the written word, chances are pretty good you have either how-to manuals or erotica in mind (or perhaps, if you’re in a highbrow mood, D.H. Lawrence). If you’re feeling adventurous, though, why not venture off the beaten path with one of the following books? Some are funny; some are serious; some are downright strange. All, however, are sure to fascinate and entertain.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary RoachYou may already be familiar with Roach as the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, a wonderfully accessible look at the little-known (and bizarre) rituals and experiments that have been carried out on the recently deceased. In Bonk, she turns her trademark offbeat humor to the intersection of science and sex, investigating everything from the physiology of human orgasms to the history of sex machines.

On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwanOn Chesil Beach, in addition to being a work of fiction, presents a far more sobering view of sex and desire than Roach’s lighthearted, scientific romp. Set in 1962, the novel tells the story of two newlyweds-both virgins at the time of their marriage—and the confusion, dread, and misunderstandings that surround their first night together. Besides offering a critique of sexual ignorance and repression, McEwan brilliantly demonstrates the far-reaching consequences that the seemingly simple act of sex can have for a relationship.

Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask), by Justin Richardson and Mark SchusterIf you’re a parent wondering how to handle the always awkward “Talk,” there are plenty of books offering advice. What sets this one apart? Well, to begin with, it was written by two Harvard professors who have based their suggestions on scientific research into child psychology and sexuality, as well as on interviews with actual parents. Perhaps more importantly, however, it offers tips for talking to children of all ages rather than focusing solely on pre-teens and adolescents.

Port Mungo, by Patrick McGrathFor those searching for a genuinely dark look at romantic and sexual obsession, it’s hard to go wrong with Patrick McGrath, who has tackled the issue time and time again in several haunting, beautifully-written novels. This one tells the story of Jack Rathbone and Vera Savage, a pair of artists who settle in the hot, secluded, swampy town of Port Mungo in hopes of finding a romantic and creative paradise, but who instead find their relationship devolving into something twisted and dangerous.

The Naughty Bits: The Steamiest and Most Scandalous Sex Scenes from the World’s Great Books, by Jack MurnighanMurnighan’s book is much more than a collection of raunchy excerpts from classic literature; it is, in fact, an attempt to trace the history of sex in literature, and the introductions that preface each excerpt are both funny and informative. Not every sex scene Murnighan mentions is “great” in the sense of being erotic—in fact, the sex in some of these works doesn’t even sound good, at least for the participants—but all work to develop plot, character, theme, or all of the above in unexpected ways.

Bared to You, by Sylvia DayThis book is about a 20-something woman who falls for a billionaire entrepreneur. Bared to You may not have sold 20 million copies, but it’s not doing too shabby, either. It was on the New York Times trade paperback bestseller list.

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