Friday, January 25, 2008

Top 10 erotic books of all time...

Okay, I hope people will indulge me and I won't lose all of my links from respectable blogs by posting about sex twice in two weeks, but Holly recently posted an interesting question over on her blog, and I'm tempted to ask for people's responses:

What do you think are the top 10 sexiest novels of all time?

Holly used the same trick I used in my earlier sex stories post (a trick used by preachers for centuries): you can get away with talking about kinky stuff all you want as long as you're condemning it. ;^)

So instead of posting a positive list, Holly posted about two books that should not be on the list: Lolita and The Story of O. I agree with her on these choices. As for Lolita, it's true I haven't read it, but the thing is that one can only read so many books in a lifetime. For me, Lolita falls into the same category as Ender's Game: I constantly hear people say it's fantastic, but every time I hear any specific details about it, I'm left with less and less desire ever to bother to read it myself. As for The Story of O, I've read that one -- and I didn't find it objectionable -- but it left me going "meh." It was the about the same for me as the "Sleeping Beauty" series: that whole dominance/submission thing is just not my kink.

The really sad part, though, is that when I set out to write a positive list of my own, I couldn't think of anything!!!

Well, almost nothing. Trying to think of books that turned me on, practically the only ones I came up with were books I read as a young teen. There's a certain logic to this, really: once I was old enough to start creating my own sexual reality, I had far less need and desire to get ideas from other people's sexual fantasies.

So here's my mini-list of what fantasies I liked way back when:

* Anything by Piers Anthony. I recognized that this stuff was repetitive and not great literature, but that really wasn't the point. I'm the opposite of Greta Christina here since she said she has no interest in sci-fi/fantasy sex. In my case, that's practically the only thing I like in the whole sci-fi/fantasy genre: bizarre erotic scenarios that follow different social rules and physical laws than what you encounter in real life. It's also one of the main reasons I liked Star Trek, even though that one has very little that's explicitly sexual -- you have to imagine your own fan-fic. ;^)

And on that note:

* Elfquest. I haven't picked it up in years so I don't know what I'd think of it today. But looking back, I can't think of any series that provided me with more pleasant hours of fantasies back when I was in Junior High than that one. Particularly (but not limited to) that scene where all the elves have an orgy before going off to fight the trolls. If you're restricting to grown-up books that one probably wouldn't make the cut, but when it comes to erotica for kids, Elfquest has got to win some sort of award...

Then there was my other Jr. High favorite:

* Forever, by Judy Blume. I won't waste more time on it here since I have discussed it at length here and here.

As for grown-up stuff, the only one I could come up with was this:

* Thérèse Philosophe. This was a forbidden book from eighteenth century France in which the author intersperses sex scenes with extended philosophical dialogs arguing for Deism over Christianity. I know that probably doesn't sound hot at all, yet somehow I found I could really relate to it. Plus it has some surprisingly good scenes. :D

Other ideas?


Lars Larson said...

First as far as Ender's Game is concerned. It is a very good book. However, the guy has milked the thing for all its worth, rewriting it again and again, from every angle, pocketing all he can possibly pocket. But aside from his pretty amazing novelization of The Abyss OSC is a plagiarizing hack who has a fan base only because of all the LDS numskulls who like to read fictionalizations of the Joseph Smith story and the BoM.

As for erotica...

I don't know why but Tom Robbins has always done it for me. I like Jitterbug Perfume.

Gosh, Judy Blume...that brings back memories...6th grade the book was passed around...we all knew the page numbers where the "good parts" were. I hadn't had it all figured out by any means, but to hear that a girl would bleed when she had sex was really shocking at the time...especially for a young Mormon Deacon boy like myself who had just been asked by the Branch President in his first priesthood interview if I had a "problem with masturbation"...well, Bro. Volz, I can now say that, honestly, I would not have called it a "problem".

Lars Larson said...

Ms. Hanson. I have finally posted my few thoughts about Starbucks and chains in general...have a look if you care to. :-)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey erlybrd!!!

I've never read anything by Tom Robbins, but I've heard good things about him.

I was in around sixth grade when I read that book too, and had the same experience of having the "good parts" indicated by other kids. ;^) Good take on the youth interview, BTW. When you think about it, it is kind of weird that it's considered reasonable for the ward/branch leaders to routinely ask kids such questions.

You make some good points in your Starbucks article as well.

jana said...

What about _Fear of Flying_ by Erica Jong? It gets bonus points for mostly being set in Paris :)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Jana!!!

I haven't read that one either, but I agree that being set in Paris is a plus. ;^)

beatdad said...

Delta of Venus- Anais Nin.....

You haven't read this.....?

That is about it from me, I have not read a lot of erotica. Gotta go my Dominatrix is calling ;^)

Ya gotta read Jitterbug Perfume, it is a great book, one of Tom Robbins' best.


C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Wayne!!!

No, I haven't read that one either. This is embarrassing -- I've hardly read any erotica at all. Oh well, I guess it's good that I'm posting about this, then, so I can gather some good recommendations... ;^)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Tom Robbins (although his newer work is less erotic but still entertaining). Jitterbug Perfume is my favorite, but they are all very good. Fear of Flying and anything by Anais Nin. Also anything by Henry Miller (Nin's lover) but mostly Tropic of Cancer. I find some of Rilke's poetry to be erotic. I've always thought The French Leutenant's Wife to be one of the best.

p.s. I've only recently stumbled upon your blog, but I've put you on my favorites list. Your book is on my reading list now!

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks missnev!!!

I've definitely heard of Tropic of Cancer as erotic. I'll have to have a look at some of these others... :D

Lars Larson said...

Missnev...maybe you can bring me back into the Tom Robbins fold...I haven't read his last two or three books after being sort of disappointed with Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas. How could he go wrong with a title like that?

Anyway, I have since taken him off my favorite authors's too short and my reading "bucket list" is too long.

Aerin said...

I've read Lolita.

I would love to be open-minded about it but I just can't be. I just don't get it. There are many things I can deal with but that story and the POV of sympathy with Humbert Humbert (kidnapper and child molestor) - I just can't.

I've read Lady Chatterley's Lover - and I know it's a classic and scandalous for its time - but it's not terribly shocking (now).

The Exterminator said...

Lolita is not an erotic book, but it happens to be one of the great novels of the 20th century. If you're looking for something to jerk off to, you probably ought to go elsewhere.

You can't "hear details" about it. Lolita is not actually about the story, but more about the telling of the story. If you can understand what I mean by that, you should give it a try. If you can't understand what I mean by that, skip it because you won't like it.

beatdad said...


Tom Robbins book Fierce Invalids in From Hot Climates Is one of his best, IMHO. But Villa Incognito was not so good.

I don't know any other more recent titles.


C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Aerin!!!

I hear a lot of people have that reaction to it. Lady Chatterley's Lover sounds like fun. You say it's not scandalous anymore, but is it erotic?

Hey Exterminator!!!

Saying "I've heard details about what's in it" was probably the wrong way of putting it. I meant that I've read discussion of the book, its style, etc., and it didn't jump out as "Wow, I'd really like to read that!" I wouldn't reject it out of being offended by the subject matter (I'd say you should know me better than that, but of course you don't know me... ;^) ). It's more like it sounds too much like "literary fiction." ;^)

But seriously, asking whether I can tell the difference between the story and the telling of it? Please, give me a little tiny bit of credit here... ;^)

Aerin said...

Exterminator - you're right - I just can't get past the story. I just can't. With lots of other novels - ideas, etc. - I can. With that one in particular, I wasn't able to. I can respect that many others disagree with me though.

Chanson - I think at it's time, it was seen as erotic...I'm not sure we would see it as that anymore. It's a little like The Awakening where the two main characters hold hands (without gloves) and that's meant to imply something....

The Exterminator said...

Please, give me a little tiny bit of credit here... ;^)
Oh, I give you a lot of credit. That's why I didn't address my comment to you specifically.

I can't get past the fact that Moby Dick is just a story about some whale. But I'm missing out on one of the great books of American lit.

C. L. Hanson said...


You're making me laugh (partially because I've had a certain number of martinis), but watch what you say to Aerin, who knows quite a lot about literature, is my first cousin, and was big enough to give you an introspective reply to your comment. ;^)

I don't want to paint myself as so superior. I feel like I could handle reading a story from this character's perspective without it making me upset and angry (and the more we talk about this, the more I'm tempted to read it, particularly after this).

However, I have my subject-matter limitations. To be honest, if there was a book with some spiritual experience where most people felt like the book gave the perfect description of feeling Jesus in their soul, I'd be flipping the pages seeing nothing but "blah, blah, blah, Jesus whatever, blah, blah."

The Exterminator said...

OK, I'm no longer going to defend Lolita's honor here.

So I'll address another point. For me, a really erotic book is any book (even a collection of cartoons) written by an intelligent and witty woman. The world is woefully short of true wits of either gender, so I guess I get turned on by a woman who can make me laugh and think at the same time.

Hot literary chicks (in alphabetical order):
Jane Austen, Roz Chast, Nora Ephron, Jean Kerr, Florence King, Fran Lebowitz, Alison Lurie, Dorothy Parker, Sarah Vowell.

C. L. Hanson said...

My aspiration, then, is to one day make it to your list. I know it won't be easy, but I figure I've got another forty years or so.

p.s. please see my cartoons!!! ;^)

The Exterminator said...


Hey, a real comic strip! Loved the first one. The concept is so clever, and your drawings work perfectly. (The basketball panel is hilarious, and I really laughed at the line about nightmares.) I think you got bogged down in finding acronyms in the second one, but it was still pretty entertaining. Why did you stop?

I'm reserving a spot on my list for you.

By the way, you may not know that this blogger linked to you recently (look on her sidebar):

Trinity's Christian Dairy

Anonymous said...

You know what Chansi? I don't think I've ever read an erotic book or novel in my life.

Oh wait, does Playgirl count? Because I used to read it occasionally when I was doing shoots for them and they had this kind of erotic section in the back with couples acting out erotic fantasy stories. I would create the settings and photographs and then they'd add stories to them and I would read the stories to see what they'd extrapolated from my pictures. That has to kind of count, oui`?

A magazine is just a skinny book, right?

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Exterminator!!!

I'm glad you like them!! I'm pretty sure I stopped because I ran out of ideas. Like I said, the premise is "See? They're naked!!! Hahahahahahahahaha!!!" I was able to milk that for two strips worth of material.

Hey Tom!!!

I guess that counts... ;^)

Anonymous said...

Lolita changed me as a reader, and changed the way I view the craft of writing. For that it was an important book. It's not erotica, instead it's about how obsession can destroy innocence, and how innocence destroyed is the death knell for us all.

I didn't actually realize all this until I read the book, Reading Lolita in Tehran. You needn't have read Lolita before reading that heartbreaking story, but it helps.

For erotica, give me Anais Nin and Henry Miller. Anne Rice does erotica well in her early books. Her more recent books are tedious and bathed in blatant religious overtones.

For fast-paced modern sci-fi noir with great sex, pick up Richard K Morgan's work.

The most erotic story I've read in the past couple years was Perfume. It was awash with sex, yet I don't remember any intercourse in the work.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey C.V. Rick!!!

I've thought about picking up a copy of Reading Lolita in Teheran. Ever since reading Persepolis (and watching the film, which is one of the most brilliant films I've ever seen), I've been curious about the culture of Iran and the situation of women in particular. I was wonderdering why the girls were reading Lolita in particular -- I guess I have to read the book to find out.

So maybe I'll put Lolita on my list. Unfortunately, my list is rather long, and I'm going through it pretty slowly. I just finished La Peste, and now I'm reading L'Allemand d'aujourd'hui en 50 leçons (a gripping tale! j/k).

Also maybe I'll try Perfume. Are you saying it's the type of work that creates an erotic situation without too much focus on the graphic mechanics?

Anonymous said...

It's no big secret. The viewpoint character is a professor of literature, but after the crackdown she's teaching her classes in secret because women aren't allowed to obtain a Western-style education.

Perfume is about an obsession. It's one of the few books (along with Finn) which follow a sadistic, angry, horrible main character, and the author still manages to create a compelling beautiful book out of it. It's erotic in that it boils down the essence of what attracts people to each other and what sex is at its base, at its scent. It's not romantic, and there's no love, just obsession and anger and violence.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey C.V. Rick!!!

Well, Reading Lolita in Teheran sounds good then -- if I see it again, I'll try to pick up a copy. But regarding your description of Perfume? An erotic story where sex is reduced to anger and violence? Yuck. I think I'll pass on that. That's even less my kink than that whole dom/sub thing. Whatever happened to getting off on some good old-fashioned exhibitionism and voyeurism?

Unknown said...

i love erotica. love love love it. love it. did i mention that i love it? i really love it.

however, perhaps i am just a boring person but i would like some good erotica that is just basic boy-girl sex, maybe even married sex. lesbian stuff is cool, gay stuff is fine, getting peed on, doing strangers, whatever. but it just doesn't do it for me the same way unless i can imagine myself and my husband in the fantasy, and i just can't do it with a girl hiring a male prostitute or a woman eating some midget's shit. ya know what i mean?

so does anyone have suggestions for erotica that could be shared between husband and wife? like your typical sexy marital sex? does such a thing exist? we have a wonderful sex life, and i love erotica and would like to bring it in, and would love any suggestions for basic boy-girl sex. thanks! :)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Chandelle!!!

Erotica where the two lovers are actually married? That's a pretty tall order. I think that's rare except in cases where the protagonists are, like, both spies or something.

Actually, though, one I was thinking of adding to the list is Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. It has some very erotic scenes and sequences to it. (That one has a fairly traditional romantic love story at its core.)

Unknown said...

hm. marriage is not necessary. just boy-girl sex. i have the hardest time just finding boy-girl sex!

MattMan said...

I feel like a social leper that I don't know anything about any of these erotic books -- but thanks everyone for the suggestions. ;)

While we're talking about books, I felt compelled to make a comment about this: "In my case, that's practically the only thing I like in the whole sci-fi/fantasy genre: bizarre erotic scenarios that follow different social rules and physical laws than what you encounter in real life."

Sometime over the past year or so I read an interesting book that, strangely enough, fits all 3 three of those attributes you mentioned, but I know it wasn't intended to be in the erotic category at all. The book received only so-so reviews, most of which talk about how it's so slow-moving and devoid of a point. However, I found it fascinating at the time for specifically those reasons, as well as the 3 attributes you mentioned.

In any case, the book is called "Freehold" by Michael Z. Williamson. Interestingly enough, I found the underlying feminist messages refreshing, or at least what I thought could be feminist messages.

It may not be worth a purchase, but definitely worth a trip to a library.

Bull said...

I think Ken Follett has written some great erotic scenes. My favorites were in "The Pillars of the Earth". Besides the phallic title, it is actually an engrossing read. The sex is just a little icing.

As a very sheltered teenage boy I liked the very trashy "Tarnsman of Gor" series of books. In fact, one of my favorite memories of BYU was kicking back in Calculus class reading a Tarnsman book while this poor southern Utah math professor struggled to lecture without looking at the cover which had a huge guy holding the leash of a brass bikini-clad beauty luxuriating on a fur rug at his feet. Since all I did was read during class he did a triple take when handing back my first mid-term with a 100 at the top...

Anonymous said...

You know what? I forgot the most beautiful writer of our time when it comes to sensuality - sex - relationships. Man/Woman, one on one, beauty. Haruki Murakami. Oh, you'll never be let down by his hypnotic prose. Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. His short stories are mesmerizing as well.

Another beautiful writer with fantastic erotic elements is Louise Erdrich.

Robert said...

I agree with The Exterminator that Lolita is a great book, but it's not erotic, nor intended to be erotic. I find it kind of fascinating that you seem to dismiss the entire category "literary fiction" so casually. But then that's where I spend most of my reading time, so I guess it's clear that it's one area where our tastes diverge. It puzzles me though, because I've always thought of literary fiction as the natural home of people who are smart, complex, and deeply interested in what makes human beings tick, all of which clearly apply to you. Please explain in 50000 words or less why you don't love literary fiction. Thx. :)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Chandelle!!!

True, it's tricky, but it's out there...

Hey MattMan!!!

Wow, that sounds intriguing -- I'll have to look for it!!!

Hey Bull!!!

What a fabulous way to get some reading in!!! Ah, BYU!!! :D

Hey C.V. Rick!!!

True, Haruki Murakami's work is very good, and quite erotic.

Hey Robert!!!

Well, I'm mostly kidding about avoiding "literary fiction" particularly when talking about works that have been generally recognized as great. Still I'm a little leery of people who set out to write "literary fiction" as a genre. I was planning a post on this, but here's the short answer:

Setting out with the intention of writing something highbrow can sometimes be an excuse for not making the effort to write something accessible (and implicitly blaming the audience if they don't like it). (OTOH, commercial "genre fiction" -- where the point is to write yet another copy of the standard canon of tired formulas -- is much more painfully boring.) I realize that's probably an unfair way of looking at literary fiction, but it reflects my own writing philosophy: I want to write something original that has some substance to it, but if you need a Ph.D. in literature to appreciate my stories, then I'm not done.

Christopher Smith said...

Ender's Game just happens to be the greatest book of all time.

It's sort of a guy thing, though.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Chris!!!

Well, if appreciating Ender's Game is "sort of a guy thing" then (in my less-than-humble opinion) it's not the greatest book of all time. It might be the greatest "guy thing" book of all time, but even that's not certain.

I personally prefer guy books that involve lots of sex, especially seducing (or trying to seduce) multiple women. I also like books by (male) primatologist/anthropologists where they talk about how the sexual dimorphism in humans means a scientist would expect humans to tend slightly towards polygyny (and you can just see the author secretly imagining himself as an alpha male), and/or they write whole chapters contemplating why human males penises are so much larger than the penises of other primates. I love that stuff!!! But I'm not a guy and I suppose they guys I like to hang out with aren't typical. Typical guys probably prefer lots of sports, violence, and violence dressed up as sports. For myself, I rarely find such stories interesting.

Robert said...

My guy vote definitely goes somewhere other than Ender's Game, which I found interesting, but not particularly compelling. For me, it was like the sci-fi equivalent of an O. Henry story. More of a confection than a hearty meal

I think that loving books is partly a function of when in your life you read them, though. The chance of having a book blow your mind is just so much greater in the decade or so after puberty (or, in my case, the two decades after puberty, since, as a good Mormon boy, I postponed my teenage experience and then didn't get around to it until my twenties, after I left the Mormon church). I didn't read Ender's game until I was well into my thirties, at which point it didn't seem like anything particularly special. The more books you read, it seems the more it takes to impress you, since more and more comes to seem like a variation on something you've already seen.

Ditto many other life experiences as well. For example, the first time I won a Pulitzer I was totally psyched, but subsequent wins have been barely risen to the level of frisson.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Robert!!!

You're joking about the Pulitzer, right? Or are you...?

Robert said...

Uh, yeah. Only in my febrile dreams. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree, Ender's Game, the novel, good but not spectacular. Ender's Game, the novella (which came out first) was better, but not the best.

I wrote a blog post a while back on what my all-time favorite books are. The short version is Flower for Algernon, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Things They Carried, and Slaughterhouse Five. I'm not particularly into sex it seems. That surprises me, but I wasn't thinking about that when I wrote the post. Wasn't thinking about it until just this moment as a matter of fact.

Ender's Game didn't make any of my groups of favorite books. I read it as a teenager (well, when I was 19, and in the military) and it still doesn't make the top of the pile. There are just too many great stories to choose from.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey C.V. Rick!!!

That's a great list!!!

On some level I don't feel like I'm qualified to make a "top ten greatest overall" list. I'm not as well-read as I'd like to be. I've read two of your top four (in high school and college) and I remember liking them, but they didn't jump out as "Wow!!!" for me. It's odd, too, since I like "bittersweet tragedies and the hero doesn't win in the end, because in the end there are no real winners in life," and have aimed for precisely this in my own work. (Almost precisely -- more like tragicomedies for me since I don't have the stuff of real tragedy.) Maybe I should try reading your big four as a grown-up.

Just sticking with fiction that I've really enjoyed, a few novels come to mind: Dangerous Liaisons, A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth), and delving into children's, perhaps the "Little House" series. And, just being honest, I like my own two novels better than any other fiction I've read in my life. Of course my own two kids are my favorite kids ever, and naturally I write what I like. :D

J. J. Ramsey said...

bull: "As a very sheltered teenage boy I liked the very trashy 'Tarnsman of Gor' series of books."

What one blogger had to say about the Gor novels made them look pretty creepy

Bull said...

What can I say? I'm truly embarrassed and shouldn't have brought it up. Did I mention that I was a very immature 16 year old that first year at BYU? I thought it was funny that these were in the "locked case" in the Harold B. Lee library. I first ran into these in my high school library and was surprised that BYU had the entire series, but they made you go get a librarian to fetch them.

Maybe it's a commentary on my upbringing in a very conservative, rigid Mormon family that these somehow appealed to me. Somewhere I must have changed because by the time I was 19 even I realized there was something wrong when all of the women in the temple had to humbly pledge to obey their husbands as if they were God.

OK. I'm really, really embarrassed now so I'll just go away now.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey J.J.!!!

Thanks for the info -- wow, yikes!!!

Hey Bull!!!

Well, we've all liked stuff as kids that we're embarrassed about now. If you still liked this kind of thing, then I'd be worried.

So you started BYU at 16? There was a 16-year-old kid in some of my math classes when I was there, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't you.

Bull said...

I started there in the fall of 1981 and finished up a couple of years of electrical engineering before heading to god forsaken Bolivia in September of 1983. Coming straight back for my junior year of EE after 2 years off with an 18.5 credit hour load nearly killed me.

JulieAnn said...

"And, just being honest, I like my own two novels better than any other fiction I've read in my life."

Are you, um, serious?

That's a pretty bold thing to say. I could be taking it out of context but it SOUNDS to me like you think your writing surpasses anyone else's you've ever

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey JulieAnne!!!

I mean I write the type of thing that I like to read, nothing more nothing less. I don't pretend to be making any sort of objective statement about quality, nor am I making any claims about what I expect other people's opinions to be.

Lance Flesher said...

While I DO think you should read Lolita, I didn't find it all that erotic, and it didn't leave me fantasizing when I wasn't reading it. I think it's worthwhile to see Humbert Humbert degrading over time, becoming more and more subject to the whim of a 12 or 13 year old girl, but not sexy. When I'm looking for erotic fantasies from my reading, I skip the mainstream novels that have that content, and just get my fix with explicitly erotic books.

Jojo P. said...

Certainly some of the events in "Lolita" are drawn from real life.