“50 Shades of Grey” may be a bestseller, but it’s not necessarily the best.
In a year when the Pulitzer committee couldn’t pull a fiction winner out of their hat, E.L James’ trilogy of Christian Grey’s sexual escapades with Anastasia Steele is tearing up the charts. It’s the book that made it okay for women to openly admit they’re reading erotica—mostly because it has garnered the cutesy-sounding “mommy porn” moniker.
Please. It’s erotica. And it’s been around since people first put pen to paper.
I don’t begrudge the author her success—anyone who crosses over from fanfic onto the New York Times bestseller list deserves admiration. You go, girl. If “50 Shades” has brought this behind-closed-doors genre out into the open, then, “Bravo.”
It’s just that there are better books to read. If you’ve finished James’ trilogy and are looking for something different, here are a few suggestions:
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, A.N. Roqulaure (Anne Rice)
If you’ve read Rice’s vampire novels, then you’ll know she has a knack for the sensual. This book, very loosely based on the fairy tale, is the first of three books (another trilogy!) and is well-written. Let’s just say it isn’t a kiss that wakes up our fair Beauty. And there’s a price to pay for being released from eternal slumber. “50 Shades” fans should feel at home with this series. Be warned: If the nature of Christian and Anastasia’s relationship disturbed you in “50 Shades of Grey,” you should probably avoid this series as well.
The Kama Sutra, Vatsyayana
Considered in some quarters to be the first manual on sex, this seven-part Hindu text actually covers the entire process of a relationship, from finding a partner, to intimacy, and the roles wives play. There are multiple versions in existence, but the frugal-minded may like the free version downloadable for iPad—pictures not included. And really, do you need them?
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
Honestly, this is a tough book. Henry Miller’s prose reads like stream-of-consciousness from someone who has been up for 36 hours straight. Still, it’s hailed as one of THE great American novels, and its publication, subsequent ban and litigation in the early 60s are considered to be integral to the sexual revolution.
Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
Nin was once Henry Miller’s lover, and it was her efforts that helped get Tropic of Cancer published. Yet she was also a powerful force in the literary scene of the 20s and 30s, and along with her diaries, this book is considered her signature piece.
The Story of O, Pauline Reage
This book pops up on many “best of” lists for erotica, and has a plot line that “50 Shades” readers will relate to—a woman whose lover forces her to submit. If you believe what’s been written online, the story was written on a dare from the author’s boyfriend that women couldn’t write good erotica. He was wrong.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence
Another choice for the more literary-minded, this tome also battled heavy censorship at the time of its publication in the late 20s. The book includes several themes, mind and body being just one of them.
Wifey, Judy Blume
Maybe you’re not quite ready to go “all the way”—you picked up “50 Shades” and turned 50 shades of red. Try some Judy Blume. After all, she’s a children’s author, right? I still remember sneaking this off my mom’s nightstand when I was a tween. This is definitely not “The Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.”
Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories, Rachel Kramer Bussel
OK, here’s your raunch. It’s not as “safe” a read to have laying around, because the title pretty much puts it out there, but if you’re reading “50 Shades” and giggling with your girlfriends or even your husband, then why not try this series of short stories that are certain to rev the engine.
Think this whole “50 Shades” mania is over the top? “Saturday Night Live” paid homage to the frenzy: