The best books with erotic themes that are integrated, imaginative, joyful and insightful – and never corny

Who am I?

I’ve been writing stories and poems with erotic themes since I first entered the spoken word scene in 1980s San Francisco. As a young queer boy, raised in the highly eroticized Catholic Church, I was actually comfortable talking about and writing about sex and eros as I’d been stigmatized by it, and it got me fascinated with what the big deal was and why writers were afraid to approach it or why they did so in a corny/predictable/idealized and/or often dishonest and clumsy way. Soon I was teaching erotic writing and have been integrating it into my writing in honest, fresh, and enlivening ways—and helping others do soever since.

I wrote...

A Horse Named Sorrow

By Trebor Healey,

Book cover of A Horse Named Sorrow

What is my book about?

Part road novel, part elegy for a San Francisco long gone, A Horse Named Sorrow introduces us to the quirky callow youth, Seamus Blake, tending to his dying lover, Jimmy, at the close of the 20th Century. An orphan in the sense of the land of misfit toys that was San Francisco, Seamus, confounded by grief and the riddle of life, sets out on a journey cross-country by bicycle to return Jimmy’s ashes to Buffalo, NY, honoring his lost boyfriend’s final request to take me back the way I came.’ Along the way, the story becomes a journey into the underworld, an American book of the dead, and a meditation on grief, love, sexuality and eroticism, family and genocide as Seamus befriends two native men.

The books I picked & why

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The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories

By Angela Carter,

Book cover of The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories

Why this book?

Not only does Carter put a brilliantly insightful feminist spin on well-known fairy tales like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Bluebeard,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” but she brings the erotic aspects of these stories to the surface in a natural and insightful way, integrating them into the stories and characters seamlessly. Discovering Carter can be truly revelatory and opened my mind and encouraged me to re-look at the entire canon, and not only find my own story within those universally praised stories, but invited me to lay claim to our collective heritage and attempt my own take on it fearlessly in service to the whole truth.

My Tender Matador

By Pedro Lemebel, Katherine Silver (translator),

Book cover of My Tender Matador

Why this book?

Lemebel was a courageous and flamboyant activist during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Having lived in Chile myself, I think this book captures the erotic Chilean soul in all its humor, grief, and idealism at an important historical moment. The hopelessly romantic and delightfully ironic seamstress/protagonist Queen of the Corner lives on a rooftop in one of Santiago’s poorest barrios and hosts discussion groups by local leftist students who keep leaving behind really heavy boxes, ostensibly full of books, as they prepare a vague plan that will have enormous implications. The group’s ringleader Carlos is a charmer ala Che Guevara, and the Queen is soon head over heels in love as a friendship and a tender unrequited love affair begins. A story of remarkable humanism that mixes the erotic with revolution.

The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon

By Tom Spanbauer,

Book cover of The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon

Why this book?

This book is probably the single most praised underground gay novel of my generation, and deservedly so. It’s so many things—beautiful writing, an old west setting in all its ugliness and adventure and hope, and a highly original narrative voice in the bisexual native orphan, Shed, who is being raised in a bordello. All the characters are well-drawn and as odd as the narrator, and the erotic journey, if I can call it that, is one of the most original, thought-provoking, and beautiful expressions of the possibilities of queer I’ve ever encountered. Spanbauer has helped me to write more skillfully about class and race and sexuality and how they are everywhere and how they can warpand sometimes, oftentimesset people free. 

The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead

By William S. Burroughs,

Book cover of The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead

Why this book?

The Wild Boys is at once dystopian and utopian, featuring a band of boys who’ve gone rogue and have perfected strange and poetically beautiful sex rites which allow them to ritually and meditatively conjure or reproduce more wild boy offspring. At once science fiction and fantastical in its imaginative scope, it is also, like all Burroughs’s work, a profound exploration of social control, the excesses and assumptions inherent in state and religious terror, and the sexual and erotic oppression and misunderstanding that is the real enemy of freedom. Fearless and experimental, Burroughs inspires me to be bold, blunt, and not afraid to disturb or offend in exploring the poetic and erotic relationships between all manner of ideas.

The Passion

By Jeanette Winterson,

Book cover of The Passion

Why this book?

In my opinion, one of the finest living writers in the English language, Winterson masterfully spins a tale of historical, poetic, eccentric, dreamy and highly sensual, and gender-bending eroticism involving an androgynous hero during the Napoleonic era, and taking place in the kitchens of the emperor, on the battlefield and along the freezing march into Russia, as well as amid the canals of Venice. Always thought-provoking and rife with magical realism and plain heart-stopping imagery, tension, and poetry, Winterson tells her story in a manner that willif not change your ideas about everythingcertainly challenge them. I always feel inspired to stretch my understanding widerand I actually fall deeply in love with the world all over againeach time I finish a novel by Winterson.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Chile, bisexuality, and dark comedy?

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