The best pillow books for when familiarity sets in

Who am I?

My first book was Quiver, a collection of erotic short stories. I wrote it to immortalize the hedonism of Sydney in the 1990s, wanting to show a nonjudgmental, joyful side. The fact that it touched a lot of people compelled me to write two more collections Tremble and Yearn – each exploring different themes: Tremble is an erotic re-imagining of various root myths, whilst Yearn has more historical and fantastical elements. I interweave all the characters in the stories throughout the whole collections. Humor is also important to me when it comes to the ironies and emotions around sex, the other aspect is gender power play and all the sublime reversals that can encapsulate. 

I wrote...


By Tobsha Learner,

Book cover of Quiver

What is my book about?

In the flashes that blur the line between fantasy and reality, each steamy story in Quiver captures the spontaneous erotic experiences of a group of middle-class acquaintances—a dentist and his wife; an accountant and a beautician—as they audaciously unleash their deepest desires. Each story is interconnected to each other and whilst alternating between male and female perspectives, there are no holds barred in these interactions: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, exhibitionistic, and sadomasochistic relationships – all unabashedly on display in this provocative collection. 

The books I picked & why

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Delta of Venus

By Anaïs Nin,

Book cover of Delta of Venus

Why this book?

As a teenager this collection of short stories blew my mind; it’s one of the first to really explore sexual pleasure from a female perspective and I loved the way it wove psychology, power, culture, and erotic play up seamlessly and provocatively. It was most likely an unconscious template for my own collections of erotic short stories, the perfect format for the pillow book (to be read out loud to one’s lover/husband/guilty pleasure). Nin, a friend of Henry Miller and a number of Paris-based groundbreaking artists and intellectuals in the 1920s, is the perfect conduit for the louche erotic experimentation of the era, and yet this book is still timeless and still delivers in terms of fantasy.  


By John Berger,

Book cover of G.

Why this book?

John Berger was a fantastic cultural observer and art critic, this book is erotic both in its observation of culture and context but also of human fallibility, and psychic and psychological transportation of love itself. It had a big influence on me as an art student and for the brief years when I was a sculptor. What I love about it is its empathy for both the female and male inner erotic life, although it is set in England and Europe at the end of the 19th century, Berger’s razor-sharp, succinct blending of the internal and external world is both moving and sensual. 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

By Milan Kundera,

Book cover of The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Why this book?

Another book that influenced me as an erotic writer, Kundera sets the parodies of sexual desire, infidelity, and lust against the turbulent 1960s. It taught me how you can integrate sexual desire into a bigger narrative, encapsulating the tragedy of the fickle appetites of the male player. The other brilliant aspect of this book is the organic way it has the shifting political background of Europe mid 20th century. It inspired me to look at the psychology of where you place your stories and how this can re-enforce the underlying theme of the narrative. In Kundera’s case – the existential and transcendent experience of erotic love.

The Story of O

By Pauline Reage,

Book cover of The Story of O

Why this book?

Years ago I was hired to do a tv biopic movie on the inception and writing of this book. Although the movie never got made I did get to meet Pauline the authoress, an extraordinary figure in her eighties who originally wrote the book as an anonymous love letter to her married publisher lover. She deliberately remained anonymous as the writer until the 1970s - up until then a number of men claimed to have written it as it was then considered impossible that a woman could have written such raunchy sadomasochism. I love it for its visual detail – as well as its shameless explicitness. Reage, somewhat of a historian, was uncompromising in costume and setting and that has been a direct influence in my own writing. Frankly, it knocks 50 Shades out of the field. 

Bad Behavior: Stories

By Mary Gaitskill,

Book cover of Bad Behavior: Stories

Why this book?

This collection of short stories is really about how sexual desire and social ambition can lead to all sorts of compromising and bizarre situations. I originally was drawn to it because I’d loved the film Secretary based on one of the short stories in the collection. I related to it because it is nearly all from a young female P.O.V – a kind of potpourri of trying to make it in NY in the 1980s. It's the perfect illustration of how powerful short story as a form can be in terms encapsulate an event, mood, and era – It also showed me how fictionalized memoir can be a good source of material and that if the book is really well-observed it never dates. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, New York State, and Venus?

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