Frontlist | Burn after reading: the sexiest new books to add to your lust list
From short stories on sexuality to Lisa Taddeo’s much-hyped debut novel, literature is hotting up. Jessica Benjamin salutes the wave of filthy fiction
It’s enough to make the sex scenes in Bridgerton look tame.
As TV hots up, the latest novels are also unashamedly filthy. There are affairs, no-holds barred descriptions of masturbation and a lot of detail.
What a relief we don’t have to read them on the Tube anymore, paranoid about who is looking over our shoulders. But actually there is nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of this sex is empowered, about both women and men’s enjoyment.
With so many books out though, it’s hard to choose. These are our favourites…
Luster by Raven Leilani
“When I write sex, I refuse to pan away to the curtains,” wrote Leilani of her 2021 debut novel, Luster. It’s true; the book follows a young black woman who is drawn into an open marriage by a rich, older white man and his wife. It’s visceral, funny and yes, very filthy. One sex scene in particular manages to span two pages but is only a single sentence long, veering from “his grand, slightly left-leaning c**k” to protagonist Edie, the self-proclaimed “office slut”, pondering the extra towels in the bathroom and worrying about contraception. “In general, if you need a pick-me-up I welcome you to make a white man your bitch,” Edie says.
Animal by Lisa Taddeo
(Out in July, Bloomsbury)
The hype is already building for the first novel by the author of Three Women, which shook the world with its candid description of the sex lives of women in America. Animal is about a woman called Joan, who proudly says that she is depraved. She dates married men and boasts about how cruel she is. There’s a kiss which lasts for thirty minutes and a lot of merciless descriptions of penises in all their variety. It is not out until July but you are in for a hot summer with this one.
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Open Water is a masterclass in portraying intimacy without graphic sexuality. The lovers, a young black British photographer and a dancer, meet at the start of the novella in a pub, and their attraction is both instant and electric. Their relationship then slowly builds and burns throughout the story as their lives entangle together. Sexual tension runs high. It’s a book about black bodies and strength, vulnerability and fear, with a magnetic romance woven throughout as well that entrances the reader, and lots of writing about music. In Open Water, its sexiest moments are left unsaid — so if you’re after an explicit bonk-fest, you might be disappointed.
Kink compiled by Garth Greenwell and R O Kwon
“Instead of pathologising kink, the stories in this anthology treat it as a complex, psychologically rich act of communication,” the foreword to Kink reads. If you are familiar with Rule 34 — the idea that if you can think of a type of pornography, it conceivably exists in some hidden corner of the internet — you can imagine the array of fetishes present throughout the erotic short story compilation that is Kink. Taking hidden, and often shameful, desires and elevating them to erotic fiction makes for a delightfully filthy and unquestionably important read in understanding human sexuality.
Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again by Katherine Angel
OK, it’s a non-fiction analysis of sex in the 21st century and the title is a quote from Foucault, but stick with me — is there anything sexier than actually knowing what you’re talking about? Angel looks to science, literature, pop culture and porn to produce this bible of modern sexuality and consent that all men and women should be reading, as she questions the foundations of desire and why not knowing what you want is the very basis of all eroticism. Essentially, we need to rethink what we know about sex before the promise in the book’s title can come true.
Hurdy Gurdy by Christopher Wilson
If a book set during a medieval plague is a bit too close to home for you, look away now. Hurdy Gurdy sees a 1349 monk, Brother Diggory, set forth to discover earthly pleasures after his brothers are carried off by the plague. And pleasures does he find. It’s bawdy and crude and darkly funny throughout, with euphemisms including “greasing the goose”, “the deed of deepest darkness” and “supping from the mossy well” all hitting the mark. Brother Diggory’s journey can be neatly summarised by the title of its 11th chapter: “I chance upon Woman and Find Her Good”. He might as well just stop there.
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
Food, sex and God are rolled into one in Milk Fed, a book centred on a young, lonely, anorexic woman named Rachel who finds solace in the arms of a fat frozen yogurt server. Rachel’s hungers are so tightly bound that food and sex are interchangeable; her sexual imaginings include fantasies of being breastfed by an older woman so that Rachel “may live”. Every encounter is written with sumptuous detail, from glutting on nachos to intimate sex scenes (real and imagined), making for a simultaneously uncomfortable and revelatory read.
Source: Evening Standard