The world is overflowing with an abundance of amazing books, more than you could ever read in a lifetime. Fiction, poetry, biographies, even young adult stories, it’s an endless sea of inspiration and imagination.
But when it comes to books on sex, intimacy, dating, and relationships, the literary landscape is riddled with bad advice, antiquated ideas, and a shocking amount of bullshit sold as the law of the land.
(The Rules, I’m looking at you.)
Mainstream media advice about our bodies, our gender, the way we communicate, and sex is misleading at best and downright traumatizing at worst. That is to say, almost everything you see in magazines, on the news, and coming out of Hollywood is based on a set of rules and beliefs that are designed to make us feel bad and buy more stuff.
So, how are you supposed to separate the good from the bad from the downright absurd?
Allow me, dear reader, to lend a hand.
Behold. The eight books on sex & relationships that I most frequently recommend to my clients (and why you should read them).
This is the number one book that I recommend to my sex coaching clients. If you’re struggling with low libido or getting aroused, especially if you are a woman, this book needs to be at the top of your To Read list.
Emily Nagoski uses numerous studies and scientific data to build a compelling story for why all of the things we’ve been taught about women’s arousal are wrong, and instead, how arousal really works for most of us.
Using approachable stories and fun anecdotes, you’ll walk away from this book feeling empowered, enlightened, and much more in control of your sexual pleasure and desire.
Barbara Carrellas is someone that I admire deeply. Her books are inclusive and powerful in ways that most sex books are not. “Ecstasy is Necessary” helps you to map out and discover your sexual self. Not the self that has been beaten into you by mainstream media or your family or your community – your true self.
What is ecstasy to you? What are the possibilities for pleasure? What are the endless ways you can tap into your sensual potential and unleash it in your life in practical and feel-good ways?
If you love this book, you’ll also want to check out Barbara’s “Urban Tantra” which is another book I recommend to most clients.
The prevailing wisdom that we see so often is this quest for intimacy in our relationships. But, what if intimacy is the very thing that kills our erotic energy, and our sex lives?
Esther Perel, known for her amazing TED talks on infidelity, posits that in order to maintain erotic energy, to keep that heat alive, we need to strike a careful balance between intimacy and eroticism. If you’ve ever wondered why people cheat and what you can do to be more aware in your own relationships to help prevent infidelity, this book is an important (and very easy) read.
It’s one of the more common reasons people seek sex coaching, and it’s one of the most common books I recommend to clients seeking change.
“Women’s Anatomy of Arousal” by Sheri Winston
Did you know that many doctors, even gynecologists, don’t know the basics when it comes to arousal and genitals in folks with a vulva? It’s true! Sadly, many doctors only receive elementary information in med school about sex (most say it was less than 8 hours in their 8 years of training).
Sex education isn’t much better. We’re lucky if we ever even hear the world clitoris mentioned. Pleasure-based sex education is something we can hope for the future, but what can we do now?
Read Sheri Winston’s book. With beautiful hand-drawn images of all those delicious nerve endings and vast networks of erectile tissue, you’ll learn how the clitoris extends deep into the body, how important your pelvic floor muscles are, and what an important role your thoughts play in how your body reacts.
This book is the most comprehensive book on the anatomy of vulvas that I’ve ever seen. The language is heterocentric, so for any queer or trans folks, just keep that in mind as you go through the tips for lovers. It also has a lot of woo around energy and chakras.
Don’t let that stop you from buying this book, though! You’ll have a new appreciation for just how incredible our bodies are after you see what we’re made of.
Tristan Taormino is a powerhouse in the sex education world. From her wildly popular podcast, Sex Out Loud, to her many educational DVDs, Tristan is a legend when it comes to sex.
“Opening Up” is the most approachable, non-threatening, easy read on non-monogamy that I’ve found. It’s full of stories and accounts from real people talking about the endless ways folks are redefining what it means to be in relationships.
Unlike many books about non-monogamy and polyamory, “Opening Up” does not pass judgment on folks who choose monogamy, which is part of what makes it so approachable for folks who are simply curious. Whether you’ve thought about kissing someone else or having a play partner on the side or even having multiple live-in spouses, this book walks you through the beauty of creating a relationship framework (or non-framework) that works for you.
This book is hot off the presses and I’ve already written about its impact on me. Brené’s work on shame and vulnerability is incredibly relevant when it comes to sex and relationships.
In her latest book, “Rising Strong”, she outlines how to deal with failure in a way that allows for maximum emotional growth and healing. And we all fail in life – from trying something new in the bedroom to saying something we regret to a loved one. This book will arm you with powerful tools on moving through the yucky stuff without getting stuck.
If you take nothing else away from this book, learning how to say “the story I’m telling myself is…” will revolutionize the way you argue and have tough conversations. Get this book. Read it. Share it. And reap the benefits of new awareness in how you approach shame.
This book is important, but it is also pretty uncomfortable for folks who aren’t quite ready to step outside the lines of how society frames sexuality, gender, relationships, break-ups, sex, and self-image.
Meg Barker takes all of the stories and assumptions we have about relationships & sex, and breaks them down piece by piece. By questioning the rules, she invites new dialog that does not rewrite the rules, but instead, invites us all to let the rules go and live in a place of constant curiosity and flow.
When you’re no longer bound by “should” and “supposed to”, you can begin to create a relationship with yourself and with others that is more authentic and meaningful than ever before. Do expect to get uncomfortable.
Yes, this book is about queer sex. But, it is also full of body-positive cartoons, endless sex positive tips on how to actually have sex, and advice on everything from oral to strap-on sex and more.
Even if you think you’re beyond a sex 101 book, you’ll find yourself learning new and better ways to think about sex, your body, and how you can maximize pleasure with your partner. Allison Moon creates a fun, playful framework that will have you laughing out loud and nodding in agreement (the section on what makes someone creepy is especially fantastic).
Despite being a huge book, you’ll zoom through it and find lots of shareable quotes, pictures, and tidbits that you’ll want to try on for yourself.
BONUS BOOKS: If you have kids in your life, these two books by Cory Silverberg are LIFE-CHANGING.
This book is designed for kids from 4-7 years old, though adults will get a lot out of it, too. Cory Silverberg wrote it for all kids in all sorts of families born in all sorts of ways to parents with all sorts of bodies and genders.
Instead of dreading the “where do babies come from” question, this book will give the young people in your life a beautifully inclusive answer that lays the foundation for a lifetime of sex positivity and self-awareness.
I buy this book for every single person I know who is going to become a parent.
Cory’s newest book, published in the summer of 2015, brought tears to my eyes. Intended for pre-teens, Sex is a Funny Word walks through anatomy, language, setting boundaries, consent, relationships, and the feelings associated with it all.
Each section ends with a question that invites the adult reading the book to engage with the young reader and the questions are sure to create an open conversation the likes of which I’ve never seen before.
Wildly inclusive, non-judgmental, and accessible to kids of all ages, if you have a youngster in your life, you need to get this book.
Please note, the links to Amazon are affiliate links for me, so if you end up buying any of the books, I’ll get a few pennies from Amazon.
This list is not exhaustive and there are so many other books that I adore that I would have loved to include here, so expect additional reading lists down the road.
If you’re struggling with a specific issue or if you’d like to learn about something (like kink) that isn’t covered here, please comment below and I’ll provide additional resources and recommendations.
As always, I’m available for one-on-one coaching or you can join my bi-weekly Sex is a Social Skill Group Calls. Check out ways we can work together if you’d like additional inspiration and support.