Make Space on Your Bookshelf for These 25 Erotica Books That’ll Turn You On in No Time

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Books can teach us so much: technical skills, school subjects, and random facts. Through fiction, they can also offer a round-trip ticket to a new and exciting world. Perhaps best illustrating this point are audio erotica and erotica books, which—to take literature one step further—can introduce you to sexual endeavors you may not otherwise have sought out.

“Unlike many other kinds of fiction where they leave the lovers alone and never reveal what happens behind the bedroom door…erotica is created by writers who love to make the sexy parts explicit,” says author and sexologist Carol Queen, PhD. Perhaps thanks to the Hollywood trope of only "bored housewives" reading erotica, many of us tended to see the genre as cheesy—then came "Fifty Shades of Grey," which kinda put erotic stories on the map.

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The best erotica books, at a glance:

In case you weren’t the biggest Fifty Shades fan, consider Queen’s input as to why anyone (really!) can benefit from delving into erotic stories. “People read [erotica] for the turn-on…to get erotic inspiration, to pick out parts to read to their lovers—and, TBH, to get comfortable with and normalize sexual play, diversity, and fantasy,” says Queen.

All that said, though, it’s important not to just pick any ole’ erotica. “I'd say it's especially important to consider what kind of scenario and sex you'd really enjoy—and which you wouldn't,” cautions Queen. For instance, she continues, some folks may find that erotica novels with BDSM components are a little too intense for them. On the other hand, too much romance can be a turn-off for some.

“It's a good idea to think about whether you have preferences or limits like this,” Queen adds. “If you don't know, maybe just go for the ride, or sample some erotic anthologies to get your bearings before you commit to a novel.” Also important to know? There’s a pretty crucial difference between classic erotica as Queen knows it and erotic romance novels.

The difference between erotica and erotic novels

Under the genre of fiction, there are countless sub-genres, like fantasy, horror, crime, and mystery, to name a few. Similarly, there are different types of literary erotica—which is written with the intent to arouse sexual love or desire.

There are those that are focused more on the sex between two people than the relationship, which Queen refers to as classic erotica. A good portion of erotic fiction, Queen says, isn’t even written in a novel format but rather short stories.

There’s also erotica that’s more plot- and relationship-driven, which is why we have the handy term, “erotic romance novels.” According to Queen, “[These] are 100 percent popular and exciting kinds of books. Many people love them much more than erotic stories that don't center a relationship in the way that [erotic romance novels] all seem to do.” Now that you’re aware of the difference, find the best erotica books and erotic romance novels, below.

The 25 best erotica books (and erotic romance novels)

Best for beginners

"The Perfect Stranger" by Meghan Miranda — $22.00

This novel falls under the category of “sexy thriller,” which essentially means that there are steamy scenes, but they’re mostly PG-13—which is exactly why it’s a perfect erotica-esque novel for folks who’re not sure if they’ll be into the genre.

The protagonist is Leah Stevens, a disgraced journalist who’s moved from Boston to rural Pennsylvania with her friend Emmy Grey. After Emmy disappears, Leah does everything in her power to try to find her. When her journey leads her to the police, Leah quickly finds herself attracted to Kyle Donovan, a hot, young police officer on Emmy’s missing person case.

Best for beginners

"The Perfect Stranger" by Meghan Miranda — $22.00

This novel falls under the category of “sexy thriller,” which essentially means that there are steamy scenes, but they’re mostly PG-13—which is exactly why it’s a perfect erotica-esque novel for folks who’re not sure if they’ll be into the genre.

The protagonist is Leah Stevens, a disgraced journalist who’s moved from Boston to rural Pennsylvania with her friend Emmy Grey. After Emmy disappears, Leah does everything in her power to try to find her. When her journey leads her to the police, Leah quickly finds herself attracted to Kyle Donovan, a hot, young police officer on Emmy’s missing person case.

Best classic erotica

"The Leather Daddy & the Femme" by Carol Queen — $12.00

When I asked Queen for her fave erotica books, she provided one of the best responses I’ve heard as a journalist: “I’m going to be cheeky and nominate myself,” she told me, adding that she wrote this book because she wanted to read that story but it hadn’t been written.

At its core, “The Leather Daddy & The Femme” is a story about Miranda/Randy and how she explores her sexuality beyond gender and sexual orientation. It’s told through scenes and conversations, both equally hot, IMHO. (Seriously, check out the excerpt on Amazon.) Though it’s currently only available on Kindle, it’s well worth the purchase—and it’s only 176 pages!

Best contemporary erotic novel

"The Right Swipe" by Alisha Rai — $10.00

I’m not usually a fan of tech or people who work in it, but this story is the perfect balance of rom-com and erotic novel, so I’m willing to look past it. Rhiannon Hunter, our leading lady, founded a dating app that “revolutionized romance in the digital world,” but she struggles to welcome any romance in her real life, even after connecting with the super-hot Samson Lima, who’s a football player helping his aunt run her matchmaking business, a rival to Rhiannon’s app.

Clocking in at 400 pages, this is definitely a heftier read—but it’s also a worthwhile investment. I mean, an Amazon reviewer says that this book gave them all the feels. “I’m sorry I had it in my library for months before actually reading it but also wish I could read it for the first time again,” reads the review. “Brilliant storytelling, relatable characters, emotional, and beautiful. I highly recommend!”

Best BDSM erotica

"Slow Surrender" by Cecilia Tan — $10.00

This is one of Queen’s favorite erotica novels. “Cecilia Tan…started out best known in the bisexual and erotic speculative fiction communities, but after Fifty Shades, she wrote a BDSM romance trilogy,” Queen tells me. “Slow Surrende”r is the first in that 3-part story.

It chronicles the initial experiences of a waitress named Karina and a wealthy businessman named James, whose true identity isn’t revealed at the end of this book. What is revealed, though, is that he’s a highly complex character who’s also extremely attractive and a dominant, masochistic partner. As such, he pushes Karina’s sexual boundaries throughout the 306 pages of this steamy book.

Best LGBTQ erotic novel

"The Night Off" by Meghan O'Brien — $33.00

Wueen and I both noticed that a lot of reviewers were struck by how quickly the romance developed in this novel—with some wanting a little more anticipation. That said, there are other types of readers out there. If you’re someone who wants to get to the point quickly, you may want to make space for this on your bookshelf.

Following a long celibacy, protagonist Emily Parker decides that she’s ready to get back on the saddle in more ways than one. To that end, she contracts Nat Swayne, a seasoned, high-priced escort whose niche is fulfilling women’s fantasies. However, Nat is intent on not catching feelings for any clients—then, as you may have guessed—she meets Emily. It’s a classic. And, according to one Goodreads review, “The Night Off” also features “a truck ton of dirty talk,” which may make for a fun reading session with your partner.

Runner up, Best LGBTQ erotic novel

"The Sluts" by Dennis Cooper — $17.00

Allow me to describe this erotic novel in one word: transgressive—and I mean that in the best way. (I mean, that’s what I want my erotica to be.) In the 271 pages of this book, readers don’t exactly meet compelling characters in a linear fashion. Yes, Cooper, “chronicles the evolution of one young escort’s date with a satisfied client into a metafiction of pornography, lies, half-truths, and myth,” according to the book’s summary.

But he also does this by taking readers through, “the pages of a website where gay male escorts are reviewed by their clients” as well as, “postings, emails, and conversations of several dozen unreliable narrators.” Essentially, it’s a really sexy game of telephone that can distract you and turn you on.

Best audio-erotica novel

"Bared to You" by Sylvia Day — $4.00

In the 10 years since this novel came out, it might’ve become difficult for readers to enjoy this bestseller in a new way—which is exactly why we picked this as the best audible version. Since the print version is 336 pages long, the audible is just shy of 13 hours, so make sure you plan accordingly!

Day’s prose is raw and sensual, making it super arousing to listen to. Just take a look (and then a listen?) for yourself: “I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily… Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private wounds…and desires. The bonds of his love transformed me, even as I prayed that the torment of our pasts didn’t tear us apart…” (*Adds to cart*)

Best BIPOC erotica novel

"Seven Days in June" by Tia Williams — $17.00

Out of more than 12,000 amazon reviews, this literary masterpiece has earned each of its 4.4 stars. It follows a long-in-the-making romance between Eva Mercy, a single mom and mega-successful erotica writer, and Shane Hall, who is an award‑winning novelist and lovable AF. Though Queen hasn’t read it, she researched it and had some thoughts: “A reviewer mentioned Black joy, and I love that the pleasures of romance include some erotic realness.”

So how long had Eva’s romance with Shane been brewing? Fifteen (!) years. As teens, Eva and Shane spent a week together and fell madly in love. Then, once they’re both amazing authors who’ve been basically writing love notes to each other through their books, they end up at the same party in New York City. The rest is pure sensual magic.

Runner up - best BIPOC erotic novel

"Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories" by Shonia Brown — $15.00

Okay, so this technically isn’t a novel because it’s a collection of erotic short stories, but I had to take at least a little creative liberty in the name of inclusivity. Plus, Queen did say that erotica is often in short-story format! It’s hard to sum up a book that doesn’t have a linear plot, so let’s consult reviews.

One Amazon review, titled, “Lesbians, this is the book for YOU,” goes on to say that it, “was filled with stories that get you hot and bothered,” awarding the book five stars. Some stories are more lowkey, exploring the romantic component more so than the erotic component, but one thing’s for sure regardless of which story you’re on: You probably won’t be able to put this baby down.

Best BDSM fantasy erotic novel

"Power Exchange" by A.J. Rose — $12.00

Before getting into anything else, I’d like to share a special message from Queen: “I want to say that no one should assume gay romance—kinky or not—is only for men.” That’s important because this novel stars two gay men! In short, a case lands on detective Gavin DeGrassi’s desk, and it requires him to go deep undercover into the BDSM world.

It’s bordering on erotic until it dives head-first into the deep end by introducing Ben Haverson, a psychologist and a well-known dom—which is a term used in the BDSM community to describe people who are more dominant than submissive. If you’re worried that this’ll be too hardcore for you, fret not! There’s a healthy amount of romance, as is evidenced by this line from the protagonist: “Ben had become my lighthouse after I’d been adrift for years.

Runner up - Best BDSM fantasy erotic novel

"Push the Button" by Feminista Jones

David and Nicole, two 30-something Black Americans, are living the dream—and living “the life,” meaning they blur the line between pleasure and pain by partaking in BDSM. What sets this novel apart from others, though, is that one character isn’t introducing another into the BDSM world. Instead, it follows a seasoned couple and tells the story of their “normal” struggles just as much as their sexual ones.

A review titled ,“Come for the sex, stay for the learning,” reads: “Fans of erotica will enjoy the sex scenes and those curious will learn from it. I look forward to this author’s voice to continue telling its stories.” Though it’s only 118 pages, Jones allows her protagonists to indulge in even the most taboo desires—and provides an opportunity for readers to do so vicariously.

Runner up - best BDSM erotic novel

"Carrie's Story" by Molly Weatherfield — $15.00

I had to put three BDSM novels in this list because, let’s be honest, we can’t just keep reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” through the decades. “This makes Fifty Shades look like the fan fiction it is, TBH,” says Queen, adding that even though Carrie’s Story, “is back in the category of erotic romance, [it’s] so smoking hot, smart, and well-written that it is pretty much my all-time fave.”

Plot synopsis (and get ready, because it’s a doozy): A PhD alumna from Berkeley willingly sells herself into erotic bondage, which is Victorian in style—yep, like corsets and whatnot. Per the book’s publisher: “Weatherfield’s deliciously decadent novel takes you on a sexually explicit journey into a netherworld of slave auctions, training regimes, enticing “ponies,” (people) preening for dressage competitions.”

Best swingers fantasy erotic novel

"The Ground Rules" by Roya Carmen — $19.00

The cover of this book has three phrases: “Two beautiful couples. Five simple rules. One hot mess.” The couples? Gabe and Mirella—who’ve been happily married and monogamous for 20 years—and Weston and Bridget Hanson—who are swingers. One day, as the quad is hanging out, Weston and Bridget ask Gabe and Mirella if they’d like to couple swap, and they all agree.

What follows is, according to one reviewer on Goodreads—where this novel has more than 2,500 reviews and four out of five stars— an “exciting, sexy, taboo, deliciously torturous, addicting story that I just ate up from the beginning to end. Roya Carmen’s writing was addicting [and] her characters were relatable.”

"A Heart of Blood and Ashes" by Milla Vane — $6.00

“Reviewers thought the world-building was compelling, found the tale of vengeance drove the story well, and dug the twists and turns the main characters go through on their way to romance,” says Queen, adding that this is, “probably a good pick for the Game of Thrones stans among us.” And she has a point, seeing how this is a barbarian romance set in medieval times that follows protagonists Maddek and Yvenne—whose relationship is complicated.

For instance, they’re instantly attracted to each other, but Maddek feels like Yvenne and her family are responsible for his parents’ death. They’re also both heirs to their respective thrones and eventual love interests, as Maddek wants to marry and reproduce with Yvenne to secure her kingdom as well. What ensues is a fantastical, and ultra-hot, romance.

Runner up - best epic fantasy

"Captive Prince" by C.S. Pacat — $14.00

In a luscious 304 pages, C.S. Pacat introduces and makes readers drawn to Damen, whose blood gives him the right to his kingdom’s throne. He’s also proven himself to be a warrior, which makes his subjects further celebrate him and support his claim as king.

In this fantasy, Damen also has a half-brother, who captures him and sends him to Prince Laurent, a royal of an enemy nation and his soon-to-be paramour—who started off as his master since Damen was sent to him as a pleasure servant. Taboo and hot, I know.

Best love story

“The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang — $8.51

This romance novel is ultra-sexy and fun summer read. The story follows Stella Lane, a 30-year-old with very little dating experience. To get herself out there, Stella decides she first needs some practice, so she hires an escort to teach her the ins and outs of love and lust. The novel is completely mesmerizing and will surely be one of your favorite books of the year.

Best Hollywood-inspired

“While We Were Dating” by Jasmine Guillory — $10.25

If you’re looking for romance with a Hollywood twist, you’ll find it in While We Were Dating. This novel follows Ben Stephens, a man who has never really invested in serious relationships—that is until his work assigns him to a major ad campaign featuring a movie star name Anna Gardiner. Soon after, Ben finds himself wrapped up in a flirty and fun relationship with Anna. The two hit it off and have a little bit of fun, but as things take a turn for the more serious, they’re faced with the prospects of something more.

Best fairytale

“The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty” by Anne Rice — $39.49

If you love classic fairytales like Sleeping Beauty, then you’ll be completely invested in this sexy retelling of the classic. This trilogy collection follows the story of Sleeping Beauty through the lens of erotica with Anne Rice’s The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, and Beauty’s Release.

Best series

“Neon Gods” by Katee Robert — $10.92

Want to start a new series with a sexy storyline? Consider Neon Gods, the first book in the Dark Olympus series. This novel combines the mythical world of Olympus with sexy erotica and is the perfect pick for those who love Greek mythology.

Runner up, Best Mythology

“The Pisces” by Melissa Broder — $12.99

The Pisces is a super sexy story about a woman named Lucy who falls obsessively in love with a merman. It combines romance, erotica, and uncanny humor to portray a devastatingly beautiful and poetic story about irresistible love.

Best sci-fi

“Lilith's Brood” by Octavia E. Butler — $15.89

If you’re looking for an erotic sci-fi story, you’re in for a treat with Lilith’s Brood. This novel is from the early 80s, but it still holds up. The book is actually a trilogy featuring a collection of three works by Octavia E. Butler and tells the sensual story of Lilith Lyapo, who gets resurrected by a group of unearthly beings to help heal Earth.

Best soap opera

“The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough — $8.68

This 1977 novel takes place in the Australian Outback and chronicles three generations of Clearys, a family of ranchers. The story primarily focuses on the Clearys’ only daughter, Meggie and her romance with Father Ralph de Bricassart, a relationship that crosses boundaries and encapsulates forbidden love.

Best historical

“Tipping the Velvet” by Sarah Waters — $10.99

If you have a thing for historical novels, then you’ll love Tipping the Velvet. This novel follows Nan King, an oyster girl who falls for Kitty Butler, a music hall star and male impersonator. The two end up starring in a double act together and, behind the curtains, embark on a saucy affair with lots of twists and turns.

Runner up, Best historical

“The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory — $13.39

The Other Boleyn Girl is more than an erotica book—it’s a super sexy historical fiction piece that tells the story of Anne Boelyn’s sister, Mary Boleyn, and her love story with Henry VIII. Through a series of events—and the realization that she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plans—she is forced to step aside for her sister. But, with her own fate unknown, Mary takes matters into her own hands in a riveting story about the other Boleyn girl.

Best mythical

“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas — $10.37

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is an enticing story about 19-year-old huntress Feyre who finds herself captured by one of the more lethal and immortal fairies to a treacherous magical land. At first, Feyre can’t stand the fairy, but overtime her feelings grow to change. There’s just one problem: The fairy lands are cursed with an ancient and wicked shadow that Feyre must stop or else risk losing her fairy love forever.

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