Reading for Pleasure: 5 Books that are Sexier than 50 Shades of Grey

Last summer I was passing through the book section at the grocery store when all of a sudden there it was, the grey book with the silver necktie. I waited until the aisle was empty before I quickly snatched a copy off the shelf and hid it under a box of noodles in my cart. I was so embarrassed that I might be seen with the paperback that I rushed through the self checkout without grabbing my receipt.

This was not my first encounter with 50 Shades of Grey. Earlier that summer I embarked on a road trip with two of my best friends, and as a joke we decided to listen to the audiobook as we drove along. Hearing the book read aloud only emphasized what a truly terrible novel it was. At times we found ourselves in tears laughing at how outrageous the characters’ reactions were or how overtly sexual the wording was. We started to count how many times the author used words like “gasp” and “finger” in a casual setting. (Far too many.) And how many times the sex scenes seemed pleasurable, or at least plausible. (Far too few.)  

Unfortunately, we reached our destination before the book could reach its climax (pun fully intended), and I found myself dying to know how it ended. Fast-forward to my shameful trip to the grocery store and I now had the book to satisfy my needs. Specifically, my need to see how much worse this story could get.

Whether you were a reluctant reader like myself or a proud brandisher of 50 Shades, by now most of us have read the ridiculous erotica, or at least the back cover. The question is, where do we go from here?  What could transcend the pornographic phenomenon that was 50 Shades of Grey?

Lots of books. So many in fact, that narrowing this list down to five was a real challenge. Nonetheless, here are my five recommendations for books that are sexier than 50 Shades.

1.  Bared to You by Sylvia Day 

Arguably 50 Shades of Grey’s identical twin, this first book in the Crossfire series follows the story of a young woman falling madly in lust with a deeply troubled, enormously wealthy man. While the main character, Eva Tramell is absolutely more likable and a far better narrator than E.L. James’ Anastasia Steele, her love interest, Gideon Cross is more of a creep than a catch. If you are looking for something shockingly similar and slightly better written, give this book a try.  

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson 

For those with an appetite for more BDSM, this first novel in the Swedish Millennium trilogy is exceedingly darker and infinitely better written than 50 Shades of Grey. The story follows a journalist turned detective and a brilliant yet tormented computer hacker as they attempt to solve a string of murders that have been buried in the past. Romantic encounters as well as sadistic assaults ensue amidst this thrilling detective saga. While this novel is not technically meant to be read as erotica, its twisted plot is far more engrossing than 50 Shades.  

3. Vox by Nicholson Baker

Vox is a novel encompassing the exchange between two lonely souls who find each other through a private phone sex line. Full of confessions, fantasies, and intimate connections the sprawling conversation is like sexting on steroids. As an older novel, its quaint vocabulary proves amusing at times, but ultimately more expressive than 50 Shades. Fun fact: Monica Lewinsky was rumored to have given this book to President Clinton during her time as an intern.

4. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice

This erotic series begins when Sleeping Beauty is awakened by much more than a kiss. Unlike the Disney classic, the story follows the graphic relationship between sex slave Sleeping Beauty and her master, the Prince. Issues of consent abound, but if you were into the dominant themes of 50 Shades this fairy tale affair is the fantasy for you.

5. The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex by Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist  

An incredibly smart and sexy read, this book is co-written by real life comedian couple Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist. Blomquist is a head writer for the Daily Show and you may recognize Kristen Schaal as the voice of Louise Belcher from Bob’s Burgers. Raunchy, well written, and full of pictures, if you want to laugh out loud while feeling strangely aroused this is the perfect novel for you.