A Short Course in Getting It On: A Reading List to Steam Up Your Love Life

Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

This post is sponsored by Diary of a Submissive by Sophie Morgan available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books and ebooks are sold.

Already an international bestseller, Diary of a Submissive is Sophie Morgan’s candid account of what an independent, 21st century woman gets out of relinquishing her power and personal freedom in a submissive relationship with a dominant man for their mutual sexual pleasure.

In the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey, here is a memoir that offers the real story of what is means to be a submissive and follows Sophie’s story as she progresses from her early erotic experiences through to experimenting with her newfound awakened sexuality.  From the endorphin rush of her first spanking right through to being collared, she explains in frank and explicit fashion her sexual explorations.  But it isn’t until she meets James, a real life ‘Christian Grey,’ that her boundaries and sexual fetishism are really pushed. As her relationship with James travels into darker and darker places, the question becomes: Where will it end? Can Sophie reconcile her sexuality with the rest of her life, and is it possible for the perfect man to be perfectly cruel?


I don’t remember where I first heard the word “orgasm,” but I do remember that 1) I didn’t know what it meant, and 2) I went straight to the dictionary to try to figure it out. (Ah, the good old pre-internet days when you actually had to do some work to learn about sex stuff you probably shouldn’t know yet!) As a reader, I’ve always used books to help me make sense of the world, and sex is no exception.

There’s a wealth of good reading to be done about between-the-sheets techniques, and heaven forbid you should try to find it by googling “sex guide.” (File that under: it ain’t pretty.) Here’s an annotated round-up of some of the best–informed by my own reading, two years of graduate study in clinical psychology  focused on sex research and therapy, and recommendations from friends and sex shop-owning experts. Cue up the Marvin Gaye, baby. It’s time to get our groove on.

Enjoy this reading list and share your own sexytimes reading recommendation in the form below to enter to win one of  five copies of Diary of a Submissive.

Get It On 

From Boinking for Beginners to Advanced Action, these books cover it all.

The Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides–If you buy and read and mark up one sex book in your entire life, it should be this one. (My first copy still has post-its with notes like, “Sounds fun!” attached.) Super inclusive, with tips that work no matter what your sexual orientation or whom you like to get jiggy with, The Guide is now in its seventh edition. There’s a chapter for just about everything: romance to reproductive systems, kissing to kink, going down to getting pregnant. This is a book about learning to talk about, think about, and have the sex that will make you happy.

The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex by Cathy Winks and Anne Semans–It’s a tall order to live up to the subtitle, “The Most Complete Sex Manual Ever Written,” but the folks from Good Vibes (one of the best and most comprehensive sex shops online) do it. And they do it well. Similar to The Guide to Getting It On, this one covers communicating with your partner, having safer sex, and experimenting  in the sack, and it approaches sexuality across the lifetime.

Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex by Claire Cavanah and Rachel VenningBabeland does IRL what Good Vibes does online–they remove the seediness from adult toy stores to create places designed to make people feel comfortable asking intimate questions and exploring sexuality. (If you get a chance to shop in one of their stores, you’ll find that you really can ask about any product, and they’ll answer–often based on personal experience.) Moregasm is very inclusive and covers a lot of ground, so while it won’t all be relevant to your interests and experience,  you’ll learn a whole lot.

Sex: How to Do Everything by Em and Lo: A collaborative effort from writers Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey, this enthusiastic “romp” is less about solving problems and more about going from good to great. It also includes 300 live-shot photos to provide you with visual inspiration.

Get Off

The way Cosmo and Men’s Health write about orgasms, you’d think they were talking about chasing the white whale or searching for the elusive giant squid. Here are a few books that take a more realistic, and much less mystical, approach to getting off.

Orgasms: How to Have Them, Give Them, and Keep Them Coming by Lou Paget–Detailed instructions and explicit illustrations make this a valuable read, even if Paget occasionally veers away from practicality and into the realm of woo-woo.

The G-Spot: The Good Vibrations Guide by Cathy Winks–Experts have been arguing about whether the g-spot even exists since German gynecologist Ernst Grafenberg first “discovered” it in the 1940s. The jury is still out, so why not form your own exploratory committee?

She Comes First by Ian Kerner--Ignore Kerner’s heterocentric subtitle (“The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman”), and you’ll find helpful suggestions for a successful trip “down south” no matter your gender.

Blow Him Away and The Lowdown on Going Down by Marcy Michaels–I’ve not seen these, but they come highly recommended. How could books that include lip, tongue, and jaw exercises, “no nonsense instructions,” and positions that will make your partner purr not be useful, or at least entertaining?

Get Frisky

My Psychology of Sexuality professor in college told us repeatedly that the only two real aphrodisiacs are exercise and novelty, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I can’t help you with the exercise part (and sex only burns about 150 calories per hour, womp womp), but these books will help you keep things spicy.

The Modern Kama Sutra by Kamini and Kirk Thomas–This update on the 2,000-year-old classic presents 40 positions, ranks them for difficulty and intensity, and provides explicit instructions. Get your flexible freak on as you bend, bump, and grind (and maybe giggle) with your partner. For a not-so-heternormative take, see Lesbian Sex: 101 Lovemaking Positions by Judy Schnell and The Gay Man’s Kama Sutra by Terry Sanderson and Kat Harding.

Sex Toys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide by Rachel Venning and Claire Cavanah–If chatting up Babeland’s uber-informed salespeople face-to-face isn’t quite your thing, pick up this intro to sex toys (written by its founders) instead.

SM 101 by Jay Wiseman–I’ve not seen this one myself, but folks who know say it’s fantastic. Jacket copy calls it a “basic guidebook to safe, rewarding SM.” Worth a look if you’re curious about adding a little pain-as-pleasure to your erotic life.

The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Toarmino–Recommended by the folks behind the @babeland_toys Twitter feed as an inclusive guide to the wild side, this essay collection ranges from how-to tutorials to thoughtful examinations of desire, power, pleasure, and taboo.


Because you shouldn’t always have to rely on someone else!

Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dodson–Betty Dodson has done for sex education what Betty Friedan did for feminism–she’s worked to make sex talk accessible and acceptable for all women. Line drawings and less explicit–but still anatomically accurate–language make this a good starter book.

Getting Off: A Woman’s Guide to Masturbation by Jamye Waxman–Another title that comes highly recommended, this is all about debunking myths, dismantling social stigma, and learning to love your ladyparts.

Do It Yourself!: The Complete Guide to Masturbation by Stephan Niederwieser–The jacket copy for this one points out that masturbation is the most-practiced but least-discussed sex act. Wanking may be a widely-accepted aspect of male sexuality, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new to learn.

Get Smart

Further reading about the science, study, and theories of sex.

America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction by Brian Alexander
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
Dirty Minds by Kayt Sukel
Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex by Ellen Sussman
Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson
Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
Sex Is Not a Natural Act by Leonore Tiefer


Your turn! Use the form below to recommend the best books about sex and sexuality and enter to win a copy of Diary of a Submissive. We’ll keep all names confidential when we post the round-up of titles next week.

Round-up of entries available here.