Great (Mostly) Novels on Sex and Love

shelved under Fiction and Love & Romance

Each book in this list offers a different take — romantic, realistic, spiritual, aspirational, confrontational, or inspirational — on sex and love.

I've read over 134 books so far in my quest to read one book a day for one year... and of course sex and love are always popular themes, just behind death and sorrow on the top ten list of author — and reader — obsessions. The books chosen here offer unique but thoroughly genuine portrayals of love and sex, the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Waiting in Vain

by Colin Channer

This book tells the story of two men from Jamaica, one tortured by his past and one fully grounded in his, who have to make profound choices about love and friendship amidst competing pressures of artistic, ethnic, and economic identity. Channer gives us compelling characters and a great plot, along with great sex, good food, and enticing play lists of music and books — and lots and lots of ideas on life and how to live it.


The Good Soldier

by Ford Madox Ford

"The Good Soldier" begins as the "sad story" of two couples who meet at a spa for those weak of heart: we are led to believe the sadness is in the death of parts of each couple, and although we are right, we have no idea how miserably right we are. The true story of sex and passion unfolds, bit by bit, hint by hint, detail by detail, and no one and nothing is as first appearances had promised. Deceits multiply, tensions escalate, and fate beckons its bony and horrible finger.


The English Major

by Jim Harrison

This hilarious and thoughtful novel is about a sixty-year old professor on a mission to get out of a rut and so he sets out on a road trip. An unexpected passenger, in the form of a former student, blows his trip way off course when she turns out to be an inexhaustible love machine. Sex is a big theme in this book: the nature of it, why men want it, who women want it, and why the heck does desire flame and fizzle out, and then reappear again? Desire and its manifestation in the active male organ is a strange nut to crack (no pun intended) and Harrison does his best to understand the whys and wherefores of sex, desire, and their point of intersection, love.


To Siberia

by Per Petterson

This is a beautiful story about love between a brother and a sister, how complete it is, how together the two of them can face all sorts of hardship and heartbreak and, because they are together, they will survive. They dream of worlds very different from what they know (the brother wants to go to Marrakesh and the girl, to Siberia); the dreams float always before them, enticing them forward. When separated, they each seek to find love again but find only sex, a poor substitute for the chaste and profound love they shared with each other.


On Chesil Beach

by Ian McEwan

This is the ultimate setting of love and sex... the story of a wedding night. McEwan takes his time with the story, bringing us slowly but surely to the wedding night anticipated by both Florence and Edward (Florence with fearful disgust of what's in store, and Edward in ecstatic longing), and carrying us back in time to their courtship and into their own histories. We become so involved with the two of them — we care so much for them — that by the time the wedding bed is reached, we're hoping against hope that their physical union will not be the disaster it portends to be.

This book also appears on Books With The Sea in Sight


The Three of Us: A Family Story

by Julia Blackburn

This is the true story of the very screwed-up marriage and love affairs of Blackburn's parents, and the impact their relationships had on her own development as a sexual being. The book flows beautifully, albeit painfully, and it's a page-turner to the end. We're desperate to be assured of Blackburn's survival, body and soul, and in the end, thankfully, we are.


The Fifth Child

by Doris Lessing

This novel is a warning against sex and love, and what it gets you. All you want is a perfect life of family, hearth, and home, and what you get is a hell of competing demands of cooking, cleaning, laundry, and holiday entertaining for the multitudes, together with monstrous children and an unappealing aging spouse. Good luck.


Alice Fantastic

by Maggie Estep

Estep's charming and down-dirty story about lucky and plucky Alice, her clumsy sister Eloise, and their dog-rescuing, ex-junkie mother, presents the hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking ways people intertwine, overlap and just plain run over each other in the acts of love, friendship, sex, and gambling — and all other acts of resistance.