Woolf, Virginia. 1982. Orlando: A Biography. Penguin Classics.

A semi-autobiography, this novel breaks the boundaries of gender and time, with a narrative that encompasses a vast array of historical periods, dealing with love and loss.


Hollinghurst, Alan. 1988. The Swimming Pool Library. Chatto & Windus.

With a title swimming with meanings, this book follows an aristocratic young, gay Oxford graduate called Will and his friendship with an elderly man called Lord Nantwich, who is searching for someone to write his biography. Dark, erotic and lavishly written, this book, with its interlocking tales of danger and desire, produces a brilliantly cohesive portrayal of the evolution of gay life before the onset of AIDS.



{142e67a9-cd27-4f44-9bd2-10fecd2a71bc}Img400Burchill, Julie. 2008. Sugar Rush. Macmillian.

This is a teenage coming-of-age book, with a twist. The plot focuses on a pretty, blonde and middle class girl called Kim moving from her posh private school to the local comprehensive, where she makes friends with the promiscuous, party-girl Maria (or “Sugar”). Kim falls under Sugar’s spell, and the two embark on an intimate but complex relationship, where Kim comes to terms with her sexuality.


Forster, E. M. 1971 [1914]. Maurice. Penguin Classics.

A beautifully written novel that remained unpublished until 1971, Forster explores homosexuality in pre-war Britain. The story follows Maurice (pronounced Morris) through education from boarding school to Oxford and then onto his life as a stockbroker, embarking on a relationship with best friend Clive, who introduces him to ancient Greek writings about same-sex love. When Clive marries, and spurns Maurice’s love, Maurice begins a relationship with Clive’s gamekeeper, Alec. Faced with issues of class and homophobia, this is a classic period drama.


Henryandjune_coverNin, Anaïs. 1986. Henry and June: From A Journal of Love: the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin. Penguin Classics.

This is a book based on the memories of the erotic writer Anaïs Nin, corresponding to the first of her diaries, written between October 1931- October 1932. Dissatisfied with her position as a timid, faithful wife to her banker husband, Nin embarks on a sexually charged relationship with a woman called June Miller. When she leaves, she begins an affair with June’s husband, Henry. This uninhibited sexual and emotional affair promotes a sexual and sensual awakening.


storyofoDesclos, Anne [Pauline Réage]. 1964. Story of O (Histoire d’O). Corgi Books.

Focusing on female submission in a BDSM relationship, a beautiful Parisian photographer, O, is taken by her lover René to a mansion in which is she trained to serve the members of an elite club in a sexual manner. René, in an attempt to show their bond and his generosity, hands over O to Sir Stephen, a more dominant master, in order for O to learn to serve someone she doesn’t love, and who doesn’t love her. But O falls in love with Sir Stephen, and she is sent away to a mansion in order to receive body modification to show her submission, eventually being branded with a mark of Sir Stephen’s ownership. Her lover, René asks her to lure a fashion model to the elite club mansion, which O succeeds in doing. By the end of the book, O has become an object for the enjoyment of those at the elite club and their guests.


theperfumedgardenNefzaoui, Sheikh [translated by Sir Richard Burton]. 1886 [2008]. The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight.

An ancient sex manual written in the 15-16th century AD in Arabia, this book presents opinions on what qualities men and women should have to be “attractive”, giving advice on sexual technique, health, and even recipes to remove any STIs. Throughout there are stories, which are meant to titillate amusement and pleasure in the reader.


thebloodychamberCarter, Angela. 1979. The Bloody Chamber. Vintage Classics.

This is a collection of fairy tales, more like the originally than we like to think. Carter explores virginity, sexuality, bestiality and transformation in the context of stories we read as children, revealing the original moral and sexual messages they had, while critiquing them.



contentHannah, Sophie [ed]. 2014. The Poetry of Sex. Viking Press.

Sophie Hannah’s selection ranges from ancient Rome to modern New York, from gay to straight, but her principle has been “to go low on the sugar and high on the excitement”. The result is a raucous, highly enjoyable anthology. From Shakespeare to Carol Ann Duffy, this book is essential reading for poetry lovers and romantics everywhere.


allen ginsberg (poet to poet)Ford, Mark [ed]. 2008. Allen Ginsberg (Poet to Poet). Faber & Faber.

This is an insightful collection of letters that have been saved rather like historic documents. This collection of words from one of the beat poets, Allen Ginsberg, is a delightful and intellectual discovery. It contains many preserved and recovered personal letters to many famous and powerful people. His communications are bound to entertain and interest the reader. Through his correspondence you can witness how he engaged every kind of issue from sex, and politics to religion and personal relationships.


leonardcohenCohen, Leonard. 2011. Leonard Cohen Poems (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets). Everyman.

This anthology contains a cross-section covering his career, including such legendary songs as ‘Suzanne’, ‘Sisters of Mercy’, ‘Bird on the Wire’, ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ and ‘I’m Your Man’ and memorable poems from many collections including Flowers for Hitler, Beautiful Losers and Death of a Lady’s Man. Encompassing the erotic and the melancholy, the mystical and the sardonic, this volume showcases a writer of intelligence and live-wire emotional immediacy.


raptureDuffy, Carol Ann. 2006. Rapture. Picador.

With its sensual, cover of figs hinting to Georgia O’Keeffe, Carol Ann Duffy’s seventh collection is a book-length love poem, and a moving act of personal testimony; but what sets these poems apart is Duffy’s refusal to simplify the contradictions and transformations of love – infatuation, longing, passion, commitment, rancour, separation and grief. Instead, Rapture is a map of real love, in all its churning complexity, showing us that a song can be made of even the most painful episodes in our lives.


femininegospelsDuffy, Carol Ann. 2010. The Feminine Gospels. Picador.

This draws on the historical, the archetypal, the biblical and the fantastical to create various visions – and revisions – of female identity. Simultaneously stripping women bare and revealing them in all their guises and disguises, these poems tell tall stories as though they were true confessions, and spin modern myths from real women seen in every aspect – as bodies and corpses, writers and workers, shoppers and slimmers, fairytale royals or girls-next-door.


valentinaandthemagiclanternCrepax, Guido. 2012 [1977]. Valentina and the Magic Lantern. Headline.

Created by the famous Italian graphic artist Guido Crepax, Valentina is one of the most iconic, sexy graphic novel heroines of all time. With her distinctive black bob and demure, reserved exterior, Valentina is the very essence of European sophistication. However, below the surface burns a passionate young woman eager to inhabit another world, a world where she can explore her dark attraction to that which most frightens her. In this graphic novel, Crepax takes us deep into the heart of her most intensely erotic, fetishistic fantasies: a journey which will heat the blood and set the pulse racing as Valentina is drawn into a labyrinth of elaborate costumes and thrilling liaisons; where physical gratification comes in every shape and size, and absolutely anything goes.


blueMaroh, Julie. 2013. Blue is the Warmest Colour. Arsenal Pulp Press.

Made famous by the graphic film based on it, this is a tender, bittersweet, full-colour graphic novel about the elusive, reckless magic of love: a lesbian love story for the ages that bristles with the energy of youth, rebellion and the eternal light of desire. Clementine (Adele in the film) is a junior in high school who seems “normal” enough: she has friends, family and even a boyfriend. When her openly gay best friend takes her to a gay bar, she becomes captivated by Emma, a punkish, confident girl with blue hair, an event that leads Clementine to discover new aspects of herself, both passionate and tragic.


antipornLong, Julia. 2012. Anti-Porn: the resurgence of anti-pornography feminism. Zed Books Ltd.

Written by a radical feminist, this book argues against pornography, using the new feminist arguments and campaigns that have emerged. It gives extensive data on the different perceptions throughout history on pornography, and uses original ethnography research in order to analyse the ideological stance, tactics, impacts and significance of anti-pornography campaigns.


vagendaCosslett, Rhiannon Lucy and Holly Baxter. 2014. The Vagenda: A Zero-Tolerance Guide to the Media. Square Peg.

This has been seen as “the book” of fourth wave feminism. Stemming from a famous blog, this co-authored book tackles major issues of today, including food, fashion, “lad culture”, and body modification that are promoted and critiqued by today’s media of magazines and newspapers, blogs and social networking sites, television programmes and music videos.


The_Feminine_MystiqueFriedan, Betty. 1963. The Feminine Mystique. Penguin Classics.

In contrast to The Vagenda book aforementioned, this book is the pinnacle text for the second wave of feminism, particular with the American strand. This book attacks the gender roles proscribed in the magazines and cookbooks of 1950s America. This book set feminism in motion once more, and radically altered the world today.



indiainloveTrivedi, Ira. 2014. India in Love: Marriage and Sexuality in the 21st Century. Aleph Book Company.

This is a ground-breaking look at the sexual revolution that is beginning to sweep through urban India. The author travelled from Shillong in the northeast to Chennai in the south, Konark in the east to Mumbai in the west, and over a dozen other cities and towns, in order to gain unprecedented insights into how the nation has sex, gets married and falls in (and out of) love in the 21st century. The book explores the sexual proclivities and mating habits of young Indians on college campuses and in offices; examines the changing face of Indian pornography and prostitution, especially the world of high-class hookers; probes the oppression the LGBT community faces in a nation where the Supreme Court shocked wide sections of society with its ruling on Article 377 that recriminalised homosexuality; and delves into history, economics and sociology to try and understand how the nation that gave the world The Kama Sutra could have become a closed, repressed society with a shockingly high incidence of rape and violence against women – the dark underside to the greater sexual freedom that men and women in our cities have begun to enjoy today.


changingsexandbendinggenderArdener, Shirley and Alison Shaw. 2005. Changing Sex and Gender Bending (Social Identities). Berghahn Books.

Genders are variously defined historically and cross-culturally, and the contributions to this volume focus on the voluntary and involuntary, temporary or permanent transformation of gender identity. It provides powerful and compelling illustrations of how, across a wide range of cultures, processes of gender transformation are shaped within, and ultimately constrained by, social and political context. From medical responses to biological ambiguity, legal responses to cases brought by transsexuals, the historical role of the eunuch in Byzantium, the social transformation of gender in Northern Albania and in the Southern Philippines, to North American “drag” shows, English pantomime and Japanese kabuki theatre, this volume offers revealing insights into the ambiguities and limitations of gender transformation.


imperial leatherMcClintock, Anne. 1995. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. Routledge.

This chronicles the dangerous liaisons between gender, race and class that shaped British imperialism and its dismantling. Spanning the century between Victorian Britain and the current struggle for power in South Africa, the book takes up the complex relationships between race and sexuality, fetishism and money, gender and violence, domesticity and the imperial market, and the gendering of nationalism within the zones of imperial and anti-imperial power.


fetishSteele, Valerie. 2006. Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power. Oxford University Press.

For the past thirty years, the iconography of sexual fetishism has been increasingly assimilated into popular culture. The concept of fetishism has recently assumed a growing importance in critical thinking about the cultural construction of sexuality. Here the relationship between clothing and sexuality is explored. Marshalling an array of evidence from pornography, psychology, and history, as well as interviews with individuals involved in sexual fetishism, sadomasochism, and cross-dressing, Steele illuminates the complex relationship between appearance and identity. Based on years of research, her book explains how a paradigm shift in attitudes toward sex and gender has given rise to the phenomenon of fetish fashion.


transgenderchinaChiang, Howard [ed]. 2012. Transgender China. Palgrave Macmillian.

In the vibrant field of queer Asian studies, scholars to date have paid scant attention to transgender topics. Meanwhile, despite its already sophisticated focus on gender non-conformity, Western queer studies exhibits an equally pressing problem: the conspicuous absence of empirical and theoretical investigations of transgenderism in Northeast Asian society and culture. This volume responds to the convergence of these limitations. By bringing together experts with diverse disciplinary backgrounds in the China field, from cultural studies to history to musicology, Transgender China makes a timely intervention whereby emergent Sinologists explore previously untapped terrains across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan to inaugurate the field of Chinese transgender studies.


living out islamSiraj al-Haqq Kugle, Scott. 2013. Living Out Islam: Voices of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslims. New York University Press.

This documents the rarely heard voices of Muslims who live in secular democratic countries and who are gay, lesbian, and transgender. It weaves original interviews with Muslim activists into a compelling composite picture that showcases the importance of the solidarity of support groups in the effort to change social relationships and achieve justice. This nascent movement is not about being “out” as opposed to being “in the closet.” Rather, as the voices of these activists demonstrate, it is about finding ways to live out Islam with dignity and integrity, reconciling their sexuality and gender with their faith and reclaiming Islam as their own.


imagining transgenderValentine. David. 2007. Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category. Duke University Press.

This is an ethnography of the emergence and institutionalisation of transgender as a category of collective identity and political activism. Embraced by activists in the early 1990s to advocate for gender-variant people, the category quickly gained momentum in public health, social service, scholarly, and legislative contexts. Working as a safer-sex activist in Manhattan during the late 1990s, David Valentine conducted ethnographic research among mostly male-to-female transgender-identified people at drag balls, support groups, cross-dresser organizations, clinics, bars, and clubs. However, he found that many of those labelled “transgender” by activists did not know the term or resisted its use. Instead, they self-identified as “gay,” a category of sexual rather than gendered identity and one rejected in turn by the activists who claimed these subjects as transgender. Valentine analyses the reasons for and potential consequences of this difference, and how social theory is implicated in it.


virginBlank, Hanne. 2007. Virgin: The Untouched History. Bloomsbury.

This brings us a revolutionary, rich and entertaining survey of an astonishing untouched history. From the simple task of determining what constitutes its loss to why it matters to us in the first place, Blank gets to the heart of why we even care about it in the first place. She tackles the reality of what we do and don’t know about virginity and provides a sweeping tour of virgins in history – from virgin martyrs to Queen Elizabeth to billboards in downtown Baltimore telling young women it’s not a “dirty word.” Virgin proves, as well, how utterly contemporary the topic is – the butt of innumerable jokes, centre of spiritual mysteries, locus of teenage angst, popular genre for pornography and nucleus around which the world’s most powerful government has created an unprecedented abstinence policy. In this fascinating work, Blank shows for the first time why this is, and why everything we think we know about virginity is wrong.

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