I came across a tweet ages ago that referenced the idea of “Sexiest Book Alive,” and in honor of World Book Day, I thought I should return to the topic.
What makes a book sexy? Can a book even be sexy?
Of course there are several ways to look at the idea of a sexy book.
First, Flavorwire has a list of “The 10 Sexiest Books of all Time.” While acknowledging “to each their own,” Emily Temple compiles a list of “sexy” books – books that have, as their main topic, sex or the discussion (even, in one case, on a phone) thereof. I’ve never read any of the books, though Lady Chatterly’s Lover has resided on my “To-Read” bookshelf at home for some time. But…is a book sexy just because it talks about or includes sex?
Next up is Playboy’s “25 Sexiest Books Ever Written” on AbeBooks. While most titles are the same as those on the Flavorwire list, some of the additions include Interview with the Vampire, which I did read as a teenager. Was there sexual tension? Sure. Was it the sexiest? I don’t think so. Then again, I’m not done sussing out what a sexy book really is. Other books on the list include Lolita, a book I’ve also read and think of as more of a psychological character study vs. sexy. Forever by Judy Blume also makes the list, as do Metalious’s Peyton Place by and Marukami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, books I’ve been wanting to read for a while.
Maybe I should stop…this exercise just keeps reminding me of books I
want need to read. No, there are never enough books. So, onward.
Perhaps my favorite bit of research for this was hitting up Goodreads’s “Sexy Book Lists”, which categorizes books based on readers’ interest in, among others,
– Character You Most Want to Sleep With
– Books with the Hottest Sex! (their punctuation, not mine)
– Taboo Reads
– Men I Wish Were Real
– Hottest Dirty Talk! (again, not my punctuation)
– Scandalous books you STILL can’t believe your parents let you read*
– LOL Sexy Romance
* Um, I read Flowers in the Attic thanks to my mother. I am still scarred.
What good would a Sexiest Book Alive discussion be without a nod to erotica? Goodreads has a list, as does Seija Rankin on Refinery 29. Finally, of all things, Barnes and Noble has a list of books “too sexy to read in public.” Hm. Books with sex as their topic are not, by definition, sexy, they include sex. Can people find them sexy? Yes.
As my writing has progressed in this post, though, I’ve thought more and more about what the definition of “sexy” really is. According to Oxford, “sexy” means “sexually attractive or exciting,” though it could also mean “sexually aroused, exciting, appealing.”
I think, in general, when we think of “sexy” things, we think “exciting and appealing.” At least, that’s me. For instance, some people may look at a rare car and say, “That is so sexy,” or a teacher may look at a stack of pristine new textbooks or a completed pile of grading and say the same.
So, then, what makes a book sexy? Of course you already know the answer to the question. For me, the truth of it lies somewhere in between the Goodreads “Men I Wish Were Real” list and The Modern Library’s list of the “100 Best Novels”.
You see, a sexy book for me is a book that appeals to me, and that appeal occurs on a number of different levels. To me, a sexy book can:
– make me wish the world and characters into reality
– challenge me to think of things in different ways
– cause me to sit back and think of connections to my life
– cause me, alternatively, to sit up and yell at the author
– make me want to laugh or cry
– make me angry, sad, happy, frustrated, introspective, reflective…
– make me look up words.
I think also that different books are sexy to us at different points in our lives. As a teenager, I read Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale based on the recommendation of a friend. At the time, I thought the book was sexy because, well, it dealt with sex and as a rather sheltered teenager, I was fairly scandalized. As an adult, I read the book again, but this time with the intention of teaching the novel. I’d loved the book yes, but upon re-reading, found I loved it all the more. The book was sexy not because of the presence of sex, but because of the themes, the liquid and careful prose, the flower imagery, the veiled warning…
Right now, any book I get the chance to sit and read is sexy because I have so little time to do such a thing. Well, maybe not any book but you understand what I mean. I crave the chance to fill my head with someone else’s imagination and view of life – whether it’s joy or suffering, contemporary or historical, real or fantasy.
Really, then, any book is sexy, and the fact that someone reads it makes it come alive.
Go find a book, somewhere to read, and make some lucky book the Sexiest Book Alive today.
Comment with your “Sexiest Book” and explain why it’s sexy to you!