10 Slutty Books To Read Before Summer Ends

These tomes are best enjoyed while temperatures are high and inhibitions are low.

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A selection of slutty books for summer.
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Every summer, I give myself over to the senses. I eat stone fruit with my bare hands, fill my home with bodega bouquets, and read until I feel as if my brain has left my body.

Last summer, I couldn’t get enough nonfiction. I read dishy, Hollywood-adjacent memoirs like Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries and Julia Phillips’ You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again. I discovered (and then devoured) the work of Caroline Knapp, whose books Drinking: A Love Story and Appetites are unflinching examinations of her alcoholism and anorexia. But when it came time to embark on this summer’s reading, I found myself drawn to a genre I couldn’t quite find a name for. One that I took to calling, “slutty books.”

It all started with Madelaine Lucas’ Thirst For Salt the story of a young woman who becomes enthralled with an older “townie” during a visit to the coast of Australia — which I read in two sittings while guzzling Arnold Palmers. Then a friend recommended Megan Nolan’s Acts of Desperation (more on that one later), and another suggested Susanna Moore’s seminal In The Cut.

As I made my way through more and more of these “slutty books,” I kept thinking about what actually united these titles. (Aside from them all being what I’ve jokingly referred to as “Sally Rooney-core.”) And what I’ve found is that while they all traffic in sex, they’re decidedly not romance novels. Because unlike a romance novel, here there’s no promise of a happy ending. (In fact, more often than not, there isn’t one.) Instead, these book’s inherent promise is that there will be an exploration of desire — in all its most visceral, and emotionally treacherous glory. And what feels more sensory (or slutty) than that?

Below, you’ll find a beginner’s guide to this burgeoning genre — from Annie Ernaux’s Getting Lost to Jay McInerney’s Story of My Life.


Story of My Life by Jay McInerney

“Jay McInerney’s breathless third novel, Story of My Life, follows the charming, coke-addled antics of 20-year-old Allison Poole. Sure, it's slutty in that Poole and her other wealthy, jobless friends pick up hotties at the Odeon and Indochine nightly, but what makes it a Slutty Book is its blow-fueled gossip sessions, friendship-ending games of Truth or Dare, and the way all the girl ask each other for ‘details: length and width’ after one-night stands. Poole, who is actually inspired by Jay’s former girlfriend Rielle Hunter — who had an affair with senator John Edwards in 2006 — steals her date’s clothes in the morning (a blue Brooks Brothers Oxford), has no plans to get a job, and traipses off to acting class, where she uses memories of morning blow jobs for sensory workshops. She is, in the words of one of her boyfriends, ‘my favorite postmodern girl.’” — Sophia June, NYLON's culture writer


Ultra-Luminous by Katherine Faw

“Elliptical, risqué and downright weird, Katherine Faw’s second novel, Ultra-Luminous, takes us on a tour of the rituals that order and define the days of a high-end escort with a heroin addiction and obsession with patterns. Yes, there's lots of sex in this novel. But it's our narrator's love of Duane Reade sushi that makes this book slutty.” — Allie Rowbottom, author of Aesthetica


Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story by Cameron Crowe

“This is a horny little book from a moment in time (the ‘80s) when most other cultural landmarks’ attitudes towards female pleasure (Revenge of the Nerds, anyone? No? Good.) have aged like dairy products. There’s plenty of juicy sex scenes within, but it’s Linda’s profound description of an orgasm that has always stuck with me. ‘It’s like I’m floating on a river, and I feel this little itch. And just as I’m about to scratch it, the boat takes me over the edge of the river … and I don’t care. That’s a total orgasm.’ I read this book clandestinely as an adolescent, of course, but later in teenhood when I had my first ‘big O,’ I remember thinking, Cameron Crowe said it would be like this!” — Kate Flannery, author of Strip Tees


Dawn by Octavia Butler

Would you do it with an alien? How about a threesome with one fellow human and one alien? What if the survival of the human race — albeit a genetically compromised version — depended on it? If any of these questions sparks your interest, Octavia Butler’s Dawn is for you!

I’m being a bit glib, of course. Dawn is the first in Butler’s Lilith’s Brood series, a series that offers a very different vision of what alien-human dynamics might look like than your standard-issue space colonization tales (e.g. Stars Trek and Wars). It asks plenty of big questions about what makes us human, what a family should be, what role genetics play in our lives. But it also has plenty of alien sex scenes and I first read it by the pool so I’m including it on this list, dammit!” — Chloe Foussianes, Bustle’s culture editor


Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan

“When Acts of Desperation was first published in 2021, The New Republic called it, ‘hot as viscera.’ And while I’ve racked my brain to come up with a more apt description of what Nolan has crafted here, I must concede. The novel simply is, hot as viscera.

Acts of Desperation follows an unnamed female narrator who becomes enthralled with an older, strikingly beautiful but incredibly cruel man named Ciaran. Following their tailspin of a relationship from the narrator’s perspective, Nolan conjures her (and our) most self-abasing, yet satisfactory desires. Plus, there’s a blow job scene unlike anything I’ve encountered in fiction before.” — Samantha Leach, Bustle’s entertainment editor at large and author of The Elissas


The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography by Angela Carter

“When we first started dating, I was spending all my time by the pool in another country, and my boyfriend sent me The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography by Angela Carter and Denton Welch’s In Youth Is Pleasure in the mail. A restrained but horny gesture. That's about as slutty as my reading gets.” — Kaitlin Phillips, indie publicist


The Woman Beyond the Attic: The V.C. Andrews Story by Andrew Neiderman

“I don’t know if young people still read the work of V.C. Andrews — who wrote about 800 erotic gothic masterpieces for intellectually lazy but sexually curious adolescents — but she was a staple of my late 1980s youth. She really taught me a thing or two about life and how not to live it. Andrews’ books are perverted and horrible, so they are perfect for unsupervised preteen girls who are interested in reading about arson, incest, and ballet — but don’t actually want to do any of those things.

I always wondered what kind of life V.C. must have lived to have so many deranged plot-lines at her fingertips, and I was delighted to find that the wait was over, that none of us have to speculate about her private corridors ever again, because Andrew Neiderman (who also happens to be Andrews’ post-mortem ghost writer) has blessed us with the world’s first and only tell-all biography detailing trials and tribulations of the great lady herself.

It’s maybe not a book you want anyone to see you with, and that is how you know it’s fun. Did V.C. Andrews fuck her stepfather in her wheelchair? Did she suffer a dissociative fugue as a child only to wake up and discover that she was actually her deceased older sister all along? Was her mother a sexual vagrant who squirreled her children away in a secret room and did it with elderly family members for cash? Or was V.C. Andrews simply the 1970s equivalent of Emily Dickinson, and in touch with her creative dark side more than the rest of us? I learned as much from this book about V.C. Andrews as I learned from V.C. herself, and even though it is probably only a 6/10, I wouldn’t change a single thing.” — Alissa Bennett, co-host of The C-Word podcast


Vladimir by Julia May Jonas

“For your sexiest summer read, run directly to Julia May Jonas’ Vladimir. If the cover alone doesn’t instantly hook you (the hardcover was considered scandalous in the publishing community because it features a bare-chested man rocking a gold chain necklace à la Connell from Normal People, though we see fully nude women on book covers all the time…) the first sentence will do the trick. ‘When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me,’ May Jonas writes.

This is a novel about obsession, told by a wildly incredible and utterly unreliable narrator, who is a beloved English professor at an esteemed liberal arts school. Vladimir’s maddeningly perfect sentences tell a story of power and desire and what happens when these forces inevitably intertwine.” — Jordan Rodman, senior director of publicity at Vintage & Anchor in the Knopf Doubleday Group


The Body in Question by Jill Ciment

“My girlie — Notes From the Bathroom Line author, and the best reader I know, Amy Solomon — recommended this gripping novel, The Body in Question by Jill Ciment. It follows two jurors who start an illicit affair during a murder trial. As a deeply horny woman who also loves true crime, I couldn’t put this one down!” — Catherine Cohen, author of God I Feel Modern Tonight


Getting Lost by Annie Ernaux

“Never has a book made me feel less alone in my utter (often grotesque-feeling) desperation for male attention. Getting Lost is Ernaux’s quite literally Nobel Prize-winning diary she kept from the year and a half she had an affair with a young, married, Russian diplomat. And while the sex scenes do deliver, it’s Ernaux’s depiction of her naked desperation for her lover that felt truly slutty. To feel her lover’s desire is her oxygen; to be deprived of it brings her one step closer to death.” — S.L.

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