Book Review: The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica

This must be the fall of mind-blowing erotica.

Confession: I spent most of my internship at Cleis Press this summer hoping I would go to work the next morning and discover The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica had arrived in the office. When that day finally came, I was so eager to kneel on the floor with a box cutter and slice those puppies open. I coveted my nice, shiny, gigantic copy and brought it with me everywhere until I had devoured the entire thing. I even read it on my plane back to the East Coast, much to the discomfort of the body builder sitting next to me in coach.

This book is fantastic. Rose Caraway, newbie anthology editor but experienced erotica audiobook narrator and podcaster, has put together the most diverse, well written, and entertaining collection I’ve ever seen. This book has everything: male and female authors, different types of couples, ghosts, talking alcohol bottles, the list goes on. It’s living proof of the fact that “erotica” is a genre with its own genres. There’s sci fi, horror, realistic fiction, steampunk, historical fiction, BDSM, romance, etc. I’m admittedly not a genre reader, but maybe that’s a good thing—each story in this collection was a surprise, so many windows to types of erotica I never knew existed.

4e36338e2890952bef47269bb6d39da7So this is a great collection for someone new to erotica who wants to discover what they might like, but also a must have for the tried and true erotica fans. It really is a library, complete with its own card catalogue Caraway painstakingly assembled herself (the dewey decimal listings are all real). Not to be That Trite Reviewer, but this would make a perfect gift for your newly single best friend, a lover you want to shake things up with, a bachelorette party present… It’s so accessible.

Here were some of the standout stories: Tamsin Flowers’s ‘POW! It’s Shibari Girl!’ about a superhero who uses rope bondage to capture her foes (but not always hand them over to the authorities) is a campy, delightful romp that had me giggling in public. Janine Ashbless’s ‘Three Legs in the Evening,’ a retelling of the tale of Oedipus, is inventive and filthy, and earns bonus points considering I dated a Classics major long enough to know the tale too well and appreciate a twist. Rachel Kramer Bussel predictably kills it with ‘Book Swap,’ about a couple who meet on a plane and swap books (and later spank each other with said books).

4bfefd26a7a82ed3d099da10edd8193cOf course a collection this varied had to include stories I would enjoy less, but any story I didn’t love is sure to resonate strongly with someone else so I won’t go into detail. That being said, I would caution anyone who is triggered by themes of sexual assault to skip ‘A Perverted Fairy Tale’ by Emily Bingham, a dirty twist on Little Red Riding Hood. By listening to Rose’s fantastic Sexy Librarian’s Blogcast, featuring interviews with the contributing authors of the anthology, I know the story has been controversial for its dubious consent plotline. This is a conversation for another blog post about the responsibility vs. entertainment debate within erotica, but I appreciated having a glimpse behind-the-scenes in the podcast and just wanted to add a caution for my readers, who I know are sensitive about this subject. And as Bix Warden quotes Jo Goodwin as saying in the introduction, “A truly great library contains something to offend everyone.”

So regardless of your experience level with erotica, pick up a copy of The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica. It’s available for purchase from Cleis Press here.

Also consider listening to Rose’s shows, the Kiss Me Quick’s Erotica Podcast and the Sexy Librarian Erotica Blog-Cast. I’ve been listening to both to make my commute tolerable and I always finish an episode having learned something (and having been turned on inappropriately in public). Getting to know the authors behind the stories of this collection enhances the reading experience in a way only made possible by the internet. The social media geek in me is thoroughly satisfied.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica

  1. So cool that the anthology shot for the moon and included a wide variety of stories. There are truly many different subgenres to erotica. You’re brave to carry the big book everywhere with you and read it. I wonder if the body builder bought his own copy after that plane trip?

    1. Of course, Tamsin! I remember reading it on the plane and then listening to your episode on the Blogcast right after—the bodybuilder sitting next to me was very intrigued and kept trying to read over my shoulder.

  2. Ella! I was excited to see your name pop up as one of the stops for this blog tour. Thank you so much. What a lovely post. Thank you for listening to the Sexy Librarian’s Blog-cast too! Listening to the authors, getting their back-stories was something I’d hoped would feed and continue the entertainment value of this book. I love watching the movie stars being interviewed–I enjoy observing them as they answer questions. They “play” various characters and I like to get a glimpse of who they really are. Even though you know they are still somewhat “performing” for their interviews I still get that glimpse and it is satisfying. That is what I wanted to offer the public regarding the lovely contributing authors–the creators of story–in The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica. I wanted to give fans that glimpse… but really–more than a glimpse. I wanted to extend the relationship between writer and fan, not through a written blog but through an actual conversation. Through my casual format, I wanted to offer something new. To honor the magnificent diversity of erotic fiction and it’s writers.

    1. Rose, I love that! I love the show, I love the interviews, I could write a whole separate post about the podcast. It’s such an amazing resource as a reader getting to know my favorite writers, and as a writer wanting to do the work that they’re doing! Plus everyone is so wonderfully weird and lovely. And it’s so great to have more context both for the stories I loved and the stories I wasn’t as sure about—as I said it completely changed the reading experience to devour a story and then return to it after learning what inspired it. You’ve got a very loyal fan here 🙂

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