15 recent novels on self-discovery, sexuality, and desire

We’re completely enamoured with these unique and incisive explorations of sexuality, self-discovery, and intimacy. Each story offers a window into our most private spaces in order to reveal what we long for, what we hide, how we cope, and how we change.


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Insatiable by Daisy Buchanan

Stuck in a dead-end job, broken-hearted, broke and estranged from her best friend: Violet’s life is nothing like she thought it would be. She wants more - better friends, better sex, a better job - and she wants it now. So, when Lottie - who looks like the woman Violet wants to be when she grows up - offers Violet the chance to join her exciting start-up, she bites. Only it soon becomes clear that Lottie and her husband Simon are not only inviting Violet into their company, they are also inviting her into their lives.

Seduced by their townhouse, their expensive candles and their Friday-night sex parties, Violet cannot tear herself away from Lottie, Simon or their friends. But is this really the more Violet yearns for? Will it grant her the satisfaction she is so desperately seeking?


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Milk Fed by Melissa Broder

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of control by way of obsessive food rituals. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Then Rachel meets Miriam, a young Orthodox Jewish woman intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam - by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family - and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.


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A Feather on the Breath of God by Sigrid Nunez

A young woman looks back to the world of her immigrant parents: a Chinese-Panamanian father and a German mother, who meet in postwar Germany and settle in New York City. Growing up in a housing project in the 1950s and 1960s, the narrator escapes into dreams inspired both by her parents' stories and by her own reading and, for a time, into the otherworldly life of ballet. A yearning homesick mother, a silent and withdrawn father, the ballet - these are the elements that shape the young woman’s imagination and her sexuality.


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O by Steven Carroll

Occupied France, 1943. France’s most shameful hour. In these dark times, Dominique starts an illicit affair with a distinguished publisher, a married man. He introduces her to the Resistance, and she comes to have a taste for the clandestine life - she has never felt more alive. Shortly after the war, to prove something to her lover, she writes an erotic novel about surrender, submission and shame. Never meant to be published, Story of O becomes a national scandal and success, the world’s most famous erotic novel. But what is the story really about - Dominique, her lover, or the country and the wartime past it would rather forget?


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Luster by Raven Leilani

Meet Edie. Edie is not okay. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting.

No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young, black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling headfirst into Eric’s home and family.


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Little Scratch by Rebecca Watson

Little Scratch tells the story of a day in the life of an unnamed woman, living in a lower-case world of demarcated fridge shelves and office politics; clock-watching and WhatsApp notifications. In a voice that is fiercely wry, touchingly delicate and increasingly neurotic, the protagonist relays what it takes to get through the quotidian detail of that single trajectory - from morning to night - while processing recent sexual violence. Little Scratch is about the coexistence of monotony with our waking, intelligent lives. It is a powerful evocation of how the external and internal aspects of our lives exist in a helix, and what it means to live out the course of a single day consumed by trauma.


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The Prophets by Robert Jones, JR.

The Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love - away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs - where they can be alone together. But, Amos - a fellow slave - has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation. And preaching the words of Massa Paul’s gospel, he betrays them.

The culminating pages summon a choral voice of those who have suffered in silence, with blistering humanity, as the day of reckoning arrives at the Halifax plantation. Love, in all its permutations, is the discovery at the heart of Robert Jones Jr’s breathtaking debut, The Prophets.


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Kink edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell

Kink is a dynamic anthology of literary fiction that opens an imaginative door into the world of desire. The stories within this collection portray love, desire, BDSM, and sexual kinks in all their glory with a bold new vision. The collection includes works by renowned fiction writers and the stories within explore bondage, power-play, and submissive-dominant relationships; we are taken to private estates, therapists' offices, underground sex clubs, private estates, and even a Victorian-era sex theater. While there are whips and chains, sure, the true power of these stories lies in their beautiful, moving dispatches from across the sexual spectrum of interest and desires, as portrayed by some of today’s most exciting writers.

Kink is now available for pre-order and will be published 3 March 2021.


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Memorial by Bryan Washington

Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese-American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson’s a Black day care teacher, and they’ve been together for a few years - good years - but now they’re not sure why they’re still a couple. There’s the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other. But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying is Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye.

In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike’s immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realising he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it. Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they’ve ever known. And just maybe they’ll all be okay in the end.


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Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor

It’s 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a dyke best friend, makes zines, and is a flaneur with a rich dating life. But Paul’s also got a secret: he’s a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Women’s Studies major to trade, Paul transforms his body at will in a series of adventures that take him from Iowa City to Boystown to Provincetown and finally to San Francisco - a journey through the deep queer archives of struggle and pleasure.


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Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

This novel is about a woman called Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Her husband Patrick thinks she is fine. He says everyone has something, the thing is just to keep going. Martha told Patrick before they got married that she didn’t want to have children. He said he didn’t mind either way because he has loved her since he was fourteen and making her happy is all that matters, although he does not seem able to do it.

By the time Martha finds out what is wrong, it doesn’t really matter anymore. It is too late to get the only thing she has ever wanted. Or maybe it will turn out that you can stop loving someone and start again from nothing - if you can find something else to want.


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Cherry Beach by Laura McPhee Brown

Hetty and Ness, best friends since childhood, have left suburban Melbourne for the first time to live abroad. Hetty is charming and captivating, the life of the party. Ness is a wallflower, hopelessly in love with her. In the student quarter of Toronto, the pair take a room in a share house full of self-assured creatives. Hetty disappears into barkeeping work and a whirlwind nightlife, while Ness drifts aimlessly.

But when Ness finds Faith one day in the art gallery, an intense affair develops. There are new friends, too, and a job: at last her life starts to make some sense. And Hetty’s starts spectacularly to fall apart, in a mess of bad drugs and bad men. As winter freezes the lakeside city, the dark undercurrents of Hetty’s character-abusive relationships, a dangerous obsession with bodies of water-become ever stronger. Ness may lose the person she loves more than anyone else in the world.


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A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing by Jessie Tu

Jena Lin plays the violin. She was once a child prodigy and now uses sex to fill the void left by fame. She’s struggling a little. Her professional life comprises rehearsals, concerts, auditions and relentless practice; her personal life is spent managing the demands of her strict family and creative friends, and hooking up. And then she meets Mark - much older and worldly-wise - who consumes her. But at what cost to her dreams?

When Jena is awarded an internship with the New York Philharmonic, she thinks the life she has dreamed of is about to begin. But when Trump is elected, New York changes irrevocably and Jena along with it. Is the dream over? As Jena’s life takes on echoes of Frances Ha, her favourite film, crucial truths are gradually revealed to her.


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It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian

A quirky, feel-good romantic comedy about creating the life you want. Noni didn’t expect to be starting over again at the age of thirty-six. But eighteen months after the end of her long-term relationship, she knows it’s time to find out what’s next. While an encounter with a sexy blonde firefighter is a welcome entry back into the dating world, Noni soon realises she’s looking for more than just a series of brief-if pleasurable-encounters.

That’s how she finds herself travelling to Europe to track down the one that got away- the alluring, elusive Molly. But Europe has other surprises in store, not least of which is Beau, a tall, sexy, tattooist from Edinburgh…


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Eye of a Rook by Josephine Taylor

In 1860s London, Arthur sees his wife Emily suddenly struck down by a pain for which she can find no words, forced to endure harmful treatments and reliant on him for guidance. Meanwhile, in contemporary Perth, Alice, a writer, and her older husband, Duncan, find their marriage threatened as Alice investigates the history of hysteria, female sexuality and the treatment of the female body - her own and the bodies of those who came before.

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Milk Fed

Milk Fed

Melissa Broder

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