Pleasure Reading

July 24, 2023 | Reagan

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As a romance reader and contributor to the library's romance genre picks, I'm constantly navigating how to talk about pleasure and sexuality with general audiences. Though it's easy to swoon and joke about "spicy books" with friends, real talk about pleasure reading is tricky. I've been inspired reading Rachel Lynn Soloman's new romance Business or Pleasure in which the female protagonist is a sex-positive heroine, so I decided to write a blog post about pleasure through a health and wellness lens.

Business or Pleasure

Healthy pleasure

The titles below attempt to cover the umbrella term that is "pleasure," including happiness, self-actualization, sexuality, relaxation, sexual behaviour and relationships. What has recently bolstered my understanding of all these subjects is the sex positive movement, which seeks to reframe sexuality as a healthy and natural part of the human experience.

As an aside, there is nothing more humbling than your kid earnestly asking you questions about their body and really testing your ability to put thoughts into action. My cheeks may turn red and I may stumble, but dammit, I'm doing my best! 

Pleasure Activism.

Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by Adrienne Maree Brown

This book has a little bit of everything: essays, poetry and art. It's queer and trans-inclusive and brilliantly uses Black feminist traditions to activate our thinking of sexual pleasure and relationships. I was particularly impressed by how it weaves in discussions of boundaries and moderation. 

Small Pleasures

Small Pleasures by The School of Life

I discovered The School of Life series recently, and I really enjoy it's simple, charming exploration of a number of subjects. Pertinent titles to the topic of pleasure are the books on relationships, emotional intelligence and of course, small pleasures. These books feel more like meditations on various subject matters rather than a deep dive into a subject, similar to the A very short introduction series. 

Hurts so good

Hurts So Good: The Science & Culture of Pain on Purpose by Leigh Cowart

In this thorough psychological examination, which is peppered with anecdotal interviews and pop culture references, Cowart introduces readers to masochism. The librarian in me couldn't help but giggle at the section about Twilight fan fiction and the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Special mention goes to the great, gothic cover art and sexy author profile photo (I wish more authors would stray outside the lines of conventional headshots).

Dopamine Nation

Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence by Anna Lembke

I'll be the first to admit that I am utterly lost without my smartphone, but that after a night of scrolling social media, I'm often left thinking, "Really, that's enough internet today." Lembke argues that "the smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle, delivering digital dopamine 24/7 for a wired generation." I hope, like me, you dive into the pursuits of pleasure in part one and stick around for lessons in balance at the end. 

The Pleasure Gap
The Pleasure Gap: American Women & The Unfinished Sexual Revolution by Katherine Rowland

A great exploration of modern sexuality in heterosexual women, Rowland argues that American women should fight their reported sexual dissatisfaction in the bedroom as fervently as they fight the wage gap in the workplace. This call-to-arms uses interviews with over 120 women to explore everything from the tradition of sexuality (my favourite chapter!) to the biology of sexual function.

Have a made you blush? Perhaps I didn't go far enough? Share your favourite romance and pleasure titles below!