Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov -- To be wary of this frisky, disturbing masterpiece detailing the illicit love of a worldly older gentleman for a young nymphet is to miss out on one of the greatest reading pleasures of all time. Nabokov was a master of puns, allusion and psychology; his aging would-be Romeo is at once stylish, deplorable, cruel and pathetic.
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Unsatisfied young wife spurns her paralytic husband in favor of the earthier qualities of their game keeper. Lawrence shocked 1928 audiences by giving the game keeper a script of lines comprised almost entirely of the F-word.
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
"An American in Paris" could be the subtitle for Tropic of Cancer, which was banned in this country for decades following its publication. Miller writes about sex with a boisterous enthusiasm that still causes readers to blush. Pretty raw stuff, misogynist even, but his lusty appetites for everything from good Bordeaux to intellectual discourse make this one as appealing as it is shocking.
A Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin
If you're looking for pure smut, you're going to be disappointed here. That's not to say that Anais Nin isn't porn of another sort. Her characters are given to wearing long velvet capes, lining their eyes with imported kohl and running dramatically out of rooms before hooking up with their analysts or the husbands' discarded lovers.
The Kama Sutra translated by Sir Richard Burton
If you like naughty pictures in your naughty books, there are enough versions of the Kama Sutra to keep you reading all summer. Although modern photographers have reinterpreted this Indian classic with lots of model-gorgeous people and slick lighting, the ones with the old illustrations somehow seem pervier (everyone has enormous eyes and body parts are depicted somewhat head-scratchingly).
Selected Poems by e.e. cummings
Don't be fooled by his lower-case demeanor and habit of shyly skittering all over the page. cummings could titillate with the best of 'em. The first four lines of "May I Feel?" are proof enough.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Hurston wrote this sensual and provocative novel at the height of the Harlem Renaissance; at the time she was blasted for not only depicting a heroine with healthy sexual appetites but for having her characters speak in dialect (which some felt perpetuated stereotypes of African-Americans). Their Eyes Were Watching God follows the leggy, voluptuous Janie Crawford through three marriages and one murder trial; Hurston's prose is warm, joyful and appreciative of all the world's earthly delights, even in degradation and suffering.
Ulysses by James Joyce
If you can get all the way through this nearly impenetrable novel, it's worth it if only for Molly Bloom's heated soliloquy: "...and yes I said yes I will Yes."
Publication date: 06/10/04