The 7 Deadly Sins Reading List: Lust

Susan Choi's My Education

You’ve been waiting for it. You know you have. Don’t deny it—we know it’s everyone’s favorite mortal sin. And why shouldn’t it be, with all those heaving bosoms and plugs that shall not be named? We won’t tease you any longer. Here’s your Lust List.

50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Let’s just get this out of the way so we can get on with our list, shall we?

Phèdre, by Jean Racine
A 17th-century play based on the ancient Greek myth of Phaedra, daughter of bull-loving Pasiphaë and wife of Theseus who wants to jump her stepson’s bones. It’s a tragedy, so we’ll let you guess how that turns out.

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Less about lust than its consequences, every high school junior ever has been disappointed to find out there are no actual naughty bits in a story about a horny priest and an adulterous Puritan.

Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
MWF seeks male companions to distract herself from the boredom of country life and an unsatisfactory marriage. It’s the 19th century, so this can only end one way.

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
See above.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker
Long before Twilight, vampire books were secretly (or not so secretly) about S-E-X. Victorian readers knew Dracula was sinking more than his teeth into his victims, unleashing dangerous female sexual desires.

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
The only innocent in this novel might be May, but even unconsummated lust corrupts in Wharton’s less than flattering portrait of Victorian upper-crust repression.

Ulysses, by James Joyce
We’ll just say this: Leopold Bloom is one freaky deaky dude.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
And thus was born the pool boy fantasy.

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
The most disturbing thing isn’t Humbert’s deviant lechery, but that he convinces himself—almost, even, the reader—that his pubescent paramour is as guilty as he is.

The Sexual Life of Catherine M., by Catherine Millet
Colette, Anaïs Nin, The Story of O, Emmanuellethe French deserve their own separate Lust List. In this 2001 addition to a long tradition, art editor Catherine “M” writes in graphic detail of her many, many—many—creative liaisons.

Little Children, by Tom Perrotta
The bored housewife has found her way from the countryside to the suburban poolside, but she’s still looking for meaning—or at least diversion—in illicit “play” dates.

House of Holes, by Nicholson Baker
The subtitle is “A Book of Raunch,” so one might expect some explicit material in this novel about a fantastical sex resort with a “Sex Now” button. Also, it’s Nicholson Baker.

Tampa, by Alissa Nutting
Lolita turned on the gender axis. A young, attractive, female middle-school teacher hunts for 14-year-old prey at Jefferson Junior High. The book will be much better than the Lifetime adaptation.

My Education, by Susan Choi
Being hot for teacher is a trite trope now, but in My Education, the tired gets a twist: it’s Regina’s professor’s wife who offers up the sex education. Despite glowing reviews, the novel has found itself on the 2013 short list for the Literary Review‘s Bad Sex Award.