Please Vote on Which Bonkbusters We’ll Read Together This Summer

Illustration by Angelica Alzona.

It’s going to be a weird, grimy summer; let’s palliate by
turning to the illicit pleasures of yesteryear. Please join
myself and my colleague Stassa Edwards for the first Bonkbuster
Summer Book Club.

We have decided to devote the summer to great fat mass-market
paperbacks whose names once touched everyone’s tongues. The
ones whose titles still convey a frisson of sex. The type of
books passed around middle school classrooms on the sly until a
teacher noticed and confiscated the offending reading
material—for her own personal stash. We’ll be reading
selections in June, July, and August. And rather than
unilaterally select three books, we’ve decided to open the
floor. Below are several classic examples of the form; vote on
your favorites and we’ll read the three most popular.

Some programming notes: We’ve passed over all men, hence the
exclusion of Sidney Sheldon and Harold Robbins, for whom you
could make an argument. Flowers of the Attic might
could’ve squeezed onto the list, but the fit isn’t quite right
and neither of us wanted to read it, so we’ve exercised our
supreme authority as book club despots to skip. Classics like
Peyton Place and Valley of the Dolls have
been excluded as forerunners that aren’t quite raunchy enough
to compete with the high instances of the form.

The contenders!


The Thorn Birds
,
Colleen McCullough:
This is, of course, the one where
she has the thwarted hots for the priest. She being young
Meggie Cleary, who moves to a massive sheep station in the
Outback and meets the much older Ralph de Bricassart. It’s more
frustrated longing than actual boning and features many more
gruesome Outback deaths than I personally anticipated.


Scruples
, Judith
Krantz:
This 1978 bestseller follows the fortunes of
Wilhelmina “Billy” Hunnewell Winthrop as she builds an empire
on her Beverly Hills boutique. “They’ve done everything but
tattoo a ‘P’ for Pornographer on my chest,” Krantz told People
as America was buying it just as fast as they could.


Outlander, Diana
Gabaldon
: The author herself
likely wouldn’t be keen on the idea of including
Outlander in the bonkbuster canon. But every women in
America has been recommended this series at least once with
mention made of the sex. In case you have somehow avoided the
franchise: World War II combat nurse falls through time to the
vicinity of the Jacobite Rising and falls in love for a hot
(younger!) Scotsman with what I’ve always pictured as very
lovely knees.


Hollywood Wives
, Jackie
Collins:
Who are the Hollywood Wives? Well, according
to the flap copy currently on Amazon:

They lunch at Ma Maison and the Bistro on
salads and hot gossip. They cruise Rodeo Drive in their
Mercedes and Rolls, turning shopping at Giorgio and Gucci
into an art form. They pursue the body beautiful at the
Workout and Body Asylum.

Dressed by St. Laurent and Galanos, they
dine at the latest restaurants on the rise and fall of one
another’s fortunes. They are the Hollywood
Wives
, a privileged breed of women whose ticket
to ride is a famous husband.

This list would be incomplete without at least one Jackie
Collins.


The Clan of the Cave
Bear
/The
Valley of Horses
, Jean M. Auel:
The
Earth’s Children series follows the prehistoric adventures of
the beautiful Ayla, who roams ancient Europe doing things like
domesticating horses and inventing spears. Oh, and fucking.
Lots and lots and lots of fucking. This series is tricky for
our purposes, though, because the first book is the one they
made into a movie starring Daryl Hannah, but the sex parts
don’t get fun until Valley of the Horses. Until then
it’s more neanderthal dub con. Therefore we are including both
the original and the sequel in the poll. If both land in the
top three, we’ll pick the more popular. (Definitely vote for
Valley of the Horses.)


Wifey
, Judy
Blume:
This is the young adult legend’s racy novel
about suburbanite Sandy Pressman’s walk on the wild side.


Zoya
, Danielle
Steel:
Somehow, I have never read a novel by Danielle
Steel. This classic, about a young woman who flees the Russian
Revolution for a life alternating between glamour and hardship,
seems like a good place to start.


Riders
, Jilly
Cooper:
Or, as it is billed, “the steamy, scandalous
tale of sexual and equestrian competition within the heroic
world of international show jumping.” Horny horsey types!


Lace
, Shirley
Conran:
When this book was rereleased in a
thirtieth-anniversary edition in 2012, the Guardian
wrote in its coverage: “Just
whisper the word ‘goldfish’ to any woman in her late 30s or
early 40s and see how many of them blush.” Don’t you want to
know why? I certainly do!


The Witching Hour
, Anne
Rice:
Short version—a family of witches has a demonic
spirit that follows them around, trying to knock them up.


Addicted
, Zane:
My take—without Zane, there is perhaps no self-publishing boom
and no erotica bonanza, and therefore no Fifty Shades of
Grey
. She doesn’t get the credit she deserves. That said,
this novel sounds completely bananas.

You have until Friday morning to vote; at that point we’ll
announce the winners and you can begin tearing through June’s
selection.

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