Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Alternatives to Sex” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
Alternatives to Sex
Stephen McCauley
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Alternatives to Sex

3.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  616 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
The bestselling author of The Object of My Affection and True Enough delivers his most compelling and richly observed novel to date with this portrait of one man's search for the holy trinity of modern life -- true love, good sex, and great real estate.

Stephen McCauley's new novel is a moving and hilarious chronicle of life in post-traumatic, morally ambiguous America wh
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published (first published March 28th 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Alternatives to Sex, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Alternatives to Sex

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,013)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aug 01, 2008 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stpehen McCauley writes perfect "sit down with a fun book" reads. What a shame that something he clearly puts a lot of effort into flies by so quickly.
Jul 05, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Collins from Somerville, MA is a single, gay, 44-year-old realtor who has fallen into a funk of online sexual encounters. Seeking a more productive way to occupy his time, he enters (or disrupts, rather) the life of potential homebuyers, Charlotte O'Malley & Sam Thompson, a suburban couple suffering from empty nest syndrome. As William becomes more of a fixture in their lives, he inadvertently neglects his best friend, Edward, a panic-attack-prone flight attendant so desperate to cur ...more
I have always found Stephen McCauley's books to be enjoyable, witty, lightweight reads. William is a real estate agent with a bit of an internet hook-up sex hobby on the side. He is crushing on a married couple who are his latest bickering clients looking for a home, but may actually be in love with his best friend who has decided to move out of town and get a fresh start. Fun and easily digestible, it's one of those perfect books to read just before bedtime.
Jul 10, 2008 Will rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A light summer read.
That's what I was after.
And, while this book is certainly light, it was not the engrossing read I was hoping for. In fact, it seems a bit inept.

The writer is clearly fond of his own character ideas, but he should weed them out ... then flesh them out. Far, far too many characters, most of them two-dimensional exaggerations of what an actual person might be, populate this meandering and aimless novel. I'm not sure there was a point ... ? There are a lot of scenes with upper-mi
May 23, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the fact that reviewers here don't seem too jazzed about this book, I enjoy the little observations and witticisms. Real estate agent William Morris is a comfortable-in-his-skin neurotic who is an endearing if passive, middle-aged gay man in Boston.

Mostly it's about a man that wants to change, but isn't sure why or how, and through a friendship/real estate relationship with a married couple it seems he might come to some catharsis at some point.

I'm already half-way through so it might s
Mar 10, 2016 Sonia189 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not totally bad but not memorable or interesting if one looks at the general picture.
Dec 21, 2014 Alistair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay-fiction
Meet William Collins, single man-about-town, real estate agent, compulsive cleaner and striving (ever so unsuccessfully) to be celibate. William's current downfall stems from nightly refuge in internet chat rooms, to which he succumbs without too much of a fight, and is complicated by an on/off relationship with a mysterious Belgian. William's best friend Edward remains unimpressed, tossing off acerbic bon mots at will. William finds himself in some interesting situations; his relationship with ...more
Nov 19, 2015 Smudgedink7 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I wasn't reading it, I wanted to be. William and his acquaintances were very interesting because no two were the same but all had the common thread of lying or half truths in their lives. I loved reading about a main character that was gay without that being what the story was about. William has many a conquest but it's not explicit or a main thread, it's just as much of his life as cleaning is. I wanted to see more with his progression with Edward because that relationship is his most impo ...more
David Jay
William is a middle aged realtor in Boston, struggling to make sense of life in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. In spite of that very serious sounding description, the book is a mostly lighthearted piece of fluff. William struggles to deal with his emotions--by cleaning obsessively, by engaging in meaningless sex with strangers he meets in chat rooms (the book takes place in 2002 after all), by becoming celibate. There is a wide cast of supporting characters, some more successful than other ...more
If this book were a film, it would be a RomCom starring Hugh Grant as the lovable misanthrope-bachelor who is just too eccentric and bemused to recognize that True Love is staring him in the face. Alternatives to Sex is a quick, mostly enjoyable read, but very thin soup, and McCauley’s obvious pleasure in his own irrepressible drollery more than occasionally overwhelms the reading: There are only so many clever, self-referential doses of post-modern irony that a reader can take before the urge t ...more
Nov 19, 2009 Zachary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book started out on a good note. That was the best part.The characters were introduced, and by the end of the book we learn pretty much nothing about them. There is a couple that fights and is looking for a house, the main characters tennant, and a few other characters that had storylines that never went anywhere. The entire storyline is pretty weak. The main character doesn't have many likeable characteristics. His goal is to become abstinent, and...wait for it...he can never accomplish th ...more
"Alternatives to Sex" is a likable middlebrow gay novel, set in Boston shortly after 9/11. The central character, William Collins, is a middle-aged realtor, single, who at the outset of the book makes a half-hearted commitment to celibacy. The plot follows Collins' professional life as much as his personal one. Really, this is as much an example of the "real estate" genre, as Collins is shown making several lucrative deals involving a variety of colorful characters. If you've ever fantasized abo ...more
Eh. Very light style writing, which is fine. Set in Boston, which is super fun for me. But the main themes/plots are perilously underdeveloped. It's all there, it just evidently needed a massive rewrite and fleshing out that it never got. The love story between William and Edward never really happens. It's all William thinking about it, but somehow realizes it without the aid of a major come to Jesus moment so how do you believe it? I mean, I know what the come to Jesus moment is supposed to be, ...more
Feb 21, 2012 Skip rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
That it took me about five months to trod through this novel probably says something about what I thought of it.
Though I did find the writing at-times clever, smart and funny, I never seemed to connect with the characters. It was almost as if there's was too much to their backstory that I didn't know, and didn't come to realize.
I would have liked to have known more about Edward and his personality. William's character could have done a better job at revealing these things...

And since part of
Jul 08, 2010 Minh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
So, this was my venture into the fiction realm. This was a recommendation from the Book Swapping website underneath Gay Literature. But seriously, it could have been about any type of sexuality and still have been boring.

Set in the aftermath of 9/11, the main character William Collins a 44 year old Gay man who currently works in Real Estate, has a cleaning obsession and no steady relationship starts worrying about his life. The past year of his life has consisted of any number of meaningless sex
Dec 01, 2008 Punk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
Fiction. 44-year-old William lives in Boston, sells real estate, and is maybe in love with his best friend Edward. So, disclaimer, I found The Object of My Affection so boring I had to read it twice, just to make sure it was actually as bad as I remembered. It was. But in my unrelenting optimism (evident only here, in the part of me that deals with books), I decided to give McCauley another chance.

I liked this book much better! It has no chapters, only titled section headings, which gives it a
Random: the comment about not having taste but opinions about others at the bottom of page two made me say "hah" and then suddenly think about how this book was so "American", it just popped into my head that American books always have their books, heroes, whatever take themselves as important, British seem the very opposite - hence they have a great impact on me, and Americans often don't. Of course that can't be right, it was just a disconnected pseudo-epiphany, but I wonder if even About A Bo ...more
Sep 04, 2008 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel -- about being over-40 and struggling with how to be, as a secondary character says, "at the center" of your own life rather than "outside" of it -- could be so much more than it is. Already, it's frank, funny, and observant. The narrator's social commentary is right on. Furthermore, the pace is lively; scenes are short and the narrative never drags. That's good, right?

Yeah, but the liveliness is also at the heart of the problem with this novel: It doesn't, until the final scene, take
Bookmarks Magazine

Stephen McCauley, author of books including The Object of My Affection (1987), has written perhaps his best novel to date. A mix of satire, moral ambiguity, and insight into human foibles, Alternative to Sex also contains raw nakedness as William searches for meaning in his life. William's characterization as a softhearted, sharp-witted, and neurotic gay man__and his touchingly chaste relationship with Edward__rang true with critics, as did the "loony and delicious" cast of secondary characters

Mark Farley
Jun 29, 2013 Mark Farley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The proof of this book came into the shop and I noticed the Armistead Maupin quote on the front of the book and it gathered dust on my radiator for about a few months before I finally decided to take it on my first ever beach holiday. Being a huge fan of the author's Tales of the City series, it was always something in the back of my mind I should get around to reading but was forever bumped down the list by other things I felt I should read or wanted to read. I was extremely surprised, after I ...more
I'm a fan of the fucked up character and this novel's star attraction, William Collins, is definitely one. When he's not trolling the Internet for cheesy hotel hookups with other men, little Willy is obsessing over ironing and the cleanliness of his surroundings. So the novel starts out in a predictably fun for me way. Are men or drugs the answer after all? However, while little snatches of genius like "'re nearing forty. Just ride it out and do what everyone else does: get your teeth whi ...more
Charlie Richmond
I would have 'really enjoyed it' if the one fault I felt it has was not present: the main character is confusingly judgmental about heterosexual infidelity when he is not at all so (in fact he feels it is completely normal) about homosexual infidelity - although that is probably one of the main points of the book, however it went the opposite direction than I would have preferred ;-)
Nov 26, 2015 Cherie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was hilarious, but I don't know, after a while, just almost lost interest. A gay real estate agent tries to give up his wild internet-found sex life as he strives to find a good home for a suburban couple, and other wild adventures.
William Collins, single, 43, Boston real esate agent, and addicted to tricking via the internet decides that that last thing might be a bad thing. His attempt to go cold-turkey is a massive failure, but one of the alternatives he tries to distract himself with leads him to discover that, like Dorothy, his heart's desire was always within reach. That aspect of the story is sweet and fun. However, the novel uses the events of 9/11 and how everyone said it made them realize how fragile life was and ...more
Jan 30, 2012 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this a while ago, so can't write a detailed review, but I remember it being witty, loaded with social commentary and very polished and well-edited. It's sad to see how many people here didn't take it seriously. I picked this book up spontaneously at a thrift store, because the cover reminded me of a chart we had in high school Health Ed "Things to do instead of doing it." It did not disappoint. Since then I fell in love with McCauley and read most of his other works, but this one's still ...more
Jun 14, 2014 Hilary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Post 9/11 slice of life novel. William, a middle aged gay man can't seem to find a purpose in his life. Selling houses and apartments in Boston doesn't fill his soul, nor does trolling the internet in search of one night stands. This is a first person account of his day to day life, his friends, his clients. His clients are the best parts of the novel. How William tries to «analyze» his clients, the university professor/writer, the middle aged couple in crisis. The rest is pretty much like watch ...more
Patricia Murphy
Aug 21, 2015 Patricia Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Witty humor. A fun read!
Jun 22, 2007 Kent rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one unfortunately
The topic of sexual addiction is definitely loaded, and kudos to McCauley for exploring it. I just can't remember coming away with much when I finished the book. There is one sensational chapter that precisely paints the numb, and automatic quality that frequent anonymous sex can encourage. But a few sharp observations and scattered laughs aren't enough to lift this beyond the realm of slight diversion.
Sep 22, 2011 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read "Object of My Affection" many years ago and really enjoyed it - then it became a not-so-great Jennifer Anniston/Paul Rudd movie...this author is insightful and entertaining in my opinion - sort of a David Sedaris who happens to write fiction....I did find this book in a special "Gay Literature" section of Sequoyah library...some parts were extreme, but I found it to be a good book.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 33 34 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Selfish and Perverse
  • He's The One
  • Where the Boys Are
  • Man About Town
  • Lives of the Circus Animals
  • The Good Neighbor
  • The Trouble Boy
  • The Dust of Wonderland
  • Orientation
  • Looking For It
  • Bourbon Street Blues (Scotty Bradley, #1)
  • When I Knew
  • Standish
  • Half-Life
  • The Married Man
  • I Do: An Anthology in Support of Marriage Equality
  • The Best American Short Stories 2009
  • Glamorous Disasters

Share This Book