Good Minds Suggest—Miranda July's Favorite Recent Books by Women in Which Women Have Sex

January, 2015
Miranda July

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Never one to shy away from sex, filmmaker and multimedia artist Miranda July covers erotic fantasies, awkward sex, and even reincarnated love—all with blithe frankness in her new novel, The First Bad Man, which is narrated by a lonely middle-aged woman whose eccentric point of view is replete with paranoia and sexual obsessions.

Offbeat but always full of heart, July is also the author of the short fiction collection No One Belongs Here More Than You and the memoir It Chooses You as well as the writer, director, and star of two feature films, Me and You and Everyone We Know (winner of the Cannes Film Festival Camera d'Or) and The Future.

To celebrate women writing about women—and all the sex they're having—she shares a list of book recommendations and tells Goodreads, "It's not that I care so much about sex per se, but I'm interested in how other people are thinking about it, and women writers tend to use it very differently from male writers—perhaps because they feel less afraid about the repercussions. The unheard, underdog position can be great for artistic freedom!"

Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger
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"The sex—and extended, terrifying foreplay—in this book is between a teenage girl and an adult Tanzanian beach bum. Internet porn, class, race, slavery—all this comes into play. It should be alienating, but this is the book that most accurately mirrors my own coming-of-age."


Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
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"I read this book when I was writing my novel, and it no doubt influenced how I handled fantasies in the mind of an untrustworthy narrator, in this case a man. A salesman selling 'lightning rods,' i.e., women hired by companies who are afraid of sexual harassment lawsuits—they provide sex on-site. It's crazy and funny—satire—but who would bother to write such a satire? I'd have to be furious to write something like this."


Man v. Nature: Stories by Diane Cook (Goodreads Author)
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"This is a collection of short stories, most of which have nothing to do with sex, but the one that does is such a dark pleasure: meteorologist Dave Santana. Here the sex happens less often (with the meteorologist) than the desperate, older woman (his neighbor) would like. I kept flipping back to the author photo when I read this one. Diane Cook is a young woman imagining an older woman's need, and not charitably. But if Diane Cook is anything like me, that desperate neighbor is herself. I've never really felt young."


Tampa by Alissa Nutting (Goodreads Author)
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"If the newspaper articles about gorgeous, female teachers having sex with their male teenage students were too short for you, Tampa is your book! I have friends who used this book purely as a piece of erotica—but I've never been fascinated by boys (only men), so I just enjoyed the morally questionable female narrator."


Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham (Goodreads Author)
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"No list would be complete without her! Lena has cracked the conversation wide open—she is the lightning rod. Are we more afraid now? I certainly am more afraid of fame. The moral is that you can be bold and original and imperfect and honest (about sex and everything else), but only if you don't have measurable power. The shit hits the fan when people actually listen."


How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
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"Heti shocks us simply by wanting another character's 'cock' so much (a whole chapter is devoted to it). Each reader will feel forced to place her own desire in relation to this desire. It is a little performance in the midst of the performance of the entire book, which otherwise is as internal and brainy as they come."





Comments Showing 1-26 of 26 (26 new)

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message 1: by Allison (new)

Allison I like her frankness


message 2: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Where is Sarah Waters? Queer women write about sex, too.


message 3: by K.n. (last edited Jan 07, 2015 09:01AM) (new)

K.n. Listman Thanks for letting me know a list of books/authors that I would not enjoy reading. Feeling old mentally and being old physically are two different things for a woman (menopause makes a difference). Is young author putting own needs in mind of older woman?


message 4: by Lorie Fleming (last edited Jan 07, 2015 12:31PM) (new)

Lorie Fleming How about the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon? Pretty good stuff. Also, I think this list is just what it implies; a list of books by female authors with an interesting take when writing about sex. Nothing wrong with books such as these. If you're not interested, then you don't have to read them (or comment to that effect here), IMHO.


message 5: by Beth (new)

Beth Evans colonna Love you Miranda, and will enjoy reading all of these books!!!


message 6: by Annie (new)

Annie Another good one would be Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum - coming out in April!


message 7: by Julie (new)

Julie Hock Why are some people such prudes? If erotica or sex are not your 'thing' why bother to even comment? I am 70+ and enjoying a wonderful sexual life with a Lover. Being older has nothimg to do with desire and love.


message 8: by Roseann (new)

Roseann Connolly I suppose we are defined by our relationship to sex - its enjoyment its shames its follies. Good women v bad women - I enjoyed scanning through the list. Acknowledging desire having the time and appetite for it all part of being human. Human touching is not always pleasurable it is intimate and sometimes welcome and sometimes invasive. Even hand-shaking can express a myriad of feelings - relationships - writing and reading about sexual intimacy - intercourse is interesting.


message 9: by Frank (new)

Frank Parker What fascinates me about this list is that as recently as twenty years ago such books would never have made it past the publishing industry's gate-keepers. Now writing and reading about sex is considered OK yet behaviors that fifty years ago would be taken for granted are now viewed as harassment or abuse. My current work-in-progress is an attempt to explore these changes in Western societies' attitudes to sex and sexuality. Given the obvious frankness of these books by young women, I, a man in his seventies, feel more than a little inadequate to the task!


message 10: by Laurie (new)

Laurie Lisa wrote: "Where is Sarah Waters? Queer women write about sex, too."

The total lack of queer books here is staggering! Not all of us want to read about heterosexual encounters.


Samantha LoCicero Laura wrote: "Lisa wrote: "Where is Sarah Waters? Queer women write about sex, too."

The total lack of queer books here is staggering! Not all of us want to read about heterosexual encounters."


Exactly! I was thinking the same thing!


message 12: by Alessandra (new)

Alessandra Naglieri I was also fascinated by avant-garde Doris Lessing in "The Golden Notebook" and what about Joan Didion "Play It as It Lays"?! So I'm curious to read the book of Jenny Fields "A Sexual Suspect"!


message 13: by Simone (new)

Simone Martel You make a good point. Women, as well as men, having been writing about sex for a long time.


message 14: by Simone (new)

Simone Martel Frank wrote: "What fascinates me about this list is that as recently as twenty years ago such books would never have made it past the publishing industry's gate-keepers. Now writing and reading about sex is cons..."

I don't quite understand your comment. What about Lessing, as someone mentions below. Edna O'Brian? Jong? Not to mention Roth, Updike and Mailer -- or were you only speaking of women writers?


message 15: by Julie (new)

Julie Hock I guess that the review was not of all books by "feminists" or women who write about sex, just a small selection. Always interesting to see what "else" is on offer. Life is too short to be blinkered.


message 16: by Jason (last edited Jan 08, 2015 07:25PM) (new)

Jason Darnell Leslie wrote: "Thanks for this. Now I know which books to avoid."

Lol...but yet you were interested enough to read the article and then comment? Books for you to avoid indeed.


message 17: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Heath Julie wrote: "Why are some people such prudes? If erotica or sex are not your 'thing' why bother to even comment? I am 70+ and enjoying a wonderful sexual life with a Lover. Being older has nothimg to do ..."

Good on you! I'm in my late 20's and am also comfortable with my sexuality.
If you do not want to read a book. Don't. Simple.


message 18: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Thanks for the suggestions. I think it's sad that some people can only complain that what they want is not on the list. Nowhere does it suggest that it's a complete list of all erotica ever written by women. It is Miranda's favourites, not yours. And to those who felt it necessary to comment and say they would never read these books, then why bother reading the article? It seems to me you just wanted to hand out insults. Very sad.


message 19: by Julie (new)

Julie Hock Kelly, I agree. You have made the point perfectly. Writing about sex/erotica beautifully and from a woman's perspective is a special talent.


message 20: by Mamun (new)

Mamun Very nice wrote. I am really happy and got pleasure. You are special talent I think it god gifted. really so nice.


message 21: by Frank (new)

Frank Parker Simone said; "I don't quite understand your comment." I guess "twenty years" needs to be doubled. I think, too, context is important. In most of your examples sex is not the central theme. Anais Nin had to die before "Fear of Flying" got published yet Miller's version of the same story was published years earlier.
I think people of my generation are easily confused by women who delight in all manner of sexual encounters that our parents would never dare talk about whilst others complain so readily about harassment and even rape unless it is they who are in control. Please don't construe this is me condoning either rape or harassment but it is all too easy for men to receive confusingly mixed messages about modern women's attitudes to sex.


message 22: by Simone (new)

Simone Martel Interesting. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.


message 23: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Solomon This list excites me because of late I have been reading erotica and am still insatiable. I have read and re-read some of the classics; Nin, Nabokov, Jong, Maugham and others who have written about the poignancy of unrequited love (or unsatisfied desire). This list is fodder for more solitary pleasures. Thanks!


message 24: by Alessandra (new)

Alessandra Naglieri Simone wrote: "Frank wrote: "What fascinates me about this list is that as recently as twenty years ago such books would never have made it past the publishing industry's gate-keepers. Now writing and reading abo..."
Well, only women! It's different, of course. And I left Jong! Thanks


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Laura wrote: "Lisa wrote: "Where is Sarah Waters? Queer women write about sex, too."

The total lack of queer books here is staggering! Not all of us want to read about heterosexual encounters."


These interviews have the authors personal favorites and recommendations, five total. This is this author's choice and favorites. It's not a goodreads guide for all readers.


message 26: by Yvette (new)

Yvette There's not enough good sex (heterosexual) writing (or at least it's hard to find). Thanks for being a fellow admirer of this genre.


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