The 36 Best Erotic Novels to Curl Up With

Spice up your to-read list.

selection of the best erotic novels including Call Me By Your Name and Forever
(Image credit: Courtesy)

Thanks to TikTok’s community of book lovers, a.k.a. BookTok, erotic novels have gone mainstream. Readers, especially fans of spicy stories, have taken to the platform to share their new favorite BDSM books and discuss fan theories (you may even run into smutty character fan art). If BookTok’s spicy obsession has proved anything, flipping through several hundred pages of sexy prose is fun and nothing to be embarrassed about. So, please come (no pun intended) with us into a whole new world of erotic novels with stunning sex.

Erotica often gets labeled a "guilty pleasure"—while there are many campy books to read, some of which are on this list—there are plenty of erotic novels that overlap with genre and literary fiction. Some have inspired Golden Globe-nominated shows (hi, Outlander!). In other words, erotic novels are entertaining, hot, and they can be prestigious. Where else could you find hot billionaires, rugged war heroes, professors who don't mind giving you a "D" (jokes!), or actors who are just as hot on the screen as they are off? Nowhere but NSFW stories!

Whether you’re a newbie looking to dip your feet into one of the hottest genres on the planet, or a returning reader looking for a new title to pore over, this list has something for everyone—from swoon-worthy, classic romances and rom-coms to stories with great LGBTQ+ representation and full-on smut. Because everyone has a different comfort level on the subject, we’ve arranged this list according to spice level: Mild, meaning plot-driven romance novels with a few sex sscenes thrown in; Medium, a happy middle ground between plot and sex; and Hot, the steamiest of stories for when you couldn’t care less about what happens. So without further ado, here are some of the best erotic novels that will leave you seriously blushing and maybe, just maybe, needing a cold shower afterward.

Best Mild-Level Erotic Novels

These are the kind of books that make for the perfect introduction to erotica. These books either have plenty of PG-rated (compared to the rest of the stories on this list) smut or have less than a handful of sexy scenes. The sex scenes may even leave all the steaminess to your imagination. All in all: Each erotic novel below is filled with thoughtful prose and a great love story to make your heart flutter.

Best Medium-Level Erotic Novels

You can think of these medium-level spice stories as the bridge between sexy romance novels and full-on smut. In each of these erotic novels, there’s a healthy balance between plot and sex. Spicy scenes don’t carry the story but don’t hurt it either. If you love an amazing story and characters mixed with a generous amount of smut, these are for you.

Best Hot-Level Erotic Novels

Be prepared to get all hot and bothered while reading these books. These are the type of stories not for the faint of heart—books where any plot takes the backseat to intense, spicy sex. They explore all kinds of fantasies and kinks with language that would make your grandma faint. We wouldn’t blame you if you were a bit too embarrassed to pull these out on your subway ride ... or if you read them with one hand (wink, wink).

Brooke Knappenberger
Associate Commerce Editor

Brooke Knappenberger is the Associate Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she specializes in crafting shopping stories—from sales content to buying guides that span every vertical on the site. She also oversees holiday coverage with an emphasis on gifting guides as well as Power Pick, our monthly column on the items that power the lives of MC’s editors. She also tackled shopping content as Marie Claire's Editorial Fellow prior to her role as Associate Commerce Editor.

She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.

With contributions from