What should you do and how should you do it?

The art of sex, like any other art form, has been studied and documented for centuries. While it is taboo in some cultures, in others, sex is celebrated. In my quest for sexual excellence, I have read through dozens of books, from the “How-to” to the “How-not-to.” There are books dedicated to sex as a whole, and books that enlighten readers about specific sex acts. I’ve seen books on tantric sex, which according to Sting, really works, orgasms, sex toys and oral sex. For those of you who want to enlighten your sensual side, the following is a list of the best books to buy, and who should read them.

The Book: The Joy of Sex by Dr. Alex Comfort

Who Should Read It: Couples who are just beginning their sexual exploration of each other or singles who want an intimate understanding of the monogamous sex life.

About the Book: The Joy of Sex is divided into six sections: Ingredients (vivid descriptions of every body part and its sexual importance, from the navel to the “cassolette”), Appetizers, (a delicious name for foreplay), Main Courses (a variety of positions that each serve unique purposes), Sauces (sexual additives to spice up the act, like costumes or foods), Venues (because the bedroom is never enough), and the always-important Sex and Health Issues. The book is full of vibrant illustrations in chalk or charcoal that are — dare I say — elegant and artful.

What I Like About the Book: This book, unlike many other works of sexual literature, uses vivid imagery and other literary tactics to present sex as an intimate union of two bodies instead of a dirty or trashy act. The author shows concern for the intimacy of sex, and encourages every couple to explore each other physically, emotionally and spiritually. The people in the sketches are well-proportioned and realistic, so they actually act as an example for readers. This is helpful considering many sexual descriptions are elaborate and initially confusing.

Dislikes: After reviewing the book several times, I came to the conclusion that I have no dislikes. I really tried to find some; I really did, but I just love this book!

Best Quote: “Male sexual response is far brisker and more automatic: it is triggered easily by things, like putting a coin in a vending machine.”

The Book: The Love Techniques of Kama Sutra by Mallanaga Vatsyayana (edited by Indra Sinha)

Who Should Read It: Couples who want to redefine and enhance their already vivacious sex life.

About the Book: The Kama Sutra was originally written between the second and fifth centuries by Mallanaga Vatsyayana, but most copies found in Borders are translated and edited from Sanskrit. The term Kama Sutra literally translated is “Aphorisms on Pleasure,” and the book describes itself as this:

“Kama is the delight of body, mind, and soul in exquisite sensation; awaken eyes, nose, tongue, ears, and skin, and between sense and sensed, the essence of Kama will flower.”

Kama Sutra contains seven books dedicated to the art of lovemaking from a Hindu sense of society and religion. However, the positions described in Book II (Lovemaking) are still popular among even sexual veterans of today. (Word to the wise: unless you’re an Olympic gymnast, don’t try some of these at home!) The pictures in the book, and there are many of them, are actually Hindu paintings collaborated for this edition. The colors are vivid, although the people are less than lifelike.

What I Like About the Book: The language in this book is very romantic, and many of the descriptions are written in poem format. Many of the positions in the book are far from ordinary (I hadn’t heard of half of them).

Dislikes: Because the book was written more as a social guide to love and sex and less as a porno magazine, there are many social commentaries that observe Hindu traditions. There is an entire book dedicated to marriage, and another to “Other Men’s Wives.” Modern-day readers cannot identify or benefit from many of these outdated customs.

Best Quote: “Lying on her side, facing away/the fawn-eyed girl/offers you her buttocks/and your penis penetrates the house of love: this is Nagabandha (The Elephant)”

The Book: Sex for Dummies by Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer

Who Should Read It: Sexual novices.

About the Book: Most readers will recognize Dr. Ruth from radio and television talk shows dating back decades. As with the other “for Dummies” in the series (Windows for Dummies, Macintosh for Dummies, Cooking for Dummies, etc.), the book gives basic instructions and descriptions that are informative above all else. There are six parts of Sex for Dummies that divide into 28 chapters, complete with diagrams that accurately depict body parts and survey charts that compare sexual practices among mainstream Americans.

What I Like About the Book: Sex for Dummies is structured and worded like some of my past textbooks, and that makes me confident that inexperienced readers will have no problem understanding the information it provides. There are cute icons next to important facts, like a cartoon of Dr. Ruth when she’s expressing her personal and professional opinion, or a bomb icon with the word “caution” that alerts readers to a potentially harmful situation. The humor is unlike any other sex text I’ve read. Another bonus is the thorough, alphabetic glossary in the back, just in case you can’t find what you’re looking for.

Dislikes: This book doesn’t stress the emotional or psychological impact of sex upon its reader. And while Dr. Ruth is a respected professional in the field (what that exactly means, I don’t want to know … ), I don’t always agree with some of her commentary, which is often liberal and permissive of things that I myself would not recommend.

Best Quote: (to men) “Don’t be afraid of it. It’s just a clitoris.”