Sex, in healthy relationships, can be a great way to deepen a connection with someone. But it can also be tricky. Whether you struggle with connecting to your partner, have mental health concerns that get in the way of enjoying your sex life, or are just looking for more information, these self-help books on sex and intimacy offer practical guidance and compassionate advice.
1. Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.
A woman’s sexuality can be complex and is intensely personal. Body confidence, societal expectations, and previous experience all shape how a woman perceives herself and her sexuality.
Understanding this, author Dr. Emily Nagoski states, is key to helping women find confidence and joy in their sex lives. Researchers have spent years trying to create a Viagra-equivalent for women, But Dr. Nagoski argues that women’s sexuality is far more nuanced than would be solved by a “little pink pill.”
2. Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire, by Lori A. Brotto, Ph.D.
Psychologist and sex researcher Dr. Lori A. Brotto offers a practical, easy way to find better sex for women using mindfulness in this acclaimed book.
Nearly half of all women experience some kind of sexual difficulty in their lives. It’s often not just about sex either—stress, expectations, and time management can all affect women and their sexual responses. Dr. Brotto outlines practical, accessible mindfulness exercises that women can use to have a more satisfying, fulfilling sex life.
3. Unf*ck Your Intimacy: Using Science for Better Relationships, Sex, & Dating, by Dr. Faith G. Harper
This guide was written for those in intimate relationships, but can also work as a guide for those dating or looking to heal from past issues. Dr. Harper, licensed counselor and certified sexologist, has advice and exercises that can be done solo or with a partner. Learn skills like outlining boundaries, listening to your gut, and communicating your needs with this easy-to-read and humorous guide.
4. SexSmart: How Your Childhood Shaped Your Sexual Life & What to Do with It, by Aline P. Zoldbrod Ph.D.
Our childhood impacts every aspect of our adult lives; relationships with others, work-life, and of course, intimacy, are all connected to how we were raised. Factor in abuse, neglect, or other trauma, and it can be difficult to understand your responses now, especially when it comes to intimacy.
This award-winning book is here to help you find that understanding, whether you struggle with a sexless marriage or relationship, fear sex, or have anxiety about your intimate relationships.
5. Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, by Esther Perel
Desire and passion can be the hallmarks of a strong marriage, but when that desire turns outside the marriage bed, it can make any marriage take a turn for the worst.
The trick isn’t getting rid of desire—author and experienced therapist Esther Perel argues—it’s understanding how to bring it back into the relationship. Erotic intelligence, she says, is the key to find passion again. Drawing on case studies and years of experience, Mating In Captivity promises to help you lean into long-term intimacy and all the uncertainty, joy, and hopefulness it brings.
6. She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman, by Ian Kerner, Ph.D.
If your marital struggles stem from not entirely knowing what to do for your female partner, you’re not alone. This guide from Ian Kerner is practical and witty, offering advice as well as a new philosophy for men when considering oral sex in particular.
7. The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido: A Couple’s Guide, by Michele Weiner Davis
Marriage therapist Michelle Weiner Davis offers tried and true ways for couples to find a connection after seemingly mismatched libidos. Whether you’re the one craving attention or can never seem to have the energy, Davis’s book is here to help you find the spark again.
8. Rebel Love: Break the Rules, Destroy Toxic Habits, & Have the Best Sex of Your Life, by Dr. Chris Donaghue
Rebel Love was written for all sexualities and identities, making for a welcome environment to talk honestly about LGTBQ+ issues as they relate to sex and dating. Dr. Donaghue argues that traditional dating rules are toxic and encourages readers to break free of the standards that no longer serve them. This book also includes case studies and stories from others, making it a true community experience.
9. The Pride Guide: A Guide to Sexual and Social Health for LGBTQ Youth, by Jo Langford
Sex education can be limited at times, even more so for gay youth. The Pride Guide aims to fill that gap with a helpful, straightforward guide that empowers and educates youth on issues concerning their sexuality, from abstinence to being sexually active to understanding everything in between.
This book is great for parents, youth, and educators wanting to provide factual, relevant information on resources, community, and self-formation.
10. Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship, by Stephen Snyder, M.D.
The fear that quality sex can’t survive a long-term relationship is a common one. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tackle that fear. Dr. Snyder takes his thirty years as a sex therapist, as well as stories from hundreds of couples and individuals, and creates the guide that will keep your marriage, and your sex life, fun and interesting.
11. Sex Without Stress: A couple’s guide to overcoming disappointment, avoidance & pressure, by Jessa Zimmerman MA, LMHC, CST
Sex Without Stress is for the people banging their heads against the wall saying, “I thought sex was supposed to be easy! What is wrong with us? What is wrong with ME?” When sex becomes associated with frustration and disappointment it’s a matter of time before avoidance sets in and adds extra pressure to an already emotionally stressful circumstance.
Zimmerman says that by changing the way you frame and perceive intimacy and relationships, you can transform your sex life: “I wrote Sex Without Stress to bring hope and transformation to all of the couples who are in good relationships but are suffering in their sex lives and don’t see a way forward. It’s totally normal to struggle in your sex life, because at some point you are going to run into common obstacles like sexual dysfunction, lack of desire, or even just a busy life.”
12. The 5 Kinds of Intimacy: How to Keep Your Love Alive, by Beth Darling
Darling asks and answers four pressing questions for couples struggling with intimacy:
- What is intimacy?
- Where do we find it?
- How do we get it?
- How do we keep it?
The 5 Kinds of Intimacy says that while love is the magnet that draws people together, intimacy is the glue that keeps them bonded for the long haul. Intimacy can take a relationship that is drifting toward lifeless and stale and transform it into a passionate and fulfilling relationship with endless possibilities. Darling wants to help you take intentional action steps to build, strengthen, and deepen intimacy with your partner.
13. Satisfaction Guaranteed: How to Have the Sex You’ve Always Wanted, by Bat Sheva Marcus, LCSW, PhD
Dr. Marcus, the voice behind “Queen of the Vibrators” and “Orthodox Sex Guru,” is back with Satisfaction Guaranteed, her proven system to help women build a robust and healthy sex life. We’ve all fallen victim to the cultural messaging that sex should come easily and naturally, and when it doesn’t there is something wrong with you. Satisfaction Guaranteed helps you identify and analyze for yourself what factors are affecting your sex life so you can take intentional steps to heal your relationship with those aspects of sex.
If you are feeling hopeless and helpless in your sex life right now, Dr. Marcus has this to say: “Your sex life is complex, unique to you, and affected by psychological, medical, and emotional variables. If you think that a diminished sex drive is natural, pain is expected, and no orgasms is no problem—prepare to have your world rocked.’’
14. Sex Talks: The Five Conversations That Will Transform Your Love Life, by Vanessa Marin, LMFT
What sets Sex Talks apart from the rest is that it focuses on how to talk about sex and intimacy with your partner, which is a hard task for many people. For those wanting to build a better sex life, Vanessa and Xander Marin pose a thought-provoking question: “How are you supposed to have an extraordinary sex life if you can’t even discuss it openly with your partner?”
Sex Talks covers the five essential conversations every couple needs to have:
- Acknowledgement: “Sex is a thing, and we have it.”
- Connection: “What do we need to feel connected to each other?”
- Desire: “What do we each need to get turned on?”
- Pleasure: “What do we each need to feel good?”
- Exploration: “What should we try next?”
It provides you with the well rounded sex education you may not have received, plus tried-and-true approaches to create the sex life of your dreams.
15. So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex: Laying Bare and Learning to Repair Our Love Lives, by Ian Kerner, PhD, LMFT
Ian Kerner, renowned sex therapist and best-selling author, shares his unique and indispensable program that has helped thousands of couples achieve more intimacy and better sex.
So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex goes into detail about what our lives look like when we are able to be comfortable and vulnerable sexually, versus when we are not. When our sex scripts are working properly, we are able to truly let go, embrace arousal, and lose ourselves in pleasure. However, when our sex script is not running smoothly, we often end up running circles in our minds, ruminating over every single detail. You can be lying right next to your partner, and somehow still feel worlds apart. In these moments of silent desperation, our sex scripts can guide us through what is happening both between the sheets and beneath the surface.
When to See a Therapist
If you are struggling with your sexuality, or if you and your partner aren’t connection the way you’d like, consider finding a certified sex therapist to help you learn more about yourself and develop a more fulfilling sex life. If you’re not sure where to get started, an online directory can be a great place to find someone in your state.