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40 Trashy Novels You Must Read Before You Die

First things first: the history of the novel is already tangled up with the notion of “trash.” Peruse the great 19th-century realist novels — particularly Jane Austen’s, say — and you’ll catch characters insulting each other’s reading habits. But there are a lot of reasons to read other than intellectual elevation. Relaxation is one; keeping up with what everyone else is reading is another. Here are 40 of the greatest trashy books written in the last hundred years that, if you’re not looking for perfect prose, will surely decrease muscle tension over a weekend, or on vacation. These books aren’t perfect, but each has some kind of hook — either unexpectedly good construction, entertainingly inventive salaciousness, or historical import in and of itself. Enjoy!

peyton-place

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

Grace Metalious’s 1956 classic of love, sex, and domestic violence in a tiny New England Hamlet was so scandalous that it was banned in Rhode Island. Best scene:

“Is it up, Rod?” she panted, undulating her body under his. “Is it up good and hard?”

“Oh, yes,” he whispered, almost unable to speak. “Oh, yes.”

Without another word, Betty jackknifed her knees, pushed Rodney away from her, clicked the lock on the door and was outside of the car.

“Now go shove it into Allison MacKenzie,” she screamed at him.

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