Let Barnes & Noble save your love life

When shopping for literature concerning sex and the dating scene, sometimes the books tend to pass it off as a gag. But if you’re going to be walking up to the counter with The Hookup Handbook: A Single Girl’s Guide to Living it Up, then you better grow at least a small set of cajones.

Sex help books, dating etiquette manuals, and even worst-case scenario survival guides for scary date situations are only a sampling of what’s available in your local Barnes and Noble. In the “Relationships” section, you can find books ranging from heart-felt guides to saving your marriage to, well, The Hookup Handbook. “Sexuality” generally offers sex position guides — in general the racier material.

Even the most mundane and minuscule bookstore has a few titles worth buying, or at least worth bargaining for at your local Goodwill. Here’s a guide to a few of the best.

The Cosmo Sutra, from the editors of *Cosmopolitan*

The Cosmo Sutra is a fun red book that actually comes pre-wrapped throughout the weeks preceding Valentine’s Day, in case you want to give it as a gift. The Cosmo Sutra is great for candle arrangements and the like, but there isn’t much in the way of excitement in the sexual positions department.

After all, that’s what sutras of any type should be about: exposing you to new ways of doing the nasty. And while some of what’s inside The Cosmo Sutra looks like a lot of fun (and some just plain funny), most of it is old news — the editors of Cosmo might have had better luck talking about another area of the carnal department: foreplay.
This isn’t just a girl thing. Sex is a careful balancing act that requires foreplay in different amounts: to create the right mood, the right feelings, and even the right length of interaction (no pun intended). Of course, checking out the pages of an actual Cosmo will surely give you tons of advice on foreplay techniques; maybe the editors just assumed its readers were already informed and ready for the nasty.

What would really be appreciated in a translation of the Kama Sutra would be some worthy advice on how each position will affect the performance and comfort of those involved. Not just the amount of flexibility, but (bomb drop) the likelihood that the guy is going to take longer or less time to orgasm, whether the position is suited to speedy sex or slow, or how much this position is likely to plain tire you out.

The Game by Neil Strauss

This book’s packaging does a lot to make it look like the Bible: a big black cover, shiny gold edges, and a red inside cover.

The dedication reads: “Dedicated to the thousands of people I talked to in bars, clubs, malls, airports, grocery stores, subways, and elevators over the last two years. If you are reading this, I want you to know that I wasn’t running game on you. I was being sincere. Really. You were different.”

The premise: Strauss finds an online society of men trading tips on how to pick up women. One of the gurus of this site is offering pick-up lessons. Intrigued, Strauss becomes one of the students in a workshop dedicated to getting some action. From there, Strauss goes on a wild ride — learning all the tricks of picking up chicks. The first girl that Strauss’ new mentor, Mystery, uses to demonstrate his ability to “number-close” (a term the characters use for getting a girl’s number) is Scott Baio’s girlfriend. Really.

The book kind of makes you feel slimy, but it’s wildly engaging, funny, and mystifying. Following along as Strauss goes from a student in Mystery’s workshop to Mystery’s right-hand man is great reading. The Game contains ideas for pick-up lines and tricks to keep a girl talking once you’ve made your opener. However, these tips are often buried in the book-length text — a little hard to pick out.

The most simple tip found in The Game is to bring a piece of lint, place it on a girl’s shirt, and then ask her, “Hey how long has that lint been there?” Still, there are also complicated routines, magic tricks, and other techniques, which — according to Mystery — are the key to getting yourself laid.

For those just looking for pick-up line tips: You will have to wade through quite a lot of text to get there. But that text is very, very interesting. This book might even be a good read for any girl who wants to know when a guy is running his game on her.

The quickie

Not every gag gift has to be totally worthless; some of the sex and dating handbooks can actually provide you with some good belly laughs as well as good information. Here’s a few quick picks.

Nerve's Guide to Sex Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen by Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey. By page three, this hilarious book offers pick-up lines for common occasions — “At a political rally: Wanna get high?” The Guide is not all fun and games, however; it’s also help for the clueless. For example, if you’re going to buy a girl a drink, buy one for her friends. Also, if you’ve taken three drinks from someone, it’s time to make your “platonic intentions” clear — if you have no interest in the cha-cha.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex by Jennifer Worick, Joshua Piven, and David Borgenicht. Most axe murderers are 20-to-30-year-old white males, and if you’re dating one you should consider being cautious. The book offers drawings in black and white (like a potential axe murderer boyfriend kicking a cat — a sure sign he's out to kill you), but it also has pieces of practical advice, like looking for small boxes of raisins or juice boxes at his place to spot a man who’s hiding his kids.

The Hookup Handbook by Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler. A lot of the advice in the book is pretty much worthless, but it does get pretty hilarious at points. For example: What to say to get rid of a hookup the next morning? “I have diarrhea.” “I have to pick up my husband at the airport in an hour. Wanna come with?” “Last one to the free clinic is a rotten egg!” Learning the many types of hookups — the Drink-Till-He's-Cute Hookup, the Himbo (male bimbo) Hookup — was certainly entertaining.