It's surprising that in 2013, there are still some provocative novels you might not want to read in public. Sure, you shouldn't give a damn what anyone thinks of you, especially if you're getting lost in your favorite book on the train or in the park, but the truth of the matter is that there are many provocative novels, both new and old, that might inspire some strange looks or smirks if someone spies you reading them out in the open. The question is, would you really care?
1. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
On the surface, this picturesque book about a quaint New England town doesn't seem like one of the most provocative novels in the world – and by now it probably isn't, although I'm sure there are still demure Yankees and Southerners alike who gasp and flutter when they see it in the bookstore. It created quite a stir when it was first published, however, and for many decades after, because the small town skeletons that take place within – incest and rape among them – were incredibly taboo for the time.
2. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
Even people who've never read this series know exactly what it's about. I've never read it, and probably won't, but I've heard all kinds of things about all those racy, erotic scenes. There are lots of reasons you might not want to read any of the three in public, not in the least because you could get a little flushed during the most descriptive scenes.
3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I think Lolita is a beautiful, intriguing book, but it sparked heated debates for decades as well. Again, even people who haven't read it know what it's about, which is why it's such a provocative novel. A dirty old man pretty much grooms a nymphet, after all – yet the language is beautiful, and somehow you end up feeling just a little pity for old Humbert Humbert.
4. Lady Chatterly's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence is one of my favorite writers, but many of his books got a lot of flack. Women in Love is considered rather risque too, but nothing is quite so outrageous as Lady Chatterly's Lover. By today's standards it's pretty tame, and by any standards it's beautiful, but it still might earn you an arched eyebrow or two.
5. Wifey by Judy Blume
This novel is more than just provocative, it has the power to get downright raunchy. I have a confession to make: I found this at a very precocious age on a bookshelf at a friend's house. I loved Judy Blume so I immediately scooped it up and opened it to the middle. Big mistake. I was horrified! I thought my friend's parents were reading porn! Once I got a little older, however, I read it through and discovered it was no worse, really, than Summer Sisters – but people who have read it and heard about it will definitely eye you up for reading it in public.
6. Juliette by Marquis De Sade
Doesn't the author tell you everything you need to know? The Marquis owns E. L. James, hands down. His name on the cover alone will have people speculating about you – but that could be a good thing. Besides, the book itself is arguably worth it.
7. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
I love this book! Simply because of some of the frank choices made by the characters – affairs, drugs, prostitution, homosexuality – it, too, caused an uproar. Of course, that only made more people want to read it. It's probable that only folks of a certain age will give you disapproving looks, but risk it. These dolls and their dolls are worth it.
Some of these really shouldn't qualify as provocative novels any longer, but they do, simply because of their reputations. The funny thing is that some of these – Lolita, Lady Chatterly's Lover, Juliette, even Peyton Place – are amazingly good books, and all of them are fun reads. What do you think, do you care what people think about your reading material?