Books about polyamory: All 36 since 1984!
|Sixteen of 'em.|
I've put together a descriptive list of every book on polyamory since the movement took shape in the mid-1980s (a few years before the word was coined in 1990 and 1992). I ran the list of books by the people on the Poly Researchers discussion group and in the Poly Leadership Network, added a few suggestions, and have updated it since then. Here's the whole thing.
All 36 of them! I plan to keep this list updated forever. Last update: January 6, 2014.
The criteria are:
"Nonfiction books entirely or substantially about polyamory as it's understood by today's movement, published since 1984, in English, in a printed edition."
Too many to choose from? I've highlighted my top general-purpose recommendations with ● green bullets.
The titles link to my own reviews and roundups for ten of them, otherwise directly to Amazon or the publisher. The descriptions are mine except as quoted.
Interesting statistic: Of all the authors and co-authors, 29 are women, 9 are men, and 1 is genderqueer. That's a more than 3-to-1 female-to-male ratio.
In reverse date order:
● The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families, by Elisabeth Sheff (Rowman & Littlefield, Nov. 2013). This long-awaited book presents sociologist Elisabeth Sheff's conclusions and insights from her 15 years of studying poly people and households, and especially their children. While the subjects of her book sometimes show their flaws and awkwardnesses with word-for-word-transcript clarity, overall she finds the adults of her study to be highly capable and mature and their children to be at least as thriving and robust as the average, probably more so. Here's more (including how to get 20% off the high list price).
● The Jealousy Handbook: Exercises and insights for managing open relationships, by Kathy Labriola (Greenery Press, Sept. 2013). The poly movement has long outgrown its early utopian idea that good polys don't get jealous. Today the community universally teaches that jealousy is normal, and what matters is how everyone understands and handles it. The conventional wisdom is that breakthroughs can come from examining and analyzing it: sometimes for rooting up your own fears and insecurities to analyze under the bright light of day — and sometimes as a valuable early-warning signal that some real problem exists external to you, sensed by the gut before the conscious mind sees it. Kathy Labriola has professionally counselled hundreds of poly individuals and groups in the Bay Area for more than 20 years. Drawing on this long practice, she has compiled a big (8½ by 11 inch) open-relationship jealousy workbook. It presents 42 practical exercises, embedded in chapters on determining whether an open relationship is right for you, understanding your jealousy and its roots, determining its triggers, determining whether it may be rational for the situation at hand, and intervention strategies for managing it and addressing common external problems. The book includes chapters on best-practice communication skills for polyfolks and jealousy tips and techniques from other professionals with expertise in open relationships.
● Not Your Mother's Playground: A realistic guide to honest, happy, and healthy open relationships, by Samantha Fraser (Creative Junction, May 2013). Samantha Fraser is an outspoken poly activist in Toronto, organizer of Toronto's annual Playground conference, and keynote speaker at Canada's first PolyCon. She and her husband proudly represent the swinger/poly interface. This book presents her many insights on the practicalities of making open relationships work, drawn from and described by her abundant personal experience. (If you don't like small print, get the Kindle or ebook edition.)
● Polyamory and Pregnancy, by Jessica Burde (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, March 2013). Burde is the mother of three children born into polyamorous relationships, has lived in polyfamilies for much of the last 10 years, and has seen a great deal of the good and the bad. She discusses many considerations you may not have thought of, starting before conception and continuing through birth. Burde runs the thoughtful Polyamory on Purpose blog of practical information and advice. The book is the first in a series of Polyamory on Purpose Guides that she plans to publish about once a year. Future titles, she says, include Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous, The Poly Home and Raising Children in Polyamory.
● The Husband Swap, by Louisa Leontiades (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, September 2012). Louisa Leontiades — born in Cyprus, raised in England, and living in Sweden — is a passionate, prolific, articulate new writer on the poly internets. This is her novelistic memoir of the tumultous, devoted, but ultimately failed quad that launched her and her husband on their current poly trajectory. A review comments, "For my solo poly lifestyle, I find the story aching with couple- and poly-normativity, but really, this can be forgiven since this is a memoir and it's highly unlikely that anyone entering into polyamory for the first time wouldn't try it this way."
● Rewriting the Rules: An Integrative Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships, by Meg Barker (Routledge, September 2012). This is an insightful self-help guide to digging out unexamined social assumptions that govern your relationship life, looking at them directly, and deciding which to keep and which to remake. Barker has long been a poly activist as well as an academic and relationship therapist. The mono-or-poly choice is only one of seven relationship topics that she presents for readers to examine, but all of them are important for poly living. Review by Louisa Leontiades.
● The Art and Etiquette of Polyamory: A Hands-on Guide to Open Sexual Relationships, by Françoise Simpère (Skyhorse Publishing, February 2011). Simpère is a widely published and quoted open-relationship advocate in France. This is a translation of her Aimer Plusieurs Hommes (2003). Writes Franklin Veaux: "Describes the author's process of coming to her own polyamorous arrangement, and talks about the rules and ideas that keep her relationships healthy and happy. It's written from a very specific perspective (long-term couples who want lovers on the side), and as such describes only one particular kind of polyamory."
● Power Circuits: Polyamory in a Power Dynamic by Raven Kaldera (Alfred Press, December 2010). From the publisher's description: "Power Circuits is an alliance between two alternative lifestyles: polyamory... and power dynamics: relationships that choose to be consciously and deliberately unequal in power, such as dominant/submissive or master/slave.... Navigates the waters of effective polyamory and power exchanges, with many essays from the brave practitioners who swim there."
● Love in Abundance: A Counselor's Guide to Open Relationships, by Kathy Labriola (Greenery Press, October 2010). Labriola is a nurse and counselor in the San Francisco Bay Area who has professionally advised hundreds of poly families and groups and observed the poly scene for more than 20 years. She offers distilled practical advice from this long experience.
● What Does Polyamory Look Like? Polydiverse Patterns of Loving and Living in Modern Polyamorous Relationships, by Mim Chapman (iUniverse, August 2010). When people say "I'm poly," they may mean very different things. This is a lighthearted but serious guide to navigating among five major styles of polyamory widely practiced in the community today.
● Love Unlimited: The Joys and Challenges of Open Relationships, by Leonie Linssen and Stephan Wik (Findhorn Press, August 2010). A relationship coach in the Netherlands who specializes in multipartner counseling describes the commonest recurring patterns and problems among her clients, and means to their resolution. She devotes 12 chapters to 12 composite case histories, with very different people and situations. Review by Louisa Leontiades.
● Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners, by Deborah Anapol (Rowman & Littlefield, July 2010). One of the founding mothers of the modern polyamory movement in the 1980s and 1990s takes a careful, sociologist's look at the state of the movement she helped to create.
● Border Families, Border Sexualities in Schools, by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli (Rowman & Littlefield, June 2010). A health and social-development professor in Australia "explores the experiences of bisexual students, mixed sexual orientation families, and polyamorous families in schools."
● Understanding Non-Monogamies, edited by Meg Barker and Darren Langdridge (Routledge, 2010; in paperback 2013). An academic collection of 25 papers and essays on styles of open relationships in various cultural contexts, especially in parts of today's poly culture.
● Swinging in America: Love, Sex, and Marriage in the 21st Century, by Curtis R. Bergstrand and Jennifer Blevins Sinski (Praeger, November 2009). The first 40% of this book is a study of the swinger subculture and the people in it. The second 60% is a critique of monogamous ideology in Western society, and this, Bergstrand has told poly conferences, he considers to be the most important part of the book.
● Many Hearts, Many Loves, Many Possibilities: The Polyamory Relationship Workbook, by Christina Parker (Alfred Press, 2009). From the publisher's description: "This book provides a tool for everyone seeking to look beyond their fears, fantasies, and stereotypes and step into the reality of polyamory relationships.... A combination of information, insight, and detailed questionnaire, it is designed to help people get a clear understanding of who they are, what they want, and what they need in order to maintain a fulfilling relationship of any kind."
● Gaia and the New Politics of Love: Notes for a Poly Planet, by Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio (North Atlantic Books, September 2009). This ethereal, philosophical polemic for multiple love as an opening to saving the world spends much of its time diverted into embarrassing New Age HIV denialism.
● The Ethical Slut, Second Edition; A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures, by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy (Ten Speed Press, March 2009). Expanded by 30% and now aiming for a wider audience, this is a new edition of the 1997 word-of-mouth classic published by Greenery Press (for which Hardy used the pseudonym "Catherine A. Liszt"). It is still the most popular book on the networked or "free agent" model of poly — though it now includes an added chapter on opening an existing couple relationship. (A contrary opinion: Why I Hate The Ethical Slut.)
● Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, by Tristan Taormino (Cleis Press, May 2008). If The Ethical Slut is the bible of free-agent "single" poly, Opening Up has become the top choice for couples looking to open an existing committed relationship — of whatever sort. Tristan Taormino, a brassy star among America's sexerati, did exhaustive work interviewing more than 100 people and couples in a dizzying variety of open and poly arrangements successful and not. Learn from them.
● Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, by Jenny Block (Seal Press, May 2008). With a husband, daughter, and long-term girlfriend, Dallas writer Jenny Block fearlessly puts herself out as an exemplar of successful open marriage and bold Texas feminism.
● The Polyamory Handbook: A User's Guide, by Peter J. Benson (Author House, March 2008). A longtime poly-community stalwart and activist compiles a big, workmanlike guide to every Poly 101 and 201 issue you can think of.
● Open Fidelity: An A-Z Guide, by Anna Sharman (Purple Sofa Publications, September 2006). A small book (36 pages) from England. From the cover description: "A brief introduction to most of the important issues around monogamy and non-monogamy, honesty and fidelity. It covers all the plus points of honest open relationships and many of the potential problems, from jealousy and time management to telling your kids – in a simple alphabetical format, with cross-references for easy navigation and quotes from those with lived experience of Open Fidelity." (Available free online.)
● Polyamory Many Loves: The Poly-Tantric Lovestyle: A Personal Account, by Janet Kira Lessin (Author House, 2006). The controversial creator of the New Agey "World Polyamory Association" publishes many of her internet pieces in book form.
● Pagan Polyamory: Becoming a Tribe of Hearts, by Raven Kaldera (Llewellyn Publications, 2005). Publisher's description: "Relating polyamory to astrology and the elements (air, fire, water, earth, and spirit), the author addresses all aspects of the polyamorous life, including family life, sexual ethics, emotional issues, proper etiquette, relationship boundaries, and the pros of cons of this lifestyle. Kaldera discusses polyamory as a path of spiritual transformation and shares spells, rituals, and ceremonies." Pete Benson comments, "There is also plenty of good wisdom here about polyamory in general, so if Paganism is not your spiritual path, do not be turned off."
● Plural Loves: Designs For Bi And Poly Living, edited by Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio (The Haworth Press, January 2005). A collection of 18 substantial academic and general-audience essays that, according to the introduction, "point to the effervescence in current bisexuality and polyamory discourse and the benefits of having them resonate with each other."
● Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless and Hopeful, by Anthony Ravenscroft (Fenris Brothers/ Crossquarter Publishing Group, 2004). This book is idea-rich, opinionated, idiosyncratic, and resolutely hard-headed — bordering on cynical — but it needed an editor; it's wordy and overwritten. Contains food for thought if you can work past its annoyances. (The bibliography, with commentary, includes books important to the development of poly thought earlier than this present list, from James Ramey to Joan and Larry Constantine to Robert Rimmer to Wilhelm Reich to Judge Ben Lindsey to... Niccolo Machiavelli??)
● The Sex and Love Handbook: Polyamory! Bisexuality! Swingers! Spirituality! (and even) Monogamy! A Practical Optimistic Relationship Guide, By Kris A. Heinlein and Rozz M. Heinlein, no relations to science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein (Do Things Records and Publishing, 2004). I haven't seen this; others call it lightweight and carelessly edited. Publisher's description: "Explores the most sensual sexual organ: the human brain. Explore the emotions, philosophies, risks and rewards of reaching toward your next sexual level. Nothing is out of bounds except dishonesty and hypocrisy." Swinger oriented.
● Poly Communication Survival Kit: The Essential Tools for Building and Enhancing Relationships, by Robert McGarey (Human Potential Center, 2004, 2001, 1999). "The goal of this book: to provide in brief and usable form all the basic tools you need in order to communicate well, even in difficult circumstances." McGarey helped to spread learnable methods for excellent communication that the poly culture now widely holds as ideals. Currently available in a new printing (2013) and as an e-book. Says poly coach Dawn Davidson, "It's still good solid information."
● Spiritual Polyamory, by Mystic Life (iUniverse, 2003). A small collection of the author's essays and musings to "help you to open your mind and heart to a fresh approach to intimacy."
● Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships, by Wendy-O Matik (Defiant Times Press, 2002). An important early poly book among punk, anarchist, and radical street cultures, especially in the Bay Area, where Matic remains active today inspiring and guiding people in alternative relationships. Presents thoughtful guidelines for do-it-yourself relationship structures. Says Franklin Veaux: "Explores the realities of day-in, day-out nonmonogamy, particularly as a conscious political and social act."
● The New Intimacy: Open-Ended Marriage and Alternative Lifestyles, by Ronald Mazur (iUniverse, 2000). From the publisher's description: "Now is an opportune and urgent time to give voice to the intimacies of alternative lifestyles, including open marriage.... It is to non-traditionalists, to those ready for new life and love affirmations, that this book is offered with joy. The evolution of human consciousness prepares the way for the unfolding of our universal polyamorous potential. Let the pioneers be unafraid to move beyond the ancient limits of relationships to the new intimacy of responsible erotic freedom."
● The Lesbian Polyamory Reader: Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Casual Sex, edited by Marcia Munson and Judith Stelboum (The Haworth Press, 1999). From the publisher's description: "If your own lesbian relationship lies outside the traditional monogamous couple model, you're definitely not alone. You'll find successful models of relationship styles from cover to cover.... Calls upon a broad scope of writers, professional women and academics.... Focuses on the social implications of this love phenomenon, bringing it into a more inclusive circle of discussion for lesbians, educators, and students of sociology and sexology."
● Lesbian Polyfidelity: A Pleasure Guide For All Women Whose Hearts are Open to Multiple Sexualoves, or, How to Keep Nonmonogamy Safe, Sane, Honest and Laughing, You Rogue!, by Celeste West (Booklegger Publishing, 1996). Comments Sex Geek blogger Andrea Zanin: "Upbeat, quirky, explicitly feminist, and sprawling in scope, this one’s a mishmash of advice columns, conceptual musings, practical advice and personal insights. A bit essentialist but full of yummy ideas nonetheless."
● Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits: Secrets of Sustainable Intimate Relationships, by Deborah Anapol (IntiNet Resource Center, 1997; a revision and expansion of her original Love Without Limits: The Quest for Sustainable Intimate Relationships: Responsible Nonmonogamy, 1992). Deborah Anapol's book was the bible of the early modern poly movement and for some time was practically its only book. She takes a spiritual approach to love and sex that continues to resonate with some people and not others. Introduced seminal insights on jealousy and how to handle it.
● Breaking the Barriers to Desire: Polyamory, Polyfidelity and Non-Monogamy – New Approaches To Multiple Relationships, edited by Kevin Lano and Claire Parry (Five Leaves Publications [Nottingham, UK], 1995). From the introduction: "This book will aim to show that 'responsible non-monogamy' can be both a positive choice at a personal level and a radicalising current in society, providing a true alternative to the dependence and exclusion of traditional monogamy and the lack of responsibility and honesty in covert non-monogamy." Writes a reviewer: "There are personal stories, some chunky theoretical pieces, a history of non-monogamy, an article about the life of a non-monogamous woman in the early 1800s, and an exploration of Christian theological justifications for monogamy and polygyny... all in 137 pages."
● Loving More: The Polyfidelity Primer, 3rd edition, by Ryam Nearing (PEP Publishing, 1992, 1989, 1984). If there was one central instigator of the modern polyamory movement, Ryam Nearing would be it. Focusing especially on closed polyfidelity, she was the sparkplug who built Loving More magazine and its conferences, the movement's central nexus before the internet. Her early how-to manual The Polyfidelity Primer went through several editions and is now a hard-to-find collector's item.