One of my (non-kinky) pleasures when I have some time to myself is curling up with a good book. I've promised myself a bit of BDSM downtime over summer, focusing on getting some new skills, recharging my batteries and socialising rather than doing much active play or engaging in the dreaded "r" word. I'm going to devote some time to the other "r" word - reading.
Now, I know that books they are no substitute for hands-on experience, or actually going out and meeting people, but for those of us who like to digest things in our own time, or are a bit studious, or who just want really beautiful coffee table books to perve over whilst we think about who to hit next, you can't beat books. I appreciate that there is a wealth of stuff online, with many, many good websites, but I do like having something to hold in my hand or slip in my bag.
Finding good BDSM books is actually quite hard. Or rather, finding BDSM books that I think are good is hard. Possibly because I am picky about books and about kink. In order to actually get published you have to have some sort of public readership and we're still something of an underground community. This means that a lot of BDSM books tend to centre more around the vanilla-kink end of the market, with lots of titles for beginners, and ones that were really about "spicing up" an existent sex life. Not that there's a problem with that, but it's not what I'm looking for.
Books that go into more detail on the lifestyle include a lot of memoirs and fiction, which again can be interesting background but seem targetted for the kink-curious or voyeurs. I'm interested in them, but more just as a nice read, like any other novel. The type I really prefer are "How to" books, especially ones with lots of beautifully taken pictures and handy diagrams, all the better if they are of men being tied up, or hit, or exposed in some way, though the vast majority are of women. These generally fall into two camps - the physical doing of stuff and the more psychological / philosophical areas of engaging in D/s relationships. All books will cover both, but some go into more depth and some deal with the balance better than others. I read with a shudder one, otherwise quite good, book on Shibari that had a page on "how to be tied up" which I thought was a good idea, as people don't realise that there is some input involved. Sadly, alongside useful thoughts such as stretching and going to the loo first, it advised the bottom not to ever give any negative feedback to the top, ever and to remain smiley and happy throughout, regardless. Hardly a healthy dynamic.
I've liked a lot of the books published by Greenery Press, particularly the toybag guides and basically anything by Dossie Easton and Janet W Hardy. One of the first books I ever bought was their Topping and Bottoming books and they have been a fixture of my library ever since (in fact, I'm now on copy three of each of them as I keep lending them out and not getting them back! I should perhaps learn from that).
What struck me about those books was that they were very no-nonsense, and very non-stereotypical in their attitude to sex and BDSM. I get quite annoyed by "traditional" representations, particularly ones that don't seem to add anything to anyone's enjoyment of play and just ape heteronormative assumptions - only clad in latex. These books were different, and they made me understand that the important things were what you and your partner enjoyed doing, rather than whether you were following the instructions "correctly". I want more books like this please.