11 Books for Getting Started with Polyamory and Non-Monogamy

Non-monoga-what-now? Search polyamory and you’ll see the term partnered with words like “sexual revolution” and “on the rise” in several news pieces on the subject. Surely, there’s more to non-monogamy than sex, or the rebellion of joining a fad? What could it take to make being open/ polyamorous/ non-monogamous work?

Eleven books and the internets idea of a “sexual revolution” bookshelf later, I present to you a list of some major titles relevant to queer women (although let me be real… most of the books out there are written by white women) and some of the unique content they bring to the table, in alphabetical order:

Eight things I wish I’d known about polyamory before I tried it and frakked it up by Cunning MixEight Things I Wish I’d Known About Polyamory Before I Tried It and Frakked It Up by Cunning Minx

A great starting point and the first thing I ever read when I was trying to figure out this polyamorous thing. Minx’s book is a quick thin read that can act as a go-to resource for some of the more important things you might come across in a couple-y polyamorous relationships. Learn practical skills like creating your own user manual and owning your own shit.

The Ethical Slut by Janet Hardy and Dossie EastonThe Ethical Slut by Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton

Often quoted as the bible of sexuality and love without borders, The Ethical Slut brought new language to polyamory back in 1997. Now on it’s third updated edition, you’ll find some updates including interviews with polyamorous millennials who lack the prejudices their elders encountered, tools for conflict resolution and new sidebars on topics such as asexuality, sex workers, LGBTQ terminology.

Girl Sex 101 by Allison MoonGirl Sex 101 by Allison Moon

Ever wanna know how to flirt, “hand sex” and read a lube label in one book? Moon has you covered. Okay, okay, whilst this isn’t about polyamory or non-monogamy specifically, Girl Sex 101 dishes out good framework for discussions with partners around intimacy whilst being funny and beautifully illustrated by KD Diamond.

Linked by DaemonumXLinked by DaemonumX

22 pages covering rules and boundaries, codependency, hierarchies and collateral damage. DaemonumX is one of the only writers to include a little something about consensual power dynamics, although brief, it acts as an intro to a bigger conversation/zine. What I did like about Linked was the section on desirability and privilege in relationships, especially in relation to hierarchal polyamory and the final section on red flags; gotta love ’em.

Love’s Not Color Blind by Kevin A PattersonLove’s Not Color Blind by Kevin A Patterson

For those navigating intersectional polyamorous relationships, Love’s Not Color Blind offers a unique perspective on how people of colour navigate polyamorous spaces and the ways microaggressions, tokenism and fetishism play out within these communities and society in general. Patterson (a cis, black, hetero man who addresses that from the very beginning) includes  stories about racism and offers solutions for white folks and people of colour.

Love Without Emergency by Clementine MorriganLove Without Emergency by Clementine Morrigan

Morrigan’s work focuses on trauma and attachment, from their own experiences. Although the zine offers less advice and more words of solidarity and support, Love Without Emergency speaks volumes within its 80 pocket-sized pages, especially for folks who have experiences of childhood abuse and trauma, celebrating the hard work survivors put into love.

Opening Up by Tristan TaorminoOpening Up by Tristan Taormino

Taormino’s swift wit draws on real life interviews with over a hundred people looking at pros and cons for a range of relationship styles including partnered non-monogamy and solo polyamory. Opening up offers tips on navigating jealousy, negotiating boundaries, building community, parenting as well as the idea that relationships are valid without sex being part of what makes those relationships; changing the way you think about intimacy.

Redefining Our Relationships by Wendy-0 MatikRedefining Our Relationships by Wendy-0 Matik

Although the bite-sized Redefining Our Relationships doesn’t get to the nitty gritty of polyamory – at just under 100 pages, it does a great job at taking sex out of the equation and focusing on what it means to have multiple intimate relationships at a time. Matik includes first hand experiences of open relationships and an insightful chapter on how to navigate polyamory if you have children.

Rewriting the Rules by Meg-John BarkerRewriting the Rules by Meg-John Barker

How can we feel better about ourselves and the people we care about? Rewriting the Rules is one of the more heavy academic books on the list, citing Sara Ahmed, bell hooks and Audre Lorde in relation to self care and including illustrations, links and references for you to do your own research. There are some handy hints throughout, suggesting you “reflect on this” and “”try it out,” which break down Barker’s 300+ pages and some explorative sections on gender binary.

Stories From the Polycule by Elisabeth SheffStories From the Polycule by Elisabeth Sheff

Sheff’s collection of stories offer a wide perspective of polyamorous families, including the children involved in them, without attempting to sugar coat some of the challenges that come with that. Once you’re non-monogamous and you’ve read all the “how to” books, there isn’t really anywhere else to go from there. Stories from the Polycule offers some insight into what could be possible.

What Love Is: And What It Could Be by Carrie JenkinsWhat Love Is: And What It Could Be by Carrie Jenkins

Love can be a romanticized social construct and/or a manifestation we feel when our hand sweat and hearts race. Drawing on her own experiences with polyamory, Jenkins lays out all of this complexity and breaks down all of its components, then invites us to decide for ourselves what love is and how we want to love, away from what society tells us.

Bailey is a non-binary UK-based dabbler in activism, media and policy change. Love languages include quality time, physical touch, rollercoasters, karaoke and pineapple on pizza. They are often found doing too many things at once and avoiding the indecisive traits listed in their birth chart.

Bailey has written 11 articles for us.

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