Once considered a fringe curiosity of modern sexuality, polyamory has been swiftly entering the mainstream over the past several years.
More people than ever are looking to maintain healthy, consensual relationships with more than one person.
The world of polyamory is rich, complex, and different for everyone. The books on this page are a fantastic starting point for those looking to deepen their understanding of the topic and start living the life they want.
The best books on polyamory
1. More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert
This accessible, entertaining read started as a polyamory website in the late 90s. Its contents were later refined and expanded into the book linked here. Written from the perspective of a polyamorous couple, More Than Two is a spectacular deep-dive into the idiosyncrasies of non-monogamous relationships.
You’ll learn the different forms of polyamory that a relationship can take and explore the fundamentals of keeping your relationship both ethical and sustainable. It starts by laying the foundations of mutual consent and communication and then builds its arguments into more radical territories.
This one gets a huge recommendation from the majority of readers.
- Full of humour and void of judgement
- Written by a polyamorous couple (straight from the horse’s mouth!)
- An easy read
- Some more experienced readers may find the conversational tone a little condescending
2. The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton
This groundbreaking guide takes many of the myths surrounding ‘non-traditional’ relationships and tackles them head-on. Old-school insults and shaming tactics are subverted and even celebrated.
This is a very human exploration of love, sexuality, and relationships; the emotions and potential pitfalls are discussed with bravery and humour.
Much of this book will be instantly recognisable and valuable to those already experienced in polyamory. In particular, however, this is a great read for people who claim that they ‘don’t get’ non-monogamy as a lifestyle. You should leave with a much better understanding of the subject.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or brand new to the scene, this one is worth a look.
- Dispels many of polyamory’s most harmful myths
- Very accessible and captivating
- Full of genuinely useful advice
- Sometimes treats sex as a relationship panacea
3. Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
It can be easy to think of polyamory as some modern, new-fangled approach to living with other people. Sex at Dawn is a welcome reminder that non-monogamy is anything but new. This provocative piece of writing challenges the bedrock of our conventional understandings of sex, family, and relationships in general.
The ubiquity and hegemony of monogamous relationships are dismantled, reframed, and recontextualised. The reader is taken on a journey through the origins of modern relationships and is presented with a picture of the human being that is lustful, social, and less ‘faithful’ than many of us assume.
If you’re convinced that the current science supports monogamy as the status quo, I strongly recommend giving this book a read.
- Written with flair and good humour
- Charmingly provocative
- Does a great job of dismantling modern fallacies surrounding monogamy
- It makes some very bold claims that aren’t always supported by tangible evidence
- Is heteronormative in its treatment of relationships
4. Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino
Starting an open relationship can be a daunting prospect to the inexperienced. Broaching the subject with a partner can be equally stressful. Books like Opening Up can be a powerful tool that takes its reader one step closer to the lifestyle they’re looking for. The focus is on not only building relationships that are fulfilling, but also on laying foundations that mean they’re sustainable too.
If you’ve ever been sceptical that a polyamorous/ open relationship can last, this book is worth picking up. Many of the common roadblocks and pitfalls associated with non-monogamous relationships are addressed with genuinely insightful advice.
One element of this book that really stands out is its treatment of sexual relationships. It can be easy to consider polyamory as something that is predominately carnal and focused on sexual gratification alone. Opening Up reminds the reader that open relationships can be about so much more. The heart is just as important for many polyamorous groups.
- Full of genuinely useful advice
- Written without judgment or prescriptive language
- Almost comprehensive in scope
- One area the book falls short is on discussions of asexuality
5. Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Non-Monogamy by Jessica Fern
Attachment theory has provided a rich field of discussion for monogamous relationships for quite some time now. With Polysecure, psychotherapist Jessica Fern expands the conversation to include polyamorous and non-monogamous approaches to love.
The primary focus here is on how our past emotional encounters can shape the type of relationships we seek moving forward. Understanding this mechanism of attachment can provide valuable context when exploring polyamory and all it entails.
This is a spectacularly sharp, cohesive, and engaging read that offers an in-depth guide to the emotional mind in all kinds of relationships. Its discussion and language mean that not only is it valuable for those in open relationships, but it’s just as worth reading for anyone who wants to improve the relationships in their life.
This goes for friendships and relatives too!
- Tears attachment theory away from the clutches of monogamy
- An insightful, comprehensive read
- Full of helpful questions and invitations to reflect on your own situation
- The book cites the work of Ken Wilber, a somewhat contentious figure in some circles
I hope you’ve found the recommendations on this page helpful. If you leave this review with one thought in your mind, it should be that relationships are different for everyone. There is no universal framework or dogmatic set of rules that will ever fit you perfectly.
Read and enjoy the books here for what they are – starting points. You’ll only learn what truly works for you through real-world experience!