It's that time of year again. Whether you're married, in a relationship, dating around, or ready to give up on romance completely, there's a book targeted at you and your love life (or lack thereof). Here's the lowdown on this year's crop of Valentine's Day books and whether they're worth your time.
Get the Party Started, by Frances Hill (Chronicle, $14.95). Fifty childhood games turned naughty for adventurous couples. Edge-of-porn activities require that you feel very comfortable with your mate; for the couple-plus-one games, you should feel extremely comfortable with your friends. I say grab a whole lot of booze, and make sure no photos get uploaded to the Web if you plan to run for office one day.
It's Not Me, It's You: The Ultimate Breakup Book, by Anna Jane Grossman and Flint Wainess (Da Capo, $18). Sample wisdom: "You're sucking at my will to live." We like the hard-heartedness of it, but don't be the wimp who uses these lines in an e-mail rather than face-to-face.
"I Owe You, Valentine" Coupon Book, by Lenore Skenazy and Carol Boswell (Fireside, $6.95). Contains 52 rhyming tips, such as: "Your iPod or mine? I'll listen to yours, you'll listen to mine, and then our favorites we'll combine." It's bound to drive both parties nuts eventually. We're not in fourth grade anymore.
Sex for Busy People, by Emily Dubberley (Fireside, $9.95). Got five minutes? This book claims you can release a little sexual tension in "less time than it takes for him to brush his teeth." It offers various strategies for on-the-go quickies. Fine for guys, but women may feel shorted.
The Encyclopedia of Exes, edited by Meredith Broussard (Three Rivers, $12). Get into a guy's head—no joke—with 26 disaster stories by contemporary male writers. Joshua Braff writes about a Lusty Lady dancer he fell for: "Maybe if she sees that I'm there and I don't care that she's nude and shimmying and probing herself for the masses . . . all is good." And you thought you had a messed-up relationship. Pick this up for a reality check.
Lovers' Yoga, by Darrin Zeer (Chronicle, $9.95). Honestly, how many guys will actually risk their masculinity for the "Happy Hug" and "Trusting Triangle" positions? Only for women who've already snagged a metrosexual or emo prince.
How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do, by Candida Royalle (Fireside, $14). The adult-film actress–turned–sex educator teaches women bedroom prowess by having them "direct" their own real-life porn. "The little black dress is not meant to expose every nook and cranny of your body; it's supposed to tease and entice with what it suggests." She was a porn star—listen to her.
Confessions: Admissions of Sexual Guilt, edited by Sage Vivant and M. Christian (Thunder's Mouth, $15.95). This book (pictured on previous page) digs into the post-adultery conscience with a collection of fiction stories. Use this line in foreplay: "Bill, honey, my gluteus maximus is aching. Work a little magic on me, would you?" If fictionalizing painful love stories helps you get out of a bad experience, this one could be key.
The World's Best Sex Writing 2005, edited by Mitzi Szereto (Thunder's Mouth, $15.95). Blunt, graphic, no-holds-barred. Not for the sexually faint of heart. One writer discovers spirituality with sex: " . . . [W]ith that first thrust, he broke my denial of God." It's like all Samantha's escapades collected in one volume.
Homewrecker: An Adultery Reader, by Daphne Gottlieb (Soft Skull, $13). If you're a hopeless romantic living in an infidelity-free world, don't read this. Full of juicy real-life scenarios you'll enjoy— until one happens to you. Definitely an anti–Valentine's Day book.
Kiss and Tell: A Trivial Guide to Smooching, by Kevin Dwyer (Quirk Books, $14.95). A fun read with lots of facts you'd probably never look up on your own. There's actually a Kissing School in Seattle where you can attend a five-hour lip-locking class with (or without) your partner, "kissing only each other unless [you] request otherwise; single people switch partners throughout the class." Friday night's in the bag!
My Boyfriend's Back: 50 True Stories of Reconnecting With a Long-Lost Love, by Donna Hanover (Plume, $15). They cleaned up, got a job, and suddenly they're marriage material. Maybe Hollywood isn't so off with A Lot Like Love. What to say when you reconnect: "You are my lost treasure found, never to be lost again." Cheese, cheese, cheese. But, hey, they're true stories! So maybe there's hope, after all.