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Polyamory books guide: The best books on non-monogamy

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Sep 19, 2023

Polyamory books guide: The best books on non-monogamy

Whether you’re a smooth-talking poly veteran or just getting started, it can be helpful, inspiring, and just plain fun to dive into the best polyamory books where polyamorous relationships are front and center. 

In the vast array of polyamory literature that exists, these books range from informative and practical, to ethics- and emotions-oriented, to queer fantasy fiction. 

Books on polyamory are friendly and funny, intentional and anecdotal, bold and authentic, and generally well worth reading. Personally, I would love to see even more (constructive and natural) poly representation in all kinds of media, but there are at least a few gems that get us off to a good start. 

Let’s take a look at some of the best books for polyamory to fill out your inclusive queer library and point you in the direction of living your best polyamorous life.

Wrapping our heads around the polyamorous lifestyle

Is polyamory healthy for a relationship? Three lesbian polyamorous lovers say yes!

Source: GO Magazine

The prospect of poly relating, or ethical non-monogamy, can be intimidating – I get it. There was a time when I was completely torn between the feelings that I was naturally oriented to share intimacy with several people… and the shock of, first, accepting and, then, navigating that. 

Polyamory certainly can be, well, a lot, for many reasons (and we all have our own), but it can also be a liberating experience and expression of the way you uniquely love others. It can be rewarding and empowering, and help you become a badass in communicating needs and setting boundaries, among other gifts. 

Of course, it is a process, but luckily, there are many brilliant people who know that and have already worked to make your journey smoother. There’s no substitute for exploring your poly protocol in action… but the plethora of fantastic polyamory books out there definitely offer inspiration and encouragement! 

So let me be another voice to encourage you: take it! Of course, it’s important to also grow (if you want to) through practice as much as theory, but books – whether autobiographical, fictional, or purely educational – can be a really great comfort and guide as you discover more about your polyamorous self.

From my experiences, it was powerful to read the stories of others and to see my latent polyamorous feelings represented in tv shows, movies, and especially books during my own poly coming-out period. I was glad for the more practical information out there, but also to be exposed to a more flexible approach to intimacy and romance. 

See for yourself. May the following books offer you comfort and a sense of familiarity for your beautiful, queer, poly self 🙂

The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

One of the best and most comprehensive books on non-monogamy, The Ethical Slut


The Ethical Slut is the OG book on polyamorous romance and relationships for individuals. It’s a must-have in your poly library because it’s a comprehensive (and hilariously real) guide dispelling the myths and highlighting the skills that are essential to embarking on a “solo poly” journey (though not only). 

At its core, this book focuses on self-responsibility – refining your ability to set boundaries and use clear communication to build a respectful constellation of connections that serves you (as your own primary partner) and your lovers. Other than “communicate” and “do no harm” (subjectively defined, which is why communication is needed), there aren’t any real “rules” to polyamory – and that’s what this book explores.

Another draw: with The Ethical Slut, you’re in really good hands – the authors are experienced and well-rounded experts in the world of sexuality and intimacy, and are generally two of my favorites. (Pro tip: for the kinky readers among you, I highly recommend The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book, two more essentials by this winning pair.) 

Check it out – it’s really well written and it’s a perfect starting point for living freely and lovingly as an ethical slut 😉

Polysecure by Jessica Fern

Polysecure, a book on non-monogamy exploring the influence of trauma and emotions on our ways of relating to others

Source: Amazon

Is polyamory healthy for a relationship? Is polyamory healthy for my relationship? As you engage with polyamory in your own life, you may find you’re facing the seemingly impossible and diving into some big fears. 

There are many reasons us poly folks feel afraid, but one of the biggest centers around our attachments. What if I’m jealous? How can I not be jealous? How can I feel drawn to multiple people at once but not feel capable of letting them find other lovers as well? What if I don’t get what I need? 

Polysecure is a brilliant book addressing exactly these questions and any fears around attachment you may possibly ever feel. It’s like your own private therapy session (literally, because it’s written by a polyamorous psychotherapist), exploring how our emotional experiences and trauma influence the way we connect with others. 

It is also accompanied by a workbook and a strategic practicality section for recalibrating your attachments to support, rather than suppress, your relationships.

Opening Up by Tristan Taormino

Opening Up by Tristan Taormino among books on non-monogamous relationships

Source: Amazon

Where we may call The Ethical Slut the bible of single or solo poly, Opening Up is a go-to for couples, well, opening up their relationship to all the forms of ethical non-monogamy and polyamory that it may take.

This book is a wonderful resource because it gathers together the insights of over 100 people the author interviewed to write it, who, as you might expect, all share very different perspectives. Taormino’s style is down-to-earth, attentive, and intentional as she helps us navigate the lessons of this impressive variety of experiences. 

Predictably, some of the relationships worked and some didn’t, but the diversity of the content shows (so so essentially) that there are advantages and challenges to intimacy no matter how you approach it.

The Lilith’s Brood trilogy by Octavia Butler

The Lilith’s Brood trilogy is a great example of some good polyamory fiction books, featuring a polyamorous alien race

Source: Books2Door

Switching gears, let’s peek into some sci-fi. Note that, in general, it’s difficult to find mainstream polyam characters in many books or literature, and those that do exist tend to be in older science fiction or fantasy works. Nothing wrong with that, but just so you know that current poly representation is typically quite niche in these areas.  

Now: you may recognize Octavia Butler as being a big voice discussing queer themes in the 80s, pushing boundaries and expectations of “normal” and “acceptable.” All of her work is wonderful as classic sci-fi, but the Lilith’s Brood trilogy (formerly, the Xenogenesis series) explicitly, overtly, and unashamedly plays with polyamorous relationship structures.

This series is a bit dense, but the quick summary is that it follows the development of an alien race’s takeover of and integration with humans on Earth in an effort to preserve them. These aliens, the Oankali, are very polyamorous, very queer, and seek to experience explicit difference to stay diverse. 

This series won’t be for everyone (trigger warning for ambiguously rapey situations in parts), and homosexuality is unfortunately not as prominent as you’d think it might be with O. E. Butler, but you are definitely guaranteed an eye-opening portrayal of truly expansive non-monogamy.

The Anxious Person’s Guide to Non-Monogamy by Lola Phoenix

Among the best books for polyamory is The Anxious Person’s Guide to Non-Monogamy by Lola Phoenix

Source: Thalia

I love these non-fiction books on polyamory that keep things real and don’t sugarcoat us as being perfectly unfeeling and unstressed (what kind of sterile being would you want to be like that anyways?). Whether you have chronic anxiety as a neurodivergent person like me, or simply know you get nervous in certain situations, things can and do sometimes get a little messy and awkward inside! 

If that sounds like you, I’ve got just the book. The Anxious Person’s Guide to Non-Monogamy is a step-by-step companion to the emotional development and exploration of ethical non-monogamy. It’s empathetic, detailed, and relevant whether you’ve been polyamorous for years or only just getting started. 

This gem comes with practicalities about engaging with your anxieties, scheduling your time with partners, navigating jealousy, and many other (sometimes difficult) but important logistics so that you’ll feel less stuck along your way.

The Polyamory Breakup Book by Kathy Labriola

The best books for getting started with polyamory and non-monogamy include the Polyamory Breakup Book by Kathy Labriola for navigating breakups

Source: Amazon

Not every relationship comes with a happy ending. Polyamorous or mono, homo or hetero, complete and utter relationship and/or sexual anarchist, every match isn’t always a good one and that’s totally okay. Given that truth, breakups do happen, inevitably, and instead of walking around on eggshells trying to avoid them, I think it’s a much more sensible course of action to dive right into talking about them. 

The Polyamory Breakup Book by Kathy Labriola is the quintessential poly response to this breakup conversation, sharing wisdom from the polyamorous community on how to avoid breakups where appropriate and how to keep the peace if you don’t, can’t, or won’t. (Plus, there’s a foreword by our favorite ethical slut, Dossie Easton.)

Polyamorous breakups are likely to impact all poly parties – and their networks – differently than with monogamous relationships, so Labriola uses this space to highlight everything unique you should consider when you find yourself in the middle of one.

Lesbian Polyfidelity by Celeste West

Another of the best books for getting started with sapphic polyamory and non-monogamy is Lesbian Polyfidelity by Celeste West

Source: AbeBooks

When I found it, I knew I had to include this for all you wlw and/or lesbian polyamorists out there. 

This book’s full title is (are you ready for this?) 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!, and is promised to be as “woo-woo” and crunchy as the name suggests. 

Lesbian Polyfidelity is primarily oriented towards beginners and prospective poly lezzies and is a bohemian, feminist mishmash of insights and writing formats. It keeps things casual and lively, and makes a point of earning your laughs. 

I haven’t read it yet myself, but some reviews say that, despite its overall outlandish nature, some of its thoughts are a bit “traditional” (it was written in 1995), so bear that in mind. At the very least, the cover art is the stuff of legends.

The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin as an example of polyamorous fiction books


A serious fantasy series that comes highly recommended and has won two Hugo Awards, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy features a polyamorous relationship structure that one Reddit user described as “somewhere between a kitchen-table V and a triad.” There are also other gay and trans characters that make it a cute queer mix.

Broken Earth is about one woman, Essun, who is searching for her daughter in the landscape of the Stillness, a world of catastrophe and destruction. Along the way, she must hide her powers and contend with the traumas of her past as she connects with others.

The series as a whole isn’t a happy one, folks, but the polyamorous representation is consistently applauded as being natural, thoughtful, and relatively healthy considering the core challenges the characters within it are otherwise influenced by. 

(Also check out Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy, starting with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which explores a poly relationship between gods who bring in another human, but not only.)

There are a lot of polyamory books out there, so if none of these suggestions feel quite right, you can always keep exploring (start with this list of extremely thoughtful, overtly polyamourous fiction suggestions). 

Also, and I can’t emphasize it enough, there really is no substitute for simply trying things out for yourself in real-time if certain relationship structures or intimacy situations sound appropriate. See what actually works for you and what doesn’t. 

Might I recommend you pop onto HER and start chatting? Your new polyamorous lover could be on there waiting, right as we speak. 

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Jillian Gogel is a writer and editor living her queer futchy dream life in Berlin. When not writing for clients, she is sharing her poetry and building intimate, creative, queer-celebrating community on her Joy Journeys Substack publication (@jillianjoy). She cares about dogs, yoga, sexual liberation, and holding space for exploring self-intimacy in all ways.

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