It’s not every day that you encounter an author who would make the perfect addition to your own book club, but from the moment we read the first line of American Housewife (“Inspired by Beyoncé, I stallion-walk to the toaster”), we knew that we never wanted to discuss a book without Helen Ellis’s sharply funny observations ever again. Unfortunately for us, she is already taken by not one but two book clubs, so we asked her to share some of her favorite selections from her Classic Trashy Book Club instead. Read on to learn what, exactly, a classic trashy book is, and don’t forget to pick up a copy of American Housewife today!
My name is Helen Ellis, and I am a member of a Classic Trashy Book Club. Our members include three prosecutors, a therapist, an interior designer, a famous Instagram cat lady, a P.I.-turned-housewife, and a housewife-turned-writer: me. You may be wondering what a classic trashy book is. A classic trashy book is at least twenty years old. At one point it was banned or made into a TV miniseries. Or it spent a summer on the New York Times bestseller list. Or it’s classified as erotica, chick lit, or trash. And there’s sex in it! And the only thing better than reading about sex is talking at great length about the sex that you read. And actual sex, but that’s not part of book club. In Classic Trashy Book Club, we’ve read and talked about nearly thirty books. Here are my favorites:
Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz (1980)
Poor little rich girl loses her fortune, but then builds it back by (among many things) painting other poor little rich girls’ portraits. There’s a secret twin, an evil brother, a mistress with a heart of gold, a kind and gentle lover, and best of all, a dog that never dies.
The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins (1961)
A Native American rides into 1940s Hollywood and rides his horse off a cliff to become the best stuntman in show business. There’s a lesbian in silk pajamas, a megalomaniac film tycoon, a sexpot movie star, a hooker with a heart of gold, the invention of an aerodynamic bra, and somebody loses his penis.
Wifey by Judy Blume (1978)
A bored housewife figures out what she can do all day: have affairs. There’s a high school boyfriend, a masturbating motorcyclist with a heart of gold, diaphragms and tampons, tennis and pool parties, hypochondria and hors d’oeuvres, and our heroine finally “gets her dessert.”
Lace by Shirley Conran (1982)
Four grown-ass ladies gather in a hotel room and are asked, “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” There’s a Swiss boarding school, an Arabian prince with a heart of gold, a cross-dressing husband, and you think you know all there is to know about sex, and then somebody does something with a goldfish that you’ll never forget.
The World Is Full of Married Men by Jackie Collins (1968)
A neglected housewife swings into Swinging London. There’s a younger man, an older man, a model who’ll sleep with anyone to get to the top, a sadomasochist secretary with a heart of gold, orgies, fat camp, fashion shoots, Sinatra, and our heroine gets a do-over at happily-ever-after.