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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

If a dictionary, even one for lovers, is not your fancy on this Valentine's Day, we have some recommendations for you.

For our series Three Books, writer Pat Dunnigan suggests three racy reads.

PAT DUNNIGAN: Lately, it seems as if my nightstand will collapse under the weight of all the bad news.

But enough is enough. Aren't we all in the mood to slip into something a little more comfortable? Here are three good reasons.

There is meticulous historical research and a graduate degree's worth of French, Latin and Greek poetry to thank for the fact that Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles is shelved with the literature and not with the bodice rippers.

Dunnett's 16th-century mercenary hero Francis Crawford of Lymond is, for anyone reading with a pulse, lust on horseback. Built like a god with an intellect to match, Crawford moves across Europe, navigating intrigues with equal parts charm and swordsmanship. Next to this guy, James Bond is the 40-year-old virgin.

But it's not all lutes and sonnets, is it?

Some of it, let's face it, is a complex mix of neurological impulses, circulatory traffic patterns and creatively aligned nerve endings. But we don't want to give the ending away.

"Bonk," Mary Roach's painstakingly researched survey of the curious coupling of science and, well, coupling, leaves little to the imagination.

Roach both observes and offers herself up to the interests of passion under the microscope. Making your way through will pay off in a mother lode of conversation starters.

There is, finally, Nicholson Baker's unapologetically pornographic novel of sexual obsession, "The Fermata."

Middle-age office temp Arnold Strine has neither poetry nor lute playing with which to seduce the women for whom he pines. He doesn't need it, thanks to an elaborately honed ability to freeze the world in midstep and wander around at his leisure learning their secrets.

This is not a book I recommend without some misgiving, but Baker's subversive humor and mastery of language is worth every cringe. It's like finding a Penthouse centerfold inside a Faberge egg. You'd be crazy not to look.

NORRIS: That's writer Pat Dunnigan, author of the blog suburbankamikaze.com, and you can discuss those three racy reads and books of all sorts with other NPR listeners on Facebook. Search for NPR Books and then click on like.

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