83 books like Drag Queens and Beauty Queens

By Laurie Greene,

Here are 83 books that Drag Queens and Beauty Queens fans have personally recommended if you like Drag Queens and Beauty Queens. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty Pageants and National Identity

Margot Mifflin Author Of Looking for Miss America: A Pageant's 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood

From my list on how the Miss America pageant was born.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about pop culture and women’s history, often as it relates to the body and beauty. I’m intrigued by the ways women claim unconventional means of expression for their own beautification (such as tattooing) and how they harness beauty in the service of social and economic mobility (as in pageant culture). These books offer insight into the varied ways pageantry, from campus pageants to the Miss America stage, inform American identity and ratify the historian Rosalyn Baxandall’s belief that “every day in a woman’s life is a walking Miss America contest.”

Margot's book list on how the Miss America pageant was born

Margot Mifflin Why did Margot love this book?

Starting from the premise that beauty pageants are often dismissed as “frivolous, meaningless, or carnivalesque and therefore unworthy of serious sustained intellectual scrutiny,” (4) Banet-Weiser shows how class and race, patriotism, and community values are embodied on the pageant stage. Crucially, she proves that the Miss America pageant doesn’t mean “one thing to one audience” and explains how what may seem like an expression of individual ambition is more frequently a reflection of national ideals—and biases.  

By Sarah Banet-Weiser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Most Beautiful Girl in the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sarah Banet-Weiser complicates the standard feminist take on beauty pageants in this intriguing look at a hotly contested but enduringly popular American ritual. She focuses on the Miss America pageant in particular, considering its claim to be an accurate representation of the diversity of contemporary American women. Exploring the cultural constructions and legitimations that go on during the long process of the pageant, Banet-Weiser depicts the beauty pageant stage as a place where concerns about national identity, cultural hopes and desires, and anxieties about race and gender are crystallized and condensed. The beauty pageant, she convincingly demonstrates, is a profoundly…


Book cover of Being Miss America: Behind the Rhinestone Curtain

Margot Mifflin Author Of Looking for Miss America: A Pageant's 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood

From my list on how the Miss America pageant was born.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about pop culture and women’s history, often as it relates to the body and beauty. I’m intrigued by the ways women claim unconventional means of expression for their own beautification (such as tattooing) and how they harness beauty in the service of social and economic mobility (as in pageant culture). These books offer insight into the varied ways pageantry, from campus pageants to the Miss America stage, inform American identity and ratify the historian Rosalyn Baxandall’s belief that “every day in a woman’s life is a walking Miss America contest.”

Margot's book list on how the Miss America pageant was born

Margot Mifflin Why did Margot love this book?

Miss America memoirs tend to be a frothy, humble-braggy business, but Kate Shindle’s well-researched, searingly honest exposé Being Miss America: Behind the Rhinestone Curtain is complex and entertaining. It includes a lively narrative history of the pageant, a warts-and-all account of her own (successful) bid for the 1998 title, a damning analysis of its hypocrisies and shady business practices, and the revelation that competing gave her eating and exercise disorders. She courageously calls herself a hypocrite for publicly pretending Miss America “was all about the big picture while privately striving for an impossible aesthetic.” Still, because of the power it gave her to change the world through her AIDS awareness platform, Shindle, now an actress and president of the Actors Equity Association, says “I wouldn’t trade that year for anything.” 

By Kate Shindle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Being Miss America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For nearly a hundred years, young women have competed for the title of Miss America-although what it means to wear the crown and be our "ideal" has changed dramatically over time. The Miss America Pageant began as a bathing beauty contest in 1920s Atlantic City, New Jersey, sponsored by businessmen trying to extend the tourist season beyond Labor Day. In the post-World War II years, the pageant evolved into a national coronation of an idealized "girl next door," as pretty and decorous as she was rarely likely to speak her mind on issues of substance. Since the cultural upheavals of…


Book cover of "There She Is, Miss America": The Politics of Sex, Beauty, and Race in America's Most Famous Pageant

Margot Mifflin Author Of Looking for Miss America: A Pageant's 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood

From my list on how the Miss America pageant was born.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about pop culture and women’s history, often as it relates to the body and beauty. I’m intrigued by the ways women claim unconventional means of expression for their own beautification (such as tattooing) and how they harness beauty in the service of social and economic mobility (as in pageant culture). These books offer insight into the varied ways pageantry, from campus pageants to the Miss America stage, inform American identity and ratify the historian Rosalyn Baxandall’s belief that “every day in a woman’s life is a walking Miss America contest.”

Margot's book list on how the Miss America pageant was born

Margot Mifflin Why did Margot love this book?

This anthology spans a remarkable and surprising range of topics including first-hand accounts by pageant winnersand losers—along with rich historical context. Historian Kimberly Hamlin documents the first Miss America Pageant (launched a year after women won the vote), showing how it both appropriated the format of suffrage pageants and defined itself in opposition to them. Feminist scholar Donelle Ruwe explains why becoming Miss Meridian [Miss.] in 1985 had an unexpectedly positive impact on her life, even though she considers beauty pageants to be “oppressive” and “degrading.” And the African-American scholar Gerald Early’s riveting “Waiting for Miss America” weighs the racial implications of Vanessa Williams’ 1983 crowning as the first Black Miss America. “[S]he was the most loved and most suspect woman in America,” he writes. Suspect, because “some blacks don’t trust her motives and some whites don’t trust her abilities.”  

By Elwood Watson (editor), Darcy Martin (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked "There She Is, Miss America" as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While some see the Miss American Pageant as hokey vestige of another era, many remain enthralled by the annual Atlantic City event. And whether you love it or hate it, no one can deny the impact the contest has had on American popular culture-indeed, many reality television shows seem to have taken cues from the pageant. Founded in 1921, the Miss America Pageant has provided a fascinating glimpse into how American standards of femininity have been defined, projected, maintained, and challenged. At various times, it has been praised as a positive role model for young American women, protested as degrading…


Book cover of Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageantry, Student Bodies, and College Life

Margot Mifflin Author Of Looking for Miss America: A Pageant's 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood

From my list on how the Miss America pageant was born.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about pop culture and women’s history, often as it relates to the body and beauty. I’m intrigued by the ways women claim unconventional means of expression for their own beautification (such as tattooing) and how they harness beauty in the service of social and economic mobility (as in pageant culture). These books offer insight into the varied ways pageantry, from campus pageants to the Miss America stage, inform American identity and ratify the historian Rosalyn Baxandall’s belief that “every day in a woman’s life is a walking Miss America contest.”

Margot's book list on how the Miss America pageant was born

Margot Mifflin Why did Margot love this book?

A history of campus pageants going back to the 1920s, Queens of Academe considers not only their “calibrations of class and femininity,” but also their racial and (overwhelmingly Christian) religious underpinnings. Tice chronicles how campus competitions (many of which are feeder pageants for Miss America) allayed fears that educated women would renounce home and hearth, and traces the ways they’ve evolved to reflect social progress. Two chapters—“We are Here: Pageants as Racial ‘Homeplaces’ and Ethnic Combat Zones” and “Flesh and Spirit: Bibles, Beauty and Bikinis”—examine neglected aspects of pageant scholarship, showing how Black swimsuit contestants faced a unique challenge in deflecting the pernicious Jezebel trope by proving their worth through demonstrations of etiquette, grooming, and racial progress. Even male contestants swagger through these pages—including a Mr. Harvard hopeful who competed in see-through tape and rose-petal pasties. 

By Karen W. Tice,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Queens of Academe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Universities are unlikely venues for grading, branding, and marketing beauty, bodies, poise, and style. Nonetheless, thousands of college women have sought not only college diplomas but campus beauty titles and tiaras throughout the twentieth century. The cultural power of beauty pageants continues today as campus beauty pageants, especially racial and ethnic pageants and pageants for men, have soared in popularity.

In Queens of Academe, Karen W. Tice asks how, and why, does higher education remain in the beauty and body business and with what effects on student bodies and identities. She explores why students compete in and attend pageants such…


Book cover of Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City

Joseph G. Bilby Author Of The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey

From my list on New Jersey history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in New Jersey and my paternal ancestors have lived here since 1732. My ancestors served in the Civil War, my father served in World War II and I also served in the military. From an early age, I wanted to be a writer, and that ambition, as well as my experience as an army officer in the Vietnam War, provided the sparks that ignited my writing career.

Joseph's book list on New Jersey history

Joseph G. Bilby Why did Joseph love this book?

Most people were drawn to this work because of the HBO television series of the same name. While there was, to be kind, a great deal of exaggeration in the series, Johnson’s thorough research for the book provides an accurate and fascinating account of the history of Atlantic City and its legendary political boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson.

By Nelson Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Boardwalk Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"When I was first approached by HBO to use Nelson Johnson's book as the basis for a TV series, my biggest challenge was choosing a time period in which to set it...Ultimately I settled on the 1920s of Atlantic City's legendary treasurer Nucky Johnson...A place of spectacle, shady politics, fast women and backroom deals". (Terence Winter, Emmy Award-winning writer of "The Sopranos" and Executive Producer of Boardwalk Empire). From its humble beginnings as a fledgling seaside resort, Atlantic City grew to be America's playground - loud, brash, and dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. In 1920 alcohol was banned across…


Book cover of Plum Lucky

Jennifer Gibson Author Of Hope

From my list on to take you on a magical and fun journey.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up with a severe disability and being an advocate from a very young age has taught me a lot of hard lessons. I struggled and endured a tremendous amount of bullying and discrimination, so I tend to pick books that I can relate to such as the Dresden Files where the character also struggles with difficulties in his life. I also pick books that make me laugh or are truly magical that help lift my spirits.  

Jennifer's book list on to take you on a magical and fun journey

Jennifer Gibson Why did Jennifer love this book?

Janet has a penchant for coming up with the craziest and most outrageous scenes with her characters who go around investigating strange cases as bounty hunters. This is a short and sweet holiday version based on the original Stephanie Plum series. Every book features explosions, mishaps, romantic hookups, and epic failures. She makes me laugh every time, and I don’t feel as bad about having an old car, small apartment, empty fridge, or lack of romance. Totally worth it.

By Janet Evanovich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plum Lucky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Looking to get lucky?

Stephanie Plum is back between-the-numbers and she's looking to get lucky in an Atlantic City hotel room, in a Winnebago, and with a brown-eyed stud who has stolen her heart.

Stephanie Plum has a way of attracting danger, lunatics, oddballs, bad luck . . . and mystery men. And no one is more mysterious than the unmentionable Diesel. He's back and hot on the trail of a little man in green pants who's lost a giant bag of money. Problem is, the money isn't exactly lost. Stephanie's Grandma Mazur has found it, and like any good…


Book cover of This is New Jersey from High Point to Cape May

Joseph G. Bilby Author Of The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey

From my list on New Jersey history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in New Jersey and my paternal ancestors have lived here since 1732. My ancestors served in the Civil War, my father served in World War II and I also served in the military. From an early age, I wanted to be a writer, and that ambition, as well as my experience as an army officer in the Vietnam War, provided the sparks that ignited my writing career.

Joseph's book list on New Jersey history

Joseph G. Bilby Why did Joseph love this book?

John Cunningham Was a journalist who became a historian -- and a great one. The World War II veteran and Newark Evening News columnist wrote innumerable books about his native state, and they were all great. Perhaps his most significant contribution to the state’s story was This is New Jersey, a classic which has remained in print since its initial publication in 1953.

By John T. Cunningham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This is New Jersey from High Point to Cape May as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Large, heavy hardback edition with 165 illustrations and 22 full page maps...


Book cover of Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey

Joseph G. Bilby Author Of The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey

From my list on New Jersey history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in New Jersey and my paternal ancestors have lived here since 1732. My ancestors served in the Civil War, my father served in World War II and I also served in the military. From an early age, I wanted to be a writer, and that ambition, as well as my experience as an army officer in the Vietnam War, provided the sparks that ignited my writing career.

Joseph's book list on New Jersey history

Joseph G. Bilby Why did Joseph love this book?

Folklore is not history, nor is history folklore, but they often intersect. Henry Charlton Beck, a journalist who became an Episcopal priest and who wrote a series of New Jersey folklife classics, began his career with this volume, stories of abandoned iron forges, villages, and forgotten legends in the state’s iconic Pinelands. Rutgers University Press reprinted Beck’s books, beginning with this book in 1961.

By Henry Charlton Beck,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Composed, for the most part, from sketches that were published in the Courier-Post newspapers of Camden, New Jersey, Beck provides us with a series of stories of towns too tiny or uncertain for today's maps. Together, these sketches help to create a more complete picture of the history of New Jersey. A connecting skein of untold or little known wartime history--the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the conflict of North against South--runs through most of the sketches. Many of the sketches concern the pine towns and their people, ""the pineys"" who lived in the Jersey pine barrens.


Book cover of Fearless Fourteen

Susan Rowland Author Of The Sacred Well Murders

From my list on female-centered humorous plots.

Why am I passionate about this?

Enchanted by mysteries of the cozy, comic, or traditional sort, I was delighted to realize that they replay the holy grail myth. Here the Waste Land is the community paralyzed by the crime that cannot be undone, murder, the sleuth is the Grail Knight, and the Grail Cup is the restorative magic of the solution. Cozy or comic or traditional sleuths find the murderer by asking the right questions, so re-storying or restoring the fertility of the realm. Comedy is used for rebirth in the face of tragedy. I began to write cozies-with-an-edge, emphasizing women heroes who need each other as they face issues of today’s wasteland in climate change. 

Susan's book list on female-centered humorous plots

Susan Rowland Why did Susan love this book?

For sheer delight, I give you mysteries featuring not-very-competent bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, because they use comedy to portray as well as endure a world of endemic violence. Serious stuff like organized crime is made visible and bearable to the reader by foregrounding Stephanie’s chaos-strewn friendships with walking disasters like ex ‘ho Lula. The great comic creation, Grandma Mazur (aged 70, looks 90) also drags our beloved sleuth into peril that is hilarious as well as life-threatening. This time Grandma becomes a holy terror in online gaming, a change from geriatric sex-crazed boyfriends, falling into coffin caskets, or shooting the dinner chicken. Evanovich collides the crime caper with darker textures of urban suffering. Read for comedy as a survival skill with plenty of sex, death, and doughnuts. 

By Janet Evanovich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fearless Fourteen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sometimes fame can be fatal...

Personal vendettas. Hidden treasure. A monkey named Carl. Stephanie Plum is as fearless as ever in the fourteenth hilarious novel in Janet Evanovich's bestselling Stephanie Plum series. Fearless Fourteen is not to be missed by fans of Harlan Coben and JD Robb.

Raves for Evanovich's bestselling series: 'A laugh a minute against a background of dastardly crime with a ditzy heroine and two - yes TWO - of the hottest heroes ever created' (Woman's Weekly); 'A laugh-out-loud page-turner' (Heat).

Stephanie's desperate enough for a bit of extra cash that she's agreed to help run security…


Book cover of The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City

David Stradling and Richard Stradling Author Of Where the River Burned: Carl Stokes and the Struggle to Save Cleveland

From my list on the environmental movement in America.

Why are we passionate about this?

We grew up, brothers, in Cleveland’s Ohio antipode – Cincinnati – and so we knew Cleveland mostly in contrast to our home. Despite the many differences, both cities experienced the urban crisis. Richard, a journalist, was drawn to the story of Cleveland’s frequently burning river. How did the Cuyahoga become a poster child for the environmental movement? And David, an environmental historian, was drawn to Carl Stokes, a Black man with the skills to become mayor of a predominantly white city in 1968. How did he propose to solve the many problems running through the urban environment? We both wanted to know what Cleveland’s changing relationship with its river could tell us about environmental politics. 

David's book list on the environmental movement in America

David Stradling and Richard Stradling Why did David love this book?

The subtitle to Robert Sullivan’s The Meadowlands is Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City, and it’s Sullivan’s adventures exploring the vast New Jersey wetlands that make the book so entertaining. But Sullivan is right to use the word “wilderness” to describe the 32 square miles of swamp, landfills, and rusting industrial debris along the Hackensack River where it flows into Newark Bay just five miles from the Empire State Building in New York City. Like the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, the Meadowlands have been abused and degraded for centuries but also show the resilience of nature and how people’s attitudes toward it have changed. “Now it is a good place to see a black-crowned night heron or a pied-bill grebe or eighteen species of ladybugs,” Sullivan writes, “even if some of the waters these creatures fly over can oftentimes be the color of antifreeze.” Sullivan’s loving description…

By Robert Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Meadowlands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imagine a grungy north Jersey version of John McPhee's classic The Pine Barrens and you'll get some idea of the idiosyncratic, fact-filled, and highly original work that is Robert Sullivan's The Meadowlands.  Just five miles west of New York City, this vilified, half-developed, half-untamed, much dumped-on, and sometimes odiferous tract of swampland is home to rare birds and missing bodies, tranquil marshes and a major sports arena, burning garbage dumps and corporate headquarters, the remains of the original Penn Station--and maybe, just ,maybe, of the late Jimmy Hoffa.  Robert Sullivan proves himself to be this fragile yet amazingly resilient region's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in New Jersey, beauty pageants, and bounty hunters?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about New Jersey, beauty pageants, and bounty hunters.

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