100 books like The Most Beautiful Girl in the World

By Sarah Banet-Weiser,

Here are 100 books that The Most Beautiful Girl in the World fans have personally recommended if you like The Most Beautiful Girl in the World. 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 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 Drag Queens and Beauty Queens: Contesting Femininity in the World's Playground

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?

Drag pageantry owes a lot to Miss America, especially an Atlantic City pageant called Miss’d America. Greene documents the symbiotic relationship between the Atlantic City gayborhood that spawned this contest and the Miss America Pageant, where many gay locals worked as stylists, dancers, and on production crews behind the scenes. Launched in 1993, Miss’d America unified this community in response to the AIDS crisis and offered an alternative pageant for people who’d missed the real deal. Greene couches Miss’d America in the context of Atlantic City’s fascinating drag history going back to the turn of the century (because what better runway than the Atlantic City Boardwalk?), describing, for example, men who swanned along wearing “trick pants, pale purple hose, tan shoes with two-inch soles and lavender neckties” in 1925. 

By Laurie Greene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Miss America pageant has been held in Atlantic City for the past hundred years, helping to promote the city as a tourist destination. But just a few streets away, the city hosts a smaller event that, in its own way, is equally vital to the local community: the Miss’d America drag pageant.

 

Drag Queens and Beauty Queens presents a vivid ethnography of the Miss’d America pageant and the gay neighborhood from which it emerged in the early 1990s as a moment of campy celebration in the midst of the AIDS crisis. It examines how the pageant strengthened community bonds…


Book cover of Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America

Leslie Lehr Author Of A Boob's Life: How America's Obsession Shaped Me--And You

From my list on put the fun in feminism.

Why am I passionate about this?

From Lehr’s prize-winning fiction to her viral New York Times Modern Love essay, exploring the challenges facing contemporary women has been Lehr’s life-long passion. A Boob’s Life, her first project since breast cancer treatment, continues this mission, taking all who will join her on a wildly informative, deeply personal, and utterly relatable journey.  And that’s exactly the kind of books she likes to read – the ones that make her laugh, nod in recognition, and understand a little more about life. She recommends these five books to everyone who asks.

Leslie's book list on put the fun in feminism

Leslie Lehr Why did Leslie love this book?

I’ve been watching the Miss America pageant since elementary school, when I wore a tin foil crown, a towel pinned as a cap, and stuffed my swimsuit with tennis balls for boobs. So learning the history – how suffragettes used beauty pageants as a way to get attention – was fascinating. Friedman is a sociology professor whose mom was Miss America 1970, so there is no greater expert. We get both sides here: the sparkly benefits plus a dive into the body-shaming and bulimia of the 80s when they printed measurements in the program. A Boob’s Life, covers the history of breast implants in the contest, so I quote her as a source. But I would have read it just for fun.

By Hilary Levey Friedman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fresh exploration of American feminist history told through the lens of the beauty pageant world.

Many predicted that pageants would disappear by the 21st century. Yet they are thriving. America’s most enduring contest, Miss America, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. Why do they persist? In Here She Is, Hilary Levey Friedman reveals the surprising ways pageants have been an empowering feminist tradition. She traces the role of pageants in many of the feminist movement’s signature achievements, including bringing women into the public sphere, helping them become leaders in business and politics, providing increased educational opportunities, and giving them…


Book cover of Raymie Nightingale

Amy Makechnie Author Of Ten Thousand Tries

From my list on with three best friends.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a grown mother now. Also an author. But once upon a time, I was in middle school. I remember the braces, bad hair, being scared to return my lunch tray because boys might look at me while I passed their lunch table. Such angst, and yet I adore middle schoolers - they’re my jam. Fun, funny, exasperating, creative, boisterous, and annoying are all words I’d use to describe the middle school kids I teach and coach. I write down their quotes, shake my head at their antics, and adore their intense friendships. I hope you’ll enjoy these true-to-life middle-grade reads as much as I have!

Amy's book list on with three best friends

Amy Makechnie Why did Amy love this book?

I’ll read anything Kate DeCamillo writes. She is just so good. No matter the heartbreak that Raymie Nightingale faces (her dad’s just recently run off with the dental hygienist), Raymie has a plan. She’s going to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire Competition, her dad will see her picture in the paper, and then surely (maybe?) he’ll come home. Raymie gets through with friends who weren’t always her friends: the “frequently fainting” Louisiana Elefante, and feisty Beverly Tapinski. Together, “the three rancheros” challenge, but ultimately save, one another. Some friendships are not “like at first sight”!

By Kate DiCamillo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Raymie Nightingale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestselling author Kate DiCamillo returns to her roots with a moving yet witty story of an unforgettable summer friendship. For fans of Jacqueline Wilson, David Almond and Katherine Rundell.

In her seventh novel, international bestselling author and twice winner of the prestigious Newbery Medal Kate DiCamillo tells a masterful story that blends pathos and humour. Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father - who has run away with a dental hygienist -…


Book cover of Coyote Queen

Polly Farquhar Author Of Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream

From my list on middle-grade books where setting makes the story.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love books where the setting is just as big and alive as the characters. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a familiar place or someplace new: if a vivid setting is a key element of the story, I’m in. I think it’s because I grew up in one of those small towns in the beautiful middle of nowhere where if someone asks where you’re from, it’s just easier to say someplace else. I wanted to see the world, and books let me do that. I also wanted validation in reading—and writing—about the small places I knew, and books let me do that, too.  

Polly's book list on middle-grade books where setting makes the story

Polly Farquhar Why did Polly love this book?

I’ve never been to Wyoming, the setting of this book, and if I’ve read a book set in Wyoming, I can’t remember, but I won’t soon forget this story.

The landscape of Wyoming and all its flora and especially its fauna (hello, title!) are deeply ingrained in this moving and unique story where a little bit of magic (weirdness? nature? something wonderful, that’s for sure) adds a soulful twist to a story dealing with harsh realities.

By Jessica Vitalis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Coyote Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

“Winningly intense.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A powerful novel of tremendous empathy and optimism.” —Gary D. Schmidt, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist

“Exquisitely written and painfully real.” —Megan E. Freeman, award-winning author of Alone

When a twelve-year-old decides that she must get herself and her mother out of a bad situation, an eerie connection to a coyote pack helps her see who she’s meant to be—and who she can truly save. The Benefits of Being an Octopus meets The Nest in this contemporary middle grade novel about family, class, and resilience, with a magical twist.

Twelve-year-old Fud feels trapped.…


Book cover of Dumplin'

Kris Dinnison Author Of You And Me And Him

From my list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always felt like a bit of a misfit. I was taller, bigger, and clumsier than the other kids. I listened to the wrong music, wore the wrong clothes, and read the wrong books. I wasn’t cool. And when I became a high school teacher, I saw many kids, especially young women, who I could see felt the same. When Young Adult literature came into its own, I really loved all the wonderful ways YA stories were telling the stories of the kids who didn’t fit in, and it made me want to read them, and eventually write one of my own.

Kris' book list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines

Kris Dinnison Why did Kris love this book?

Dumplin’ charmed me from the first sentence. The beauty pageant culture, which seems at times both earnest and absurd, is the perfect setting for a book starring a sassy, smart, daring heroine who won’t be sidelined because of a little thing like size. I adore the band of misfits Dumplin’ gathers around her, the amazing drag queens, the homage to Dolly Parton, and the triumphant, realistic, hopeful ending. 

By Julie Murphy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller For fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Sarah Dessen comes this powerful novel with a fearless heroine-self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson-from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine, Dumplin' is guaranteed to steal your heart. Dubbed "Dumplin'" by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her…


Book cover of The Glass Ledge: How to Break Through Self-Sabotage, Embrace Your Power, and Create Your Success

Fran Hauser Author Of Embrace the Work, Love Your Career: A Guided Workbook for Realizing Your Career Goals with Clarity, Intention, and Confidence

From my list on helping women find fulfillment in their career.

Why am I passionate about this?

Throughout my career, I’ve always been passionate about leveling the playing field for women. I do this through my writing, speaking, and investing. Much of my current work is informed by the 20 years I spent in corporate as both an executive and a mentor to hundreds of women. ​The books I’ve chosen for this list are written by women I admire and who espouse similar approaches to the way I lead and show up at work. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!

Fran's book list on helping women find fulfillment in their career

Fran Hauser Why did Fran love this book?

The glass ledge is a metaphor that represents women’s tendencies to get in their own way. As a mentor, I have witnessed this time and time again. Oubou’s book explores the ten themes that are most likely to derail us when we least expect it. By sharing her own personal struggles, along with the strategies and tools that she has used to overcome them, Oubou provides a playbook for women to stop the self-sabotage and own their power.

By Iman Oubou,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Empowering Guide for Curing Self-Sabotage and Finding Success by Showing Up as Your Authentic, Vulnerable, and Powerful Self
 
We’ve all heard of the “glass ceiling”—referencing the external oppression women still experience in the workplace. Yet even for those of us who break through the societal barriers to success, there’s another, bigger danger: internalized oppression or, metaphorically speaking, the glass ledge. “When the very qualities that help us achieve greatness turn into self-defeating behaviors, that’s when we trip over the glass ledge,” teaches Iman Oubou. “Yet we don’t need to lose ourselves to become an ideal image of a hardworking,…


Book cover of For the Love of Men: From Toxic to a More Mindful Masculinity

Michael Kaufman Author Of The Time Has Come: Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution

From my list on the lives of men in the era of feminism.

Why am I passionate about this?

My work over the past four decades has been to promote women’s rights, end violence against women, promote social justice, and positively transform the lives of men. I’ve worked extensively with the United Nations; presidents, prime ministers, and governments; companies and unions; NGOs and educators in fifty countries. I continue to be inspired by the many incredible people I get to meet. In addition to my talks to communities, companies, and universities, my activism, and my books on this subject, I also write fiction, most recently my mystery The Last Exit.  

Michael's book list on the lives of men in the era of feminism

Michael Kaufman Why did Michael love this book?

I always get pissed off when I hear some guy ranting that feminists are anti-male. In fact, I think feminists are the most pro-male humans on the planet: in spite of 8,000 years to prove the contrary, they believe that men can be peaceful and loving, and can be equal and equitable partners with women. Liz Plank is one such woman. Her book shows exactly that.

By Liz Plank,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For the Love of Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A nonfiction investigation into masculinity, For The Love of Men provides actionable steps for how to be a man in the modern world, while also exploring how being a man in the world has evolved.

In 2019, traditional masculinity is both rewarded and sanctioned. Men grow up being told that boys don’t cry and dolls are for girls (a newer phenomenon than you might realize―gendered toys came back in vogue as recently as the 80s). They learn they must hide their feelings and anxieties, that their masculinity must constantly be proven. They must be the breadwinners, they must be the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in beauty pageants, feminism, and women?

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

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