The most recommended books about beauty

Who picked these books? Meet our 29 experts.

29 authors created a book list connected to beauty, and here are their favorite beauty books.
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Book cover of Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal

Elise Hu Author Of Flawless: Lessons in Looks and Culture from the K-Beauty Capital

From my list on challenging beauty standards and diet culture.

Who am I?

My interest and curiosity in this topic primarily came from life experience: not fitting in as a gangly Asian girl growing up in white suburbs and picked on for how I looked, working as a teen model in the late 1990s and early aughts, becoming a mother to three girls while opening up NPR’s first-ever bureau and living in Seoul, South Korea, the plastic surgery capital of the world. Ever since graduating from The University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Journalism, I’ve been a professional journalist. Most of my career has been as an NPR correspondent, but I’ve also worked as a reporter for VICE and appeared in The Atlantic, WIRED, Slate, and numerous other publications.

Elise's book list on challenging beauty standards and diet culture

Elise Hu Why did Elise love this book?

As the author and philosopher Heather Widdows makes clear, one of the big reasons why appearance has come to mean so much to us, and we spend so much time, energy, and resources on upgrading our looks, is because physical beauty has wrongly become conflated with worthiness and character.

In other words, we assume if you look good, you’re a good, moral person. In this comprehensive yet fast-paced read (which laid an academic groundwork for a lot of the reporting in my own book), Widdows connects the dots between ethics and beauty and makes the case for why we should resist the increasing demands of beauty ideals. 

By Heather Widdows,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How looking beautiful has become a moral imperative in today's world

The demand to be beautiful is increasingly important in today's visual and virtual culture. Rightly or wrongly, being perfect has become an ethical ideal to live by, and according to which we judge ourselves good or bad, a success or a failure. Perfect Me explores the changing nature of the beauty ideal, showing how it is more dominant, more demanding, and more global than ever before.

Heather Widdows argues that our perception of the self is changing. More and more, we locate the self in the body--not just our…


Book cover of Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia

Leora Tanenbaum Author Of I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet

From Leora's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Slut-shaming expert Intersectional feminist

Leora's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Leora Tanenbaum Why did Leora love this book?

I track instances on Instagram of dress-coding—when girls and women are disciplined for wearing clothes considered “too” revealing. This occurs in schools with rules, for example, forbidding tank tops or crop tops, and on airplanes (for some reason, the sight of a woman wearing comfortable clothes is a trigger for many travelers). Black women are singled out as sexualized most often.

To find out why, I turned to this eye-opening book. Strings demonstrates a connection between racism and anxiety over fatness. She traces how Black and white women’s bodies came to be seen as essentially different from each other. Fatness became stigmatized to make the case that white women’s bodies were superior.

This book showed me how to regard health concerns from a racial and gendered lens. 

By Sabrina Strings,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Fearing the Black Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner, 2020 Body and Embodiment Best Publication Award, given by the American Sociological Association
Honorable Mention, 2020 Sociology of Sex and Gender Distinguished Book Award, given by the American Sociological Association
How the female body has been racialized for over two hundred years
There is an obesity epidemic in this country and poor black women are particularly stigmatized as "diseased" and a burden on the public health care system. This is only the most recent incarnation of the fear of fat black women, which Sabrina Strings shows took root more than two hundred years ago.
Strings weaves together an eye-opening…


Book cover of Smile

Mark Leiknes Author Of Quest Kids and the Dark Prophecy of Doug

From my list on middle grade to inspire you to draw comics.

Who am I?

I started drawing comics in the first grade and have never stopped. My syndicated comic strip, Cow & Boy, ran for eight years, and now I write and draw the middle-grade fantasy series Quest Kids. I am so fortunate to have cobbled together my love of comics into a career and to have been inspired by so many talented people along the way. Below is a collection of some of the best.

Mark's book list on middle grade to inspire you to draw comics

Mark Leiknes Why did Mark love this book?

Telling a personal story with comics. Raina wasn’t the first person to do it, but with Smile she finds a way to put herself out there that really resonates with children. Her endearing art style pairs perfectly with this honest storytelling.

Thanks to Raina, comics can do more than just entertain kids, they can comfort them.

By Raina Telgemeier,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Smile as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Raina just wanted to be a normal girl, but one night after Girl Scouts
she trips and falls severely injuring her two front teeth.
What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again
braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear and even a retainer
with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still
more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion and friends
who turn out to not be so friendly.


Book cover of Fairest

Elizabeth Lowham Author Of Beauty Reborn

From my list on giving new life to old fairy tales.

Who am I?

My debut novel is a Beauty and the Beast retelling because I’ve been obsessed with fairy tales all my life, and I’m thrilled to share some of my favorite retellings with you! When I was a child, my grandma gave me an illustrated collection of fairy tales. She had grown up reading stories from Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers, and she wanted to share that with me. It was an interest I gladly adopted. I love seeing my favorite fairy tales told with new twists and elements that bring the stories to life all over again and let me fall in love with them one more time.

Elizabeth's book list on giving new life to old fairy tales

Elizabeth Lowham Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Gail Carson Levine has been one of my favorite authors all my life. She and my maternal grandmother are jointly responsible for my deep obsession with fairy tales.

While Ella Enchanted is more well known, Fairest is my favorite of her fairy tale novels. It’s a Snow White retelling that made me truly fall in love with the main character. Aza’s insecurities felt real to me, and I loved the twist that she is not fairest in all the land because of looks but, rather, because of her voice.

This story breaks me down and builds me back up again. I’ve reread it many times and intend to reread it many more.

By Gail Carson Levine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fairest 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?

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to be pretty ...Aza's singing is the fairest in all the land, and the most unusual. She can "throw" her voice so it seems to come from anywhere. But singing is only one of the two qualities prized in the Kingdom of Ayortha. Aza doesn't possess the other: beauty. Not even close. She's hidden in the shadows in her parents' inn, but when she becomes lady-in-waiting to the new queen, she has to step into the light-especially when the queen demands a dangerous favor. A magic mirror, a charming prince,…


Book cover of Hunted

S. Knight Author Of The Girl with Many Names

From my list on retellings combining fairy tales and new perspectives.

Who am I?

I developed an interest in classical literature while at university, folklore in particular. It’s fascinating how fairy tales originated in oral form before being written and rewritten all over the world for generations, and as such, many of them don’t have a single founding author. But each adaption generally maintains the basic plot points of the original tale, and it’s interesting to see how time, culture, and perspective affect a retelling. There’s always room for interpretation, especially when the traditional narratives often involve exhausted themes and stereotypes, and so with my latest novel, I didn’t hold back when it came to the creative possibilities of more than one fairy tale. 

S.'s book list on retellings combining fairy tales and new perspectives

S. Knight Why did S. love this book?

Spooner incorporates a classic Russian fairy tale into her rendition of Beauty and the Beast, creating a rich narrative set in an enchanted forest, both mysterious and dangerous. Though the framework of the original tales is there, this novel does a great job redressing the mannequin (figuratively speaking) so that we get a fresh and enjoyable exploration into the duality of human nature—among other things. I loved the tenacious heroine, who’s a skilled archer and feels more at home in the woods, and it’s her desire for revenge that sparks the chain of events that follow. The author’s version of the beast goes beyond the archetypal motif of “bad guy with good heart,” and the pacing of the book allows for a more authentic delivery (and transformation) of emotion between the characters.  

By Meagan Spooner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hunted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestselling author Meagan Spooner spins a thoroughly thrilling Beauty and the Beast story for the modern age, expertly woven with spellbinding romance, intrigue, and suspense that readers won't soon be able to forget.

Beauty knows the Beast's forest in her bones-and in her blood. After all, her father is the only hunter who's ever come close to discovering its secrets.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters out of their comfortable home among the aristocracy and back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there's…


Book cover of The Prettiest

Shelly X. Leonn Author Of The Ghost and the Wolf

From my list on girl MCs who are owning life.

Who am I?

My novel choices were part of the Afterschool Literacy & Building Modules for an organization called LitShop. It encourages growth in literacy, making, building, and leadership in girls ages 10-15 in St. Louis, Missouri. I’m honored to lead the writing classes. All of the LitShop books feature strong girls who believe they can make and build their way to a better world, and I aim to include similar characters in my stories. Stories can provide us with motivation, inspiration, and companionship, and all of these books have done just that… for the girls of LitShop as well as myself.

Shelly's book list on girl MCs who are owning life

Shelly X. Leonn Why did Shelly love this book?

I remember struggling with body image when I was the age of these characters. (Actually, if we’re being totally honest, I still do.) The main characters in this novel, however, triumph over the physical expectations placed upon young women by finding kinship and support from one another. The characters themselves are diverse, realistic, and smart. It’s difficult not to see yourself or the young people in your life in them.

By Brigit Young,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Prettiest 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?

A list appears online, ranking the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade.

Eve Hoffman is disgusted by the grating, anonymous text messages she's been receiving ever since she was ranked number one.

Sophie Kane is sick of the bullying she's endured after being knocked down a peg by the list.

And Nessa Flores-Brady is tired of the outside world trying to define who she is.

Reeling from the rampant sexism and objectification in their school, the three girls attempt to track down the list's creator. But are they prepared for what they might find?


Book cover of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America

St. Clair Detrick-Jules Author Of My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood

From my list on celebrating Black hair.

Who am I?

I’m an Afro-Caribbean-American filmmaker, photographer, author, and activist from Washington, DC. After graduating from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts in French and Francophone Studies, I began pursuing a completely different career path: social activism through art and storytelling. I capture personal stories and intimate moments centering on Black liberation, immigrant justice, and women’s rights. My work is grounded in radical love, joy, and the knowledge that a more just world is possible. My award-winning documentary DACAmented has been internationally recognized, and my book My Beautiful Black Hair has been featured in The Washington Post, Buzzfeed News, and NPR’s Strange Fruit, among others.

St.'s book list on celebrating Black hair

St. Clair Detrick-Jules Why did St. love this book?

This is, to me, the “OG” of Black hair books in the last half-century. I discovered this book by accident a few years ago early one evening and ended up reading late into the night: page by page, Byrd and Tharps provide a first-rate history about natural Black hair. Learning about the hair customs of my ancestors before the onslaught of the Transatlantic Slave Trade made me proud of my curls and strengthened my resolve to continue their brilliant, necessary work on the roots of Black hair.

By Ayana D. Byrd, Lori L. Tharps,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Two world wars, the Civil Rights movement, and a Jheri curl later, the issues surrounding Black hair in America continue to linger as we enter the twenty-first century. Tying the personal to the political and the popular, Hair Story takes a chronological look at the culture behind the ever-changing state of Black hair - from fifteenth-century Africa to the present-day United States. Hair Story is the book that Black Americans can use as a benchmark for tracing a unique aspect of their history. It is celebrated as a reference guide for understanding Black hair.


Book cover of The Belles

Katie L. Carroll Author Of Elixir Bound

From my list on YA fantasy full of dark secrets and epic adventures.

Who am I?

I started reading young adult fantasy by the likes of Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix in my teens and was instantly hooked. I stuck with it into my adult years because YA fantasy has always been full of rich worlds, complex characters, and fast-paced plots. My younger sister also loved these stories, so when she passed away at a tragically young age, it spurred me on to write my own YA fantasy in memory of her. This list includes some of my favorites—ones I know she would have loved as well.

Katie's book list on YA fantasy full of dark secrets and epic adventures

Katie L. Carroll Why did Katie love this book?

Don’t let the gorgeous cover fool you into thinking this story is all about beauty, though the prose and setting certainly have their share of it. I was captivated by the gray royal court where the Belles control beauty. There are no shortages of dark secrets that put them all at risk in a dangerous political game. Fun details, like miniature teacup pets, are woven seamlessly with the darker aspects of this lush world.

By Dhonielle Clayton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Belles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Beauty. Power. Magic. What would you give to have it all?

The dazzling New York Times instant bestseller from the author of TINY PRETTY THINGS (coming to NETFLIX soon)

Camellia and her sisters control beauty.

They are Belles and they can make you 'perfect'.

Glossy hair, smooth skin, flawless body.

You'll feel better once it's done. The results are worth the pain.

And when they fade, the Belles will fix you all over again . . .

But it will cost you.

Are you willing to pay the price?

'Heart-pounding' Samantha Shannon, New York Times bestselling author

'Diverse' Tomi Adeyemi,…


Book cover of Beastly

Elizabeth Lowham Author Of Beauty Reborn

From my list on giving new life to old fairy tales.

Who am I?

My debut novel is a Beauty and the Beast retelling because I’ve been obsessed with fairy tales all my life, and I’m thrilled to share some of my favorite retellings with you! When I was a child, my grandma gave me an illustrated collection of fairy tales. She had grown up reading stories from Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers, and she wanted to share that with me. It was an interest I gladly adopted. I love seeing my favorite fairy tales told with new twists and elements that bring the stories to life all over again and let me fall in love with them one more time.

Elizabeth's book list on giving new life to old fairy tales

Elizabeth Lowham Why did Elizabeth love this book?

This is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

I loved that the book was from the beast’s point of view, and I loved seeing this arrogant New York high schooler undergo a transformation of both appearance and soul. The modern setting is so fun. The POV is so fun.

This is a quick, delightful read, and one I’m proud to have on my shelf. (There’s also a movie adaptation, if you’re interested.)

By Alex Flinn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beastly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

With a new Beauty and the Beast movie hitting theaters in Spring 2017, it's time to catch up on all things Beastly. Find out what it was like for the beast in Alex Flinn's contemporary retelling of the classic tale. This edition features cover art from the 2011 movie starring Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer. I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright-a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster. You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way.…


Book cover of Uglies

Marie-Hélène Lebeault Author Of The Ancestors' Key

From my list on YA SFF about utopian societies.

Who am I?

I’m an avid reader turned author. I’m a Canadian YA Speculative Fiction author who takes books along as I hike, cycle, and go to the beach. I love audiobooks! In the years leading up to writing my first novel, I must have read over three hundred books. My favorites were Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction. When I ran out of happy, positive, and wholesome books, I started writing them. I feel like I'm often called back to my favorites, and hope more authors will jump on the happy train! Now that the world has literally turned into a Dystopian Society, perhaps more authors will start writing about hope and change.

Marie-Hélène's book list on YA SFF about utopian societies

Marie-Hélène Lebeault Why did Marie-Hélène love this book?

I devoured this series that turns ‘Uglies’ into ‘Pretties’ when they turn sixteen through an irrevocable operation. It is such a good metaphor for how our society is focused on looks and perfection. Where the pretty people of the world seem to have all the money and fun, and none of the responsibilities. In the books, a teenager changes the world as they know it and I believe it’s what’s happening now on Tik Tok. Where Facebook is about putting your best life forward, Instagram is about showing your prettiest aesthetics, and Twitter is about showing how smart you are, Tik Tok is all about keeping it real. Authenticity is the currency of the future!

By Scott Westerfeld,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Uglies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture streaming on Netflix!

The first installment of Scott Westerfeld’s New York Times bestselling and award-winning Uglies series—a global phenomenon that started the dystopian trend.

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally…