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Books for Every Kind of 'Barbie' Fan

Recs for fans of pink, surrealism, girl power, horses, and more

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • August 13, 2023

From the color pink to girl power energy to its brilliant surrealism, fans have a lot to love about this summer's new Barbie movie. No matter what you enjoyed about the film, we have tailored reading recs for you.

If you loved the pinkness of it, try . . .

Colors of Film: The Story of Cinema in 50 Palettes
In this visually splendid book, film critic Charles Bramesco introduces an element of cinema that is often overlooked, yet has been used in extraordinary ways. Filled with sparkling insights and fascinating accounts from the history of cinema, it is a lively and fresh approach to film for movie and color lovers alike.

The Pink Book: An Illustrated Celebration of the Color from Bubblegum to Battleships
What do we think of when we think pink? In this richly illustrated homage to the color, artist Kaye Blegvad explores its significance across history and cultures. Through engaging mini essays, interactive exercises, and more, readers will learn about a vibrant miscellany of pink facts and pink occurrences.

All the Women in My Brain: And Other Concerns
We had to include this collection of personal essays by actress Betty Gilpin because of the cover alone. But also, it's just really good and strange—like Barbie! According to award-winning essayist Dani Shapiro, Gilpin "writes like an avenging angel, weaving a tapestry of light and darkness, hilarity, and pathos."


If you love pink decor in the form of voluptuous blooms, we recommend these gorgeous books for your coffee table. Plus they also teach you how to cultivate fancy flowers in your own garden. Pick the perennial of your choice: the majestic peony or the regal ranunculus.

And you can pick up this pretty pink notebook for all your musings, dreams, and whimsies.

If you loved the focus on female friendships, try . . .

Happy Place
Harriet, Sabrina, and Cleo have been best friends since they met as roommates in their freshman year at college. Nothing has ever weakened that bond—until now. Emily Henry's newest rom-com traces a group of college friends struggling to navigate the complex set of transitions into adulthood.  

Does My Body Offend You?
Malena Rosario and Ruby McAllister are teenagers discovering the power of friendship, feminism, and standing up for what you believe in. A collaboration between gifted authors Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt, this compelling YA novel shines with authenticity, courage, and humor.

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat
The small-town diner at the center of this heartwarming novel by Edward Kelsey Moore is home base for Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean. Nicknamed "The Supremes" as high school students in the 1960s, they've stood by each other through four decades. Now, they're facing their biggest challenges yet.

Yours Cheerfully
London, November 1941. When Emmeline Lake lands a job as a wartime advice columnist, she finds herself facing a dilemma between doing her duty and standing by her friends. From A. J. Pearce, comes an uplifting historical novel exploring solidarity among women in times of grief, love, and hardship.

If you loved the surrealism, try . . .

A Touch of Jen
Couple Remy and Alicia tumble into an uncanny alternate reality when they enter the world of Jen, their Instagram obsession. Part social comedy, part psychedelic horror, and all wildly entertaining, Beth Morgan offers a sly, unflinching examination of the hidden drives lurking behind our carefully curated selves.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
In a Tokyo suburb, a young man searches for his wife's missing cat—and then for his wife as well—in a netherworld beneath the city's placid surface. There he encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists. Haruki Murakami's beloved novel is gripping, prophetic, and suffused with comedy and menace.

Young Ada is troubled, prone to violent fits. Born "with one foot on the other side," she begins to develop separate selves within her as she grows into adulthood. Written with stylistic brilliance, this autobiographical novel by Akwaeke Emezi dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace.

The Anatomy of Dreams
When Sylvie, a bookish student at a Northern California boarding school, falls in love with a spirited, elusive classmate named Gabe, they embark on a radical experiment that changes their lives. With stirring, elegant prose, Chloe Benjamin has crafted an eerie, compelling novel that lingers like a vivid dream.

If you loved the outfits, try . . .

Yves Saint Laurent: The Complete Haute Couture Collections, 1962-2002
For more than half a century, the fashion house founded by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé has been synonymous with excellence in modern and iconic style. This spectacular visual journey takes you through 40 years of haute couture from one of the best-known and most trend-setting brands in fashion.

The Gown
London, 1947: Embroiderers Ann and Miriam forge an unlikely friendship when they are chosen to take part in creating Princess Elizabeth's wedding gown. From Jennifer Robson comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous dresses of the twentieth century and the fascinating women who made it.

The Fashion Doll: From Bébé Jumeau to Barbie
Barbie has become a symbol of glamor, high fashion, and style. But this volume by Juliette Peers contends that she is only the most high profile of a series of iconic dolls that over the past century and a half have been intimately connected to notions of fashionability. Color us intrigued.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Scandalous secrets are revealed and lives forever changed when a reclusive, aging actress decides to share her untold life story with an unknown young reporter. This saucy, wildly addictive read by Taylor Jenkins Reid takes readers on a glamorous tour through several iconic fashion decades from the '50s to the '80s.  

If you loved the girl power, try . . .

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls
Barbie director Greta Gerwig has cited Mary Pipher's bestselling nonfiction book as an inspiration for her movie. Published in 1994, it shone a much-needed spotlight on the problems faced by teenage girls. The 25th anniversary edition of the book has been updated to reflect the experiences of 21st-century girls.  

Lessons in Chemistry
Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant chemist and a fierce feminist. But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute have difficulty seeing much beyond her pretty face and her femininity. This witty bestseller by Bonnie Garmus tells the story of an extraordinary woman.

Young and Restless: The Girls Who Sparked America's Revolutions
From the American Revolution and Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter and school strikes for climate, Mattie Kahn uncovers how girls have leveraged their unique strengths, from fandom to intimate friendships, to organize and lay serious political groundwork for movements that often sidelined them.

We Should All Be Feminists
In this eloquent essay, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for our times. Drawing on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the realities of sexual politics, it is both an exploration of what it means to be a woman now and an urgent rallying cry.

If you loved Ken's journey, try . . .

One of the first things we learn about Ken is that he is very proud of his ability to "beach" so esteemed photographer Gray Malin's gorgeous coffee table book with beautiful aerial photographs of beaches around the world seemed like a perfect choice.

The Male Gazed: On Hunks, Heartthrobs, and What Pop Culture Taught Me About (Desiring) Men
From the stars of telenovelas to the princes of Disney films to the pop star Ricky Martin, Colombian author Manuel Betancourt grew up wondering: Do I want him or do I want to be him? His insightful memoir-in-essays grapples with the thrall of masculinity.

The Way of Men
Much of Ken's internal struggle seems to be around trying to understand what it means to be a man. He would probably have appreciated Jack Donovan's simple, straightforward guide for understanding who men have been and the challenges they face today.

All the Pretty Horses
While searching for the keys to masculinity, Ken becomes pretty sure it has something to do with horses. And he may be right! Cormac McCarthy's National Book Award-winning novel offers a powerful portrait of a young cowboy's gritty path toward manhood. On the subject of horses, the book Ken gets from the library in the movie, 

Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America
Nearly all of the books Ken is seen with in the movie are fictional, except one, and it's not Horses by Ryan Bessin (though Tony Stromberg's Spirit Horses is close). When Ken is "caught reading" by Barbie in the film he quickly shows the cover of this real memoir by John Egenes. Man & Horse tells of Egenes' time in 1974 when with only $100 in his pocket, John traveled North America on horseback. Ryan Gosling, whos stars as Ken and read the book himself, has said he thinks it should be made into a movie.

Fight Club
Chuck Palahniuk's crackling debut novel is a darkly satirical exploration of modern masculinity and the dehumanizing effects of western consumerism. Rather than fighting, Ken took to dancing out his demons, but the overall impact seems comparable, right?

It's the summer of Barbie and we're here for it! If you're also still luxuriating in the pink, sparkly buzz of Barbie, feel free to dive deeper into some of the compelling vibes and themes it stirred up.

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Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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