Beauty / Beauty Feature

3 books to read to change the way you think about beauty

books on beauty

You can read to escape. To be informed. To expand your world view and change the way you see. Yet when it comes to beauty it’s easy to think that reading about the subject consists of product reviews, beauty routines and ingredient lists only. But the literature dedicated to the beauty abounds. Society’s standards, marketing’s myths and the reality of our reflection. 


The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf

The Beauty Myth

“Women who love themselves are threatening; but men who love real women, more so.”

Published in 1990, The Beauty Myth quickly became an international bestseller. Ahead of its time and critically acclaimed Wolf exposes “the tyranny of the beauty myth” through thought provoking arguments. She challenges the reader to rethink everything. From the way the films you watched informed your sexuality, how standardised messaging infiltrates our thinking and just how much can passively enter our subconscious. Is your sexuality your own or are you performing society's expectations on female sexuality? How does your behaviour change, your thoughts and desires alter based on a purported notion of femaleness? Women were once consumed by the roles of mother and homemaker. But are we now just as consumed in an endless quest for an unattainable beauty? Wolf analyses the relationship between women and the media, men and women and women and women. You have to dismantle before you can rebuild. 


Beauty, Bri Lee

Bri Lee

“You were either fit and trim or you weren't working hard enough. Your body was how you conveyed wealth and status to your peers, it was a personality trait, a symbol of goodness and values: an ethical ideal.” 

Australian writer and journalist Bri Lee’s second book is a personal journey through her own battles with a ‘beauty ideal’. Lee explores her battle with eating disorders, an obsession with perfection and unachievable physical standards. Published in November 2019 the book is her second. Lee questions our goal of power and self worth when that self worth is based on the way we look through the power of what we spend our money on. A mending of her personal journey through eating disorders and an essay backed historical writings on beauty standards. 


Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino 

Trick Mirror

“A woman is unruly if anyone has incorrectly decided that she’s too much of something, and if she, in turn, has chosen to believe that she’s just fine.”

A writer for the New Yorker, Tolentino’s first book - a collection of essays - tackles everything from reality television, ecstasy through both drugs and religion to self-delusion. Tolentino puts into words things you felt but couldn’t articulate. Thoughts that perhaps swam in the recess of your mind she clearly puts into words and arguments that are both nuanced and direct in their approach. Her questioning of why we as women are always ‘optimising’ calls into question every pilates class you attended and sad desk salad you ever ate. The essays are easy to read and will leave you feeling both heard, challenged and more appreciative than ever of a critical mind.