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Five Books We’d Put in Barbie’s Dreamhouse Library

The doll’s head may be hollow, but we know she’s got brains.

By Charley Burlock
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JAM STA ROSA//Getty Images

We’ve long suspected that Barbie is a secret bookworm—how else is she supposed to pass those long, dreary hours between playtimes? But Barbie’s Dreamhouse set finally gave us the proof we needed: a copy of a book titled “Moby Barbie,” complete with a bubblegum pink whale tail illustration, resting casually on the doll’s nightstand. While many viewers went wild trying to imagine how themes from Melville’s masterpiece might emerge in Greta Gerwig’s fantastically plastic universe, we had a different question: What else is Barbie reading? Read on for our best guesses for the books that might fill her Dreamhouse shelves.

1

In the Dream House, by Carmen Maria Machado

<i>In the Dream House,</i> by Carmen Maria Machado
1

In the Dream House, by Carmen Maria Machado

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$14 at Amazon

In our pretend world, Barbie picks up Machado’s experimental memoir because she finds the title deeply relatable. Sadly, she discovers that this Folio Prize–winning book is not a tale about the woes of cooking in a kitchen where all your appliances are stickers. Instead, a few chapters in, she realizes that this is a moving account of Machado’s early relationship with an emotionally abusive woman told, again and again, through different literary tropes: as a choose-your-own-adventure story, as a lesbian cult classic, as a stoner comedy, and more. Like the abuse itself, the repeated story is simultaneously cyclical and constantly surprising, pushing all readers—queer and straight, plastic and human—to question the limits of narrative and the power of self-determination. Not what Barbie was expecting, but we like to think she’d give it five stars.

2

Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

<i>Lean In,</i> by Sheryl Sandberg
2

Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

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Barbie is proof that a woman really can have it all: the beautiful house, the handsome man, the bustling social life, and the career—actually, in Barbie’s case, over 200 of them. How does Barbie manage to balance her professional responsibilities as an astrophysicist, a professional skateboarder, a dentist, and a Pizza Hut cashier while still making time to beekeep, surf, and host seemingly constant elaborately themed parties? Simple: She asserts herself. As Sheryl Sandberg, the former chief operating officer of Meta Platforms, argues in this 2013 manifesto on female professional achievement, “men still run the world” in part, because women “hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” While some have criticized Sandberg for underemphasizing the external, systemic barriers to women’s professional empowerment, Barbie’s world is only as big as her box and your imagination: For her, attitude is everything. Maybe that’s how Barbie has managed to make it to so many places where no actual woman has yet gone (the Oval Office, the moon...).

3

Confessions of a Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella

<i>Confessions of a Shopaholic,</i> by Sophie Kinsella
3

Confessions of a Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella

“Shopping is actually very similar to farming a field,” reflects Becky Bloomwood, the stylish protagonist of Kinsella’s 2000 hit novel. “You can't keep buying the same thing, you have to have a bit of variety. Otherwise, you get bored and stop enjoying yourself.” Barbie, who by some estimates has a total of one billion outfits (including a farmer getup) knows of what Becky speaks. While there are some crucial differences between the two—for example, Becky is a British human with some serious credit card debt, and Barbie is a plastic American with beachfront property in Malibu—the two are united by their passion for fashion, and by how far they are willing to go for a perfect stiletto.

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4

The Pink Book, by Kaye Blegvad

<i>The Pink Book,</i> by Kaye Blegvad
4

The Pink Book, by Kaye Blegvad

Pretty self-explanatory: This book is about the color pink. Pink is Barbie’s favorite color. Kaye Blegvad provides adorable illustrations alongside some fascinating facts, short essays, and fast-paced interviews about the most iconic color. Naturally, Barbie would have to dig it.

5

American Plastic, by Jeffrey L. Meikle

<i>American Plastic,</i> by Jeffrey L. Meikle
5

American Plastic, by Jeffrey L. Meikle

Most of us flesh-and-blood readers would understand this book as a well-researched academic text outlining the history and technology of plastic products in the United States. Barbie, on the other hand, would likely read this as her own personal Our Bodies, Ourselves. Life in plastic is fantastic, but it’s also confusing. What exactly is Barbie made of? Where did she come from? How is she connected to the world around her? Where will she one day end up? These are questions we all must ask, but in Barbie’s case, they have refreshingly literal answers, all contained in this comprehensive scholarly account. Thanks, Dr. Meikle!

Lettermark
Charley Burlock
Associate Books Editor

Charley is a Books Editor at Oprah Daily where she writes about authors, writing, and reading. She is also a freelance writer and audio journalist whose work has been featured in the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Review, Agni, and on the Apple News Today podcast. She is currently completing an MFA in creative nonfiction at NYU and working on an essay collection about the intersection of grief, landscape, and urban design. 

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