Essential Books on Marilyn Monroe
There are countless books on Marilyn Monroe, and it comes with good reason, she was an actress, model, and singer who became one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and early 1960s.
“Sometimes things fall apart, so that better things can fall together,” she remarked.
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of America’s cultural icons to the height of her crafts, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best books on Marilyn Monroe.
Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers
Marilyn Monroe, born in obscurity and deprivation, became an actress and legend of the twentieth century, romantically linked to famous men from Joe DiMaggio to Arthur Miller to John F. Kennedy. But her tragic death at a young age, under suspicious circumstances, left behind a mystery that remains unsolved to this day.
Anthony Summers interviewed more than six hundred people, laying bare the truths – sometimes funny, often sad – about this brilliant, troubled woman. The first to gain access to the files of Monroe’s last psychiatrist, Summers uses the documents to explain her tangled psyche and her dangerous addiction to medications. He establishes, after years of mere rumor, that President Kennedy and his brother Robert were both intimately involved with Monroe in life – and in covering up the circumstances of her death.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli
When Marilyn Monroe became famous in the 1950s, the world was told that her mother was either dead or simply not a part of her life. However, that was not true. In fact, her mentally ill mother was very much present in Marilyn’s world and the family dynamic that unfolded behind the scenes is a story that has never before been told…until now. In this groundbreaking book, Taraborrelli draws complex sympathetic portraits of the women so influential in the actress’ life, including her mother, her foster mother, and her legal guardian.
He also reveals, for the first time, the shocking scope of Marilyn’s own mental illness, the identity of Marilyn’s father and the half-brother she never knew, and new information about her relationship with the Kennedys – Bobby, Jack, and Pat Kennedy Lawford. Explosive, revelatory, and surprisingly moving, this is the final word on the life of one of the most fascinating and elusive icons of the 20th Century.
The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe by Donald H. Wolfe
Fifty years after her death, the Marilyn Monroe mystique remains as strong and alluring as ever. In The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe, author Donald H. Wolfe, a former Hollywood screenwriter and film editor, examines the tragic starlet’s final weeks and offers startling evidence to support his provocative claim that Marilyn’s alleged suicide was, in fact, a homicide. A powerful and intimate look into the dark side of Hollywood and John F. Kennedy’s Camelot, this gem among books on Marilyn Monroe is a must-read for movie buffs, true crime aficionados, and the many still enchanted by the Monroe magic.
Marilyn Monroe: The Biography by Donald Spoto
Spoto’s biography of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe makes use of over 150 interviews and more than 35,000 pages of previously sealed files, including Monroe’s diaries, letters, and other personal and revealing documents. This necessary addition to the ever-growing index of books on Marilyn Monroe reveals new details of every aspect of her life, from her guarded childhood, and her relationships with men and marriages, to her mysterious death. Spoto comments on previous books about Marilyn, and puts to rest questions regarding Monroe’s connection with the Kennedys.
Fragments by Marilyn Monroe
Beyond the headlines – and the too-familiar stories of heartbreak and desolation – was a woman far more curious, searching, witty, and hopeful than the one the world got to know. Now, for the first time, readers can meet the private Marilyn and understand her in a way we never have before. Fragments is an unprecedented collection of written artifacts – notes to herself, letters, even poems – in Marilyn’s own handwriting, never before published, along with rarely seen intimate photos.
Jotted in notebooks, typed on paper, or written on hotel letterhead, these texts reveal a woman who loved deeply and strove to perfect her craft. They show a Marilyn Monroe unsparing in her analysis of her own life, but also playful, funny, and impossibly charming. The easy grace and deceptive lightness that made her performances indelible emerge on the page, as does the simmering tragedy that made her last appearances so affecting.
Marilyn Monroe: A Biography by Barbara Leaming
Basing her research on new interviews and on thousands of primary documents, including revealing letters by Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, John Huston, Laurence Olivier, Tennessee Williams, Darryl Zanuck, Marilyn’s psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson, and many others, Barbara Leaming has reconstructed the tangles of betrayal in Marilyn’s life. For the first time, a master storyteller has put together all of the pieces and told Marilyn’s story with the intensity and drama it so richly deserves.
Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon by Charles Casillo
Marilyn Monroe. Her beauty still captivates. Her love life still fascinates. Her story still dominates popular culture. Now, drawing on years of research and dozens of new interviews, this biography cuts through decades of lies and secrets and introduces you to the Marilyn Monroe you always wanted to know: a living, breathing, complex woman, bewitching and maddening, brilliant yet flawed.
Charles Casillo studies Monroe’s life through the context of her times – in the days before feminism. Before there was adequate treatment for Marilyn’s struggle with bipolar disorder. Starting with her abusive childhood, this biography exposes how – in spite of her fractured psyche – Marilyn’s extreme ambition inspired her to transform each celebrated love affair and each tragedy into another step in her journey towards immortality. Casillo fully explores the last two years of her life, including her involvement with both John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, and the mystery of her last day.
My Sister Marilyn by Berniece Miracle
Few people know that Marilyn Monroe had a sister, and even fewer know the story of their relationship during Marilyn’s rise from obscurity to fame. In My Sister Marilyn, Berniece Baker Miracle, working with her daughter Mona Rae, tells the story she has kept private for fifty years.
Marilyn in Manhattan by Elizabeth Winder
In November of 1954 a young woman dressed plainly in a white oxford, dark sunglasses, and a black pageboy wig boards a midnight flight from Los Angeles to New York. As the plane’s engines rev she breathes a sigh of relief, lights a cigarette and slips off her wig revealing a tangle of fluffy blonde curls. Marilyn Monroe was leaving Hollywood behind, and along with it a failed marriage and a frustrating career. She needed a break from the scrutiny and insanity of LA. She needed Manhattan.
In Manhattan, the most famous woman in the world can wander the streets unbothered, spend hours at the Met getting lost in art, and afternoons buried in the stacks of the Strand. Marilyn begins to live a life of the mind in New York; she dates Arthur Miller, dances with Truman Capote and drinks with Carson McCullers. Even though she had never lived there before, in New York, Marilyn is home.
My Story by Marilyn Monroe
Written at the height of her fame but not published until over a decade after her death, this autobiography of actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe poignantly recounts her childhood as an unwanted orphan, her early adolescence, her rise in the film industry from bit player to celebrity, and her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. In this intimate account of a very public life, she tells of her first (non-consensual) sexual experience, her romance with the Yankee Clipper, and her prescient vision of herself as “the kind of girl they found dead in the hall bedroom with an empty bottle of sleeping pills in her hand.”
The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Sarah Churchwell
There are many Marilyns: sex goddess and innocent child, crafty manipulator and dumb blonde, liberated woman and tragic loner. The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe reviews the unreliable and unverifiable – but highly significant – stories that have framed this Hollywood legend, all the while revealing the meanings behind the American myths that have made Marilyn what she is today.
In incisive and passionate prose, cultural critic Sarah Churchwell uncovers the shame, belittlement, and anxiety that we bring to the story of a woman we supposedly adore and, in the process, rescues a Marilyn Monroe who is far more complicated and credible than the one we think we know.
When Marilyn Met the Queen by Michelle Morgan
In July 1956, Marilyn Monroe arrived in London – on honeymoon with her husband Arthur Miller – to make The Prince and the Showgirl with Sir Laurence Olivier. It was meant to be a happy time…
Marilyn would work during the day at Pinewood Studios, in Iver Heath, while Arthur would write. Then, in the evening, the couple would be able to relax together in their private English country cottage.
But the cottage was a mansion, in Englefield Green, and Marilyn, used to living in tiny hotel rooms and apartments, felt herself being watched. She was, by several of owner Lord Drogheda’s servants, who were selling stories to the papers.
And when filming began, all did not go as hoped. Over time, Marilyn grew to hate Olivier; the feeling was mutual.
Marilyn found herself a curiosity for the frequently hostile British press. She took solace in bike rides in Windsor Great Park, in small acts of kindness from members of the public, and in a growing fascination with Queen Elizabeth, whom she longed to meet – and eventually did.
If you enjoyed this guide to essential books on Marilyn Monroe, check out our list of The 10 Best Books on Andy Warhol!