June 1st marks the 94th anniversary of the birth of the actress who came to be known as Marilyn Monroe. In the years since her early death, she has become possibly the most-written-about celebrity that has ever existed. The number of books on every aspect of her life is easily well over 500, and almost every year sees more published. What is the on-going fascination with The Girl? We’ve put together what we think are the 8 best books on Marilyn’s life, times and sad demise.
Norma Jean: The Life of Marilyn Monroe
by Fred Lawrence Guiles
Guiles’s biography cuts through the reams of rumors and unfounded speculation to deliver Marilyn Monroe as she was in the minds of those who were closest to her. Originally researched and published not long after the actress’s death, Guiles had access to two of her three former husbands, as well as several of the foster families she lived with while still growing up. It’s no wonder that Guiles is acknowledged by many to be the most factual re-teller of the life of Norma Jean Mortensen.
Marilyn Monroe: A Biography
by Barbara Leaming
Leaming’s account of Marilyn’s life takes the reader on a deep-dive into the actress’s psyche and the interplay of sex, high politics, and psychological games that formed a deep under current to her public image. Utilising access to the letters of Dr. Ralph Greenson, Monroe’s last and most competent therapist, Leaming explores the complicated, chameleon-like nature of the actress’s psychology. No other portrayal of Marilyn goes to this depth of analysis on her most profound, deep-rooted personal issues, leaving the reader with an engrossing portrait of the actress in her fullest perspective.
Marilyn Monroe: a Case for Murder
by Jay Margolis
Ever since that fateful day in August 1962, the exact circumstances of Monroe’s death have swirled in a vortex of media speculation, unrestrained rumor, and the darkest of suspicions. Margolis has gone to extraordinary lengths to reconstruct the final day of Marilyn’s life, and in doing so raises disturbing inconsistencies in previously published accounts. The author’s research inevitably leads to one startling conclusion: murder. By the end of the book, readers may find themselves struggling to refute such a seemingly unthinkable crime.
by Norman Mailer (author), Bert Stern (photographer)
Publishing house Taschen has produced two books in one. The text is Mailer’s 1973 biography of Monroe, while the pictures are from Stern’s Last Sitting, broadly assumed to be the most revealing visual portraits of the actress ever taken. Taken only six weeks before her untimely death, the pictures are a stunning record of Marilyn at her most stunning. Accompanying the pictures is Mailer’s text; an entrancing exploration of the actress as symbolizing the decade in which she entranced the world.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
by J. Randy Taraborrelli
One of the constants in accounts of Monroe’s life is her relationships with men, from President Kennedy to Albert Miller, Joe DiMaggio and numerous others. Taraborrelli turns this approach on its head to look at a previously almost ignored aspect of Marilyn’s life; her relationship with her mentally-ill mother, foster mother and her legal guardian. In doing so, Taraborrelli is able to explore the painful full extent of Marilyn’s own mental issues and how this affected almost every aspect of her relationships with others. The Secret Life lifts the veil on the actress’s mental struggles throughout her life and brings us a compelling account of Monroe at her most vulnerable.
The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe
by Sarah Churchwell
Churchwell’s approach to Monroe is ground-breaking in its creativity and insight. Instead of repeating the standard account of her troubled upbringing, sexual abuse by numerous men throughout her life, and her iconic place among Hollywood royalty, the author explores the myriad versions of Marilyn that have propagated across popular culture since her death. The book is a fascinating account of celebrity as symbol, totem and icon, and probes each idea for its deeper cultural resonance and reflection on ourselves as participants in this enactment of almost divine worship. Churchwell’s work is one of the most penetrating explorations of the cult of celebrity in the modern day.
Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy
by Elizabeth Winder
In 1954, Monroe broke her contract with Fox Studios and fled from Hollywood to Manhattan. Starting her own production company, she ended up becoming the highest paid actress in the history of film up to that time. She also immersed herself in the intellectual life of her new home, becoming acquainted with Arthur Miller, and Truman Capote among others. Winder’s focus on just one year in Marilyn’s saga brings to light a ground-breaking, even revolutionary woman. Free from the sordid descriptions of abuse and numerous lovers that other writers have all too often used to fetishize the actress, Marilyn in Manhattan introduces readers to an intellectually curious, determined and driven young woman who changed Hollywood and America forever.
by Marilyn Monroe, Ben Hecht
Finally, after countless reams of others’ words on her, we have Marilyn in her own words. Written while the star was still alive but only published a decade after her death, My Story introduces readers to Monroe’s life as she experienced it. The actress was famously cagey about details of her own life, and never revealed the full story to just one person, choosing instead to leave tantalizing tidbits among her friends and closest acquaintances. Even with this in mind, My Story is a direct window into the life Marilyn wanted others to see, focusing especially on her early life, career and marriage to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.
Happy June 1st y’all! There’s our run down of what we think are the 8 best book on Marilyn Monroe, who was born June 1st, 1926. Do you think we missed out a classic on Marilyn’s life? Let us know in the comments below.
Alternatively, remember to check out our On this Day page for further recommendations for books on famous personalities and historical events connected with specific calendar dates. Until next time!