The best Marilyn Monroe books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Marilyn Monroe and why they recommend each book.

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Masters of Starlight

By David Fahey, Linda Rich,

Book cover of Masters of Starlight: Photographers in Hollywood

We call them 'movies' as a nickname for 'moving pictures,' and the immense importance of the 'pictures' part of that phrase is underscored by this lavish and gorgeous book celebrating the work of Hollywood's classic glamour photographers. In brief lives and portfolios of the likes of George Hurrell, Peter Stackpole, Phil Stern, Sid Avery, and Ruth Orkin, we see hundreds of photos of such icons as Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, James Dean, Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, and Shirley MacLaine on the set and off, posed for sumptuous portraits or grabbing coffee and a smoke between takes, in iconic images and remarkable candids. David Fahey and Linda Rich, important photographers themselves, are ideal guides to this gallery, pointing out aspects of the photographers' technique and craft without losing sight of the remarkable subjects of these memorable shots.

Who am I?

Shawn Levy is the author of 11 books of biography and pop culture history, including The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, Paul Newman: A Life, Rat Pack Confidential, and Ready, Steady, Go! The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London. He was the longtime film critic of The Oregonian newspaper and KGW-TV in his beloved home city of Portland. He has written a history of the women pioneers of standup comedy which will be published by Doubleday in 2022 and at work on a podcast about the dark connections of politics and show business.

I wrote...

The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont

By Shawn Levy,

Book cover of The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont

What is my book about?

Since 1929, Hollywood's brightest stars have flocked to the Chateau Marmont as if it were a second home. An apartment building-turned-hotel, the Chateau has been the backdrop for generations of gossip and folklore: where director Nicholas Ray slept with his sixteen-year-old Rebel Without a Cause star Natalie Wood; Jim Morrison swung from the balconies; John Belushi suffered a fatal overdose; and Lindsay Lohan got the boot after racking up nearly $50,000 in charges in less than two months. But despite its mythic reputation, much of what has happened inside the Chateau's walls has eluded the public eye--until now. With wit and insight, Shawn Levy recounts the wild revelries and scandalous liaisons, the creative breakthroughs and marital breakdowns, the births and deaths to which the hotel has been a party. Vivid, salacious, and richly informed, The Castle on Sunset is a glittering tribute to Hollywood as seen from inside the walls of its most hallowed hotel.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

By Anita Loos,

Book cover of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

This novel is hilarious. When I first read it, I was jealous that I hadn't written itwhich is a silly feeling to have about a book that came out in the 1920s, I admit. It's a diary written by a blonde showgirl named Lorelei Lee, who uses her feminine wiles to get wealth from the gentlemen callers who want to "educate" her. Loralei isn't very smartthe diary is riddled with misspellings and confused assumptionsbut she has a kind of innocence and practicality that keeps you rooting for her throughout. With her friend Dorothy, a brunette, she arranges it so that everything always works out in her favor, which usually includes lots and lots of diamond jewelry. 

Who am I?

My novel, Right Back Where We Started From, is about greed. I wanted to see what it would look like if women in history pursued their goals with the same relentless intensity as the men who came to the California Gold Rush. I love reading about social climbing because ambition is so baked into the fabric of the United States, and is such a big part of our lives. The books on this list are unafraid to show you the ugly, unpleasant side of ambition—and the exciting, captivating side as well. 

I wrote...

Right Back Where We Started From

By Joy Lanzendorfer,

Book cover of Right Back Where We Started From

What is my book about?

Sandra Sanborn believes she's destined to become rich and famous. Success, she feels, is in her blood, and it's only a matter of time before she restores her family name to a place of prominence. But when pesky secrets start revealing themselves, Sandra begins to suspect that her family history is not what she thinks it is. This sweeping saga about greed and ambition covers three generations of strong women and a hundred years of history, from the California Gold Rush to World War II. 

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

By J. Randy Taraborrelli,

Book cover of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

There have been many books written about Marilyn Monroe, and I have paid tribute to her in my own celebrity book but I feel that The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe best explains the complex life of the ultimate sex symbol. Author J. Randy Taraborrelli's biography reveals that Marilyn, whose grandmother and mother were both committed to mental asylums, lived with the fear of possible impending madness.

I was also interested in details of Marilyn's relationship with the Kennedys—Bobby, Jack, and Pat Lawford Kennedy. These could have played a big part in her death.

Who am I?

I love comedy, showbusiness, mystery and fantasy stories, and sport—and these varied interests have resulted in me writing in various genres as both a journalist and author. My books have all been thoroughly researched and that has helped my crime thrillers receive glowing endorsements from best-selling writer Peter James in the case of Triple Tease and national newspaper journalist Stuart Pink in the case of Stitch Up! - Killer or Victim? My other books have also received excellent endorsements and reviews—fantasy adventure Secret Potion and Laughs and Tears Galore Short Stories and Poems With Twists, written jointly with my wife Heather Flood, best known for her children's books.

I wrote...

My Life with The Stars: Sizzling secrets spilled!

By Tony Flood,

Book cover of My Life with The Stars: Sizzling secrets spilled!

What is my book about?

Former Fleet Street journalist Tony Flood provides revelations and amusing anecdotes in the second edition of his celebrity book. He reveals how Eric Morecambe made showbiz pals the targets for his impish fun; the terrible stress suffered by Peter Andre and Kylie Minogue; and Elvis Presley's attraction to teenage girls wearing white panties. Tony also witnessed two women trying to tempt George Best and Muhammad Ali to have sex with them! 

The former Sky executive and journalist interviewed devastated Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar immediately after the Hillsborough disaster. Tony's autobiography also reveals the harsher sides of Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Joan Collins, and Terry Scott. And there are intriguing tales about Bruce Forsyth, Joe Pasquale, Patsy Kensit, Britt Ekland, Des O'Connor, and Marilyn Monroe.

Conversations with Wilder

By Cameron Crowe,

Book cover of Conversations with Wilder

Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard… Billy Wilder is my favourite filmmaker. I like the elegance of his storytelling and his bittersweet wit. In Wilder’s final years, Cameron Crowe conducted a series of interviews with the writer-director. From fleeing Nazi Germany to his admiration for Ernest Lubitsch, from the trials of working with Marilyn Monroe or Raymond Chandler to the joys of collaborating with Barbara Stanwyck, Jack Lemmon, and Charles Laughton, from his successes to his failures and on to the secret of what makes a good writing partner, Wilder needs little prodding to tell movie-making tales from Berlin to Paris to Hollywood.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved movies. In my 20s, I went to film school – perhaps you can still find a couple of the short films I wrote with animator Matthew Hood on Vimeo (Hourglass and Metalstasis) – and I worked a little in the UK film industry reading scripts for Film4, among others. I’ve also interviewed filmmakers, including Nicolas Winding Refn, Christopher Hampton, Life of Brian producer John Goldstone and editor Anne V. Coates. And I’ve always found a romance, despite the seedy aspects, of Tinseltown being developed out in Hollywoodland, a place of orange groves and pepper trees where people from the Midwest went to retire in the sun.   

I wrote...

Dark History of Hollywood: A century of greed, corruption and scandal behind the movies (Dark Histories)

By Kieron Connolly,

Book cover of Dark History of Hollywood: A century of greed, corruption and scandal behind the movies (Dark Histories)

What is my book about?

In the century since it produced its first films, Hollywood has presented itself as the glamorous home to the beautiful and talented. But there has always been a dark side to Tinseltown. Right from the beginning, the Dream Factory created a hothouse of excess – too much money, adulation, expectation, and ego. Some actors would trade sex in the, often vain, hope of career advancement, while mobsters muscled in on the unions and extorted the studios, whose heads kept close ties to the police and the Press. 

From the movie moguls to the corporations that run the studios today, from drug addictions to witch-hunts, Dark History of Hollywood is the story of murder and suicide, ambition and betrayal, and how money can make almost everyone compromise.

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