Marilyn Monroe the Bookworm: Highlights from Her Library

Monroe reading at her apartment in 1952. (Photo: www.mptvimages.com)

More than fifty years after her death, Marilyn remains the ultimate Hollywood golden girl and sex symbol. What might surprise you is Monroe, who never finished high school, was also a voracious reader.

“Nobody could imagine what I was doing when I wasn’t shooting . . . I was going to school! I started going to classes at UCLA at night . . . I took courses in the history of literature and the history of this country and I started to read a lot, stories by wonderful writers,” she said in 1960 interview with French journalist George Belmont.

Her personal library contained over 400 books, the majority of which were auctioned off by Christie’s in 1999. Proceeds were donated to the charity Literacy Partners that works to improve adult literacy in America.

The blog Everlasting Star has the complete list of titles in Marilyn’s library. From classic works of literature, to cookbooks, to Freud and religious texts, here are few highlights from her collection.

Literary Lions
Monroe appears to have been a fan of D.H. Lawrence. She owned several copies of his poetry and “The Portable D.H. Lawrence.” Also notable: “The Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison, “Ulysses,” by James Joyce, “The Thomas Mann Reader,” “On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac, “The Sun Also Rises,” by Ernest Hemingway . . .

Also, “The Brothers Karamazov,” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky—Monroe had read the novel and expressed interest in playing  the character of Grushenka.

Parenting
Monroe never had children, though she tried to get pregnant with both Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. Her failure to become a mother was one of her greatest disappointments, and the appearance of Dr. Spock’s parenting manual, “Baby and Child Care,” in her library is especially poignant.

Religion

Once interested in Christian Science (there are copies of founder Mary Eddy Baker’s “Science And Health With Key To The Scriptures,” and “Poems, Including Christ And Christmas”), Monroe converted to Judaism when she married playwright Arthur Miller and was studying up on the Jewish faith with “The Form of Daily Prayers,” “The Holy Scriptures According To The Masoretic Text,” (inscribed to her from her acting teacher, Paula Strasberg), “What is a Jew?” by Morris Kertzer, and “The Tales Of Rabbi Nachman,” by Martin Buber. There are also several titles on Christianity and prayer.

Cookbooks
Monroe was a novice cook. Her copy of "The Joy of Cooking" contained “cut recipes, page markers, a typed diet sheet and manuscript shopping list, apparently in MM’s hand.” She also had a copy of The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook. You can see a recipe for her turkey stuffing at The New York Times.

Psychology
A devotee of psychoanalysis, Monroe owned several books about Freud and by Freud, including “Moses and Monotheism.”

Acting Research
There are several books and plays in her library that Marilyn would go on to star in movie versions or perform in her acting studio.

There is a novelization of “Let’s Make Love,” Tennessee Williams “The Glass Menagerie,” with lots of annotations, “Mischief,” by Charlotte Armstrong, “The Carpetbaggers,” by Harold Robbins, “Anna Christie/The Emperor Jones/The Harry Ape,” by Eugene O’Neill, and “Of Human Bondage,” by W. Somerset Maugham. According to the Everlasting Star, “Niagara director Henry Hathaway wanted to film this with MM and James Dean. It was eventually made with Kim Novak and Laurence Harvey.”

Gifts
When Arthur Miller first met Monroe, he gave her a copy of “Poetry of E.E. Cummings.” “Focus,” by Miller, was Monroe’s favorite work of his. “The Vapor Trail,” by Ivan Lawrence Becker is inscribed to Miller and Monroe.

Monroe gave a copy of “The Little Prince,” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, to Joe DiMaggio after their wedding.

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50 Years After Her Death: 10 Things We Learned From Marilyn Monroe
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