As you may know, I am putting together a recreation of Marilyn Monroe’s book collection–adding the same editions of books she owned to my collection. The list of books she owned can be found in various places online–in fact, when I began this project several years ago, I would use these publicly available lists. Eventually, I invested in the Christie’s Auction catalogue from 1999, which includes over 400 of Marilyn Monroe’s books. In purchasing this book I discovered that some of my editions were wrong–sometimes the year was wrong, sometimes the cover (paperback or hard)–which meant that in order to make my collection I was going to need to do more research myself.
As such, I have been working on a spreadsheet list of Marilyn Monroe’s books that looks at the Christie’s catalogue and tries to discern enough information about each book that would make finding that book easier. This includes not only information about the year and publisher, but also the cover type (if known) and image (if available). The images I find not only from auction house photographs, but also in vintage photographs of Marilyn Monroe’s bookshelves. The second part is particularly tricky, as many of the photographs of her bookshelves are from the 1950’s, and a number of her books that went to auction in 1999 were from the late 50’s and 60’s.
Here is some of the work I did this week on this project, and I will be making my progress updates on this list available for The Vintage Bookclub members. Eventually, my plan is to include this completed list in my book on Marilyn Monroe’s bookshelf.
3 thoughts on “The List of Books Marilyn Monroe Owned”
It’s fascinating to see the variety of books that Marilyn read including classics like Ulysses and On The Road that I read years ago and am prompted to read again. I wonder if James Michener’s Hawaii might have reflected a desire in her to visit the islands which would have been sensational. I’ve been to Maui but I wasn’t aware of this acclaimed novelisation about the history and culture, until as an admirer of Marilyn I came across it in your project which I think provides great insights into Marilyn’s intellect and personality. By the way, I recently acquired a copy of one of the records that Marilyn had which were sold by Christies in 1999: the American folk/blues album by the now sadly largely forgotten Clarence Cooper which is illustrated on p.231 of the catalogue. Marilyn’s copy had an inscription from Cooper but I haven’t see the reverse of the record sleeve so I don’t know what he said in his message to her which might indicate how she came to own a copy. On the theme of American folk music it is interesting to see that Marilyn had a copy of Woody Guthrie’s autobiography Bound for Glory. I wonder if she had any other records from that genre of music which in the years since Marilyn’s passing has become such an important part of American musical culture – thanks largely due to Bob Dylan (who by the way mentioned Marilyn in his 2020 song Murder Most Foul released last year). it would not surprise me if Marilyn may have anticipated this with remarkable foresight, in the context also of race politics and black culture. However, I haven’t seen a comprehensive listing of the records which Marilyn had in her collection which no doubt was dominated by mainstream popular releases, musical soundtracks, maybe some jazz, and classical music. It would be interesting to see such a list and consider if there are indeed any linkages to her book library. I hope you found these thoughts useful!
Hi Mark! Thank you for your comment and I am glad you are enjoying my blog! That is amazing that you have one of her records. In addition to some more counter-culture books, she did have a few other books about music in her collection (that are still on my to be read list). Your idea for looking at her records and books is great, and if you would ever be interested in sharing pictures of her record, I would love to feature it (and her music books) on my blog at some point. Feel free to send me an email if that is at all of interest: firstname.lastname@example.org