How many books do you have on your shelves? Unless you’re an academic or literature buff, we’d bet the number doesn’t hold a candle to Marilyn Monroe’s personal library — she had over 400 books in her possession, on subjects ranging from American classics to gardening to psychology.

One of her favorites was Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, which she read on set during the making of All About Eve, the 1950 classic by Joseph L. Mankiewicz starring Bette Davis. Monroe was a voracious reader, who often unwound with poetry — and was a budding poet herself, frequently scribbling lines into notebooks and loose-leaf paper. The day after Mankiewicz spotted Monroe reading Rilke on set, she sent him a copy of the book.

What other reads did she devour? Here, in a first of a series, we’re sharing a peek into Monroe’s archives…

 

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams

Romantic melodrama, Tennessee Williams style. The novel follows an American widow in Rome, aging and lonely, who picks up a confidence-boosting boy-toy—a con man in disguise.


Ulysses by James Joyce

Would you believe that the sprawling Ulysses—page count: 730—takes place in a mere 24 hours? Actually, you probably do—this literary masterpiece, which takes Homer's Odyssey as inspiration, is core reading at most liberal arts colleges.

The Life of Michelangelo by John Addington Symonds

You know his works, but what about the man behind them? This was the first modern biography on the legendary Italian artist, done with complete access to his family archives.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Skip the films and just go straight to the source. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s take on the heady and hedonistic days of the Roaring Twenties is just as lush—and compellingly tragic—on page as it is on screen.


Nana by Émile Zola

No man can resist the alluring Nana Coupeau, a 19th Century actress and courtesan, in this French classic. Captivated and consumed by her, the suitors fall like dominoes throughout the novel—often to their devastating ruin.

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