It's been 50 years since Marilyn Monroe died, yet fascination with the sex symbol from the post-war era remains high. Born Norma Jean Mortenson, she spent much of her childhood living in foster homes before her legendary beauty led her to modelling, then to movies and eventually to the status of a pop-culture icon.
Many books have been written about her life -- and her controversial death from an apparent drug overdose at age 36. Here's a selection.Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox by Lois Banner
Was Marilyn a blonde bombshell and a feminist icon? In her new book, gender historian Lois Banner argues that the Hollywood pin-up girl was a proto-feminist, a powerful woman who took absolute control over her public image, had diverse interests such as writing poetry and established her own production company to help solidify her influence in a sexist film industry. Monroe was also one of the first female stars to publicly discuss being sexually abused as a child. Banner's biography is extensively researched and paints a compelling portrait of a woman who used her sex appeal as a form of power just before third-wave feminism.
You can listen to a recent interview with Banner on Q in the audio clip above.
Marilyn & Me: A Photographer's Memories by Lawrence Schiller
In 1960, the 23-year-old Schiller was asked to photograph America's sweetheart for Look
magazine. After meeting Monroe, the two engaged in a short but special professional relationship, with Schiller photographing her on several ocassions, including her very last photo shoot before her death. Some of those photos, including never-before-published ones, are in this memoir, along with his own account of meeting and getting to know the starlet. Schiller saw her as a sharp, intelligent woman, but struggling with the insecurities of her high-profile life.
The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O'Hagan
In this unique and innovative take on Monroe's life, O'Hagan tells the story of the star's life (and of America's cultural and social history during the era) from the perspective of her pet dog Maf, given as a gift to her by Frank Sinatra. The writing is imaginative and tongue-in-cheek (as you'd expect it to be when the protagonist is a philosophy-studying canine), but incorporates historical research about Monroe and weaves her more famous quotations into the narrative.The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe by Keith Badman
As much as the public was transfixed by her luminous beauty and charisma in life, Monroe's mysterious death, and the conflicting accounts and conspiracy theories that followed it, continues to fascinate. Badman, who has written biographies of several pop-culture legends including The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones, provides a detailed examination into the year-and-a-half leading up to her death. He also dissects what other biographers have said about her passing and looks to correct a few inaccuracies.
What's your favourite book about Marilyn? Let us know in the comments below!