Non-Fiction November: Be the Expert

It’s already Week 3 of Non-Fiction November! This month long celebration of all things non-fiction is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Julie at JulzReads, Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves, Lory of Emerald City Book Review, and Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

And this week it’s Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness hosting Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert:

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I’ve elected to Be the Expert again this year. Because this year I wanted my non-fiction reading to be more frivolous than it’s been recently, I’ve decided to focus on Hollywood this week. And while there is tons of interesting non-fiction on modern aspects of Hollywood (I do really need to get my hands on some of those Scientology books one of these days…), I’m looking at old Hollywood Stars.

My love of Hollywood Stars started on Sunday  afternoon movie marathons with my grandmother. Which led to reading biographies of Shirley Temple and Audrey Hepburn when I was a tween. Before I became obsessed with Royal Women, Hollywood Movie Stars were my jam.

So if you’ve  been looking for some delicious, gossipy books, read on!


If you’re going to read biographies about Hollywood you cannot go wrong with anything written by J. Randy Taraborrelli. He is one of my absolute go-to biographers. His portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor really stand out for his ability to actually get to the person at the centre of their myths. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth are really worth your time. (I also wholeheartedly recommend his biography of the Hilton family – the Zsa Zsa time alone is worth it).



avaAva Gardner: Love is Nothing by Lee Server. Oh this one was full of scandal! Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney, Howard Hughes – Ava Gardner bewitched them and then some. Ava was a firecracker who was ahead of her time in many ways. I had an idea of Ava going into this book and finished it feeling like she’d been misrepresented for years and years.




natashaIf tragedy is more your thing, might I suggest Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood by Suzanne Finstead? A child star whose mother was ultra protective after being told her daughter would die in dark waters, burdened with being the bread winner in her family, and ever after seen as a precocious child star, Natalie Wood’s life was ably and sensitively covered in this book. I’ll never forget the detail that Christopher Walken was on the boat the night she died.



me and my shadowsSpeaking of family tragedy, Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir by Lorna Luft was one of the early celebrity memoirs I bought for myself. Lorna Luft is Judy Garland’s daughter and her telling of growing up with her beautiful, talented, but ultimately damaged mother is one that will stick with you for years.





This summer, thanks to Feud: Bette and Joan, I became obsessed with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I cannot recommend The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine enough as it was the inspiration for the show and contains the most delicious gossip I’ve ever read in a biography. I haven’t yet read a book about Bette, but the one I read about Joan, Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto made me see Ms Crawford in a completely different light. Incidentally, Spoto has also written a biography of Audrey Hepburn that I read years ago.


In keeping with my brand, there are no male movie star biographies listed here. It’s just not as interesting to read about the white men who had the world at their feet. It was like reading about Grace Kelly – so beautiful, so boring. She did everything she was supposed to her whole life.

So there you have it: an old Hollywood biography starter pack. Are there any you’ve read that you think I should give a spin? I’m always looking for more.

And don’t forget to check out Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness to see what other Non-Fiction Novemberites are reading about!

27 thoughts on “Non-Fiction November: Be the Expert

  1. Oh fun! I went through a period of reading a bunch of Marilyn Monroe bios, but haven’t read this one! Good fiction / nonfiction pairing with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo too!

  2. Great topic! I love Old Hollywood, it’s such a fun time period. I would love to read a biography of Marilyn Monroe, I can’t believe I haven’t already!

  3. Oooooh I shouldn’t have read this. I now want to read all of these- except Judy Garland’s daughters. I don’t know why that feels too sad. I’m a crazy mood reader these days though.

  4. Okay, now I want to read all these ones, too. And I’m not even a big Hollywood fan. I didn’t even know who Natalie Wood was!
    Once a very nice man told me I looked like Ava Gardner. Ha!

      • But you’ve seen Miracle on 34th Street right?? Rebel Without a Cause? West Side Story? Splendor in the Grass? It’s getting to be the time of year for Miracle if you’ve never seen it! But you have! Right!?

      • Yes, yes, I’ve seen Miracle on 34th Street! And West Side Story (but that one was a long time ago). I’m not good with actors – I don’t know who most of them are. I’m going to pay close attention next time I watch Miracle. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Nonfiction November Week 3 Wrap-Up

  6. Ooo, I could use some gossipy reads so these books are perfect! If you’re looking for a place to start with Scientology I loved Going Clear by Lawrence Wright – it’s a historical overview that comes right up to present day issues.

  7. Pingback: Links I Loved This Week – 11/19/17 – Novels And Nonfiction

  8. What a fun focus for the event! I think the only celebrity biography I read which stands out for me was Mommie Dearest, quite the scandalous read in its time. I still have a copy!

  9. This is the best nonfiction list EVER. And I know you won’t be surprised but I’ve read a number of these. Maybe we need to open up a classic movies theater/book store. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

    I read a Bette Davis biography decades ago- I’ll try and find it for you because it was good. I’m adding The Divine Feud to my list- I’m in desperate need of dishy gossip!

  10. Never am I more happy than when my new books get delivered! Next on the agenda is ‘Nasty Women’ A collection of essays and accounts of what it is to be a woman in the 21st century. Hopefully it’ll be a good one!

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