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The Richard Burton Diaries

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  401 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
Irresistibly magnetic on stage, mesmerizing in movies, seven times an Academy Award nominee, Richard Burton rose from humble beginnings in Wales to become Hollywood's most highly paid actor and one of England's most admired Shakespearean performers. His epic romance with Elizabeth Taylor, his legendary drinking and story-telling, his dazzling purchases (enormous diamonds, ...more
ebook, 704 pages
Published October 11th 2012 by Yale University Press (first published October 8th 2012)
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Petra X
A confession - I listened to an abridged version of this book. It was so fantastic that I've ordered the hardcover. But I ask myself was it fantastic because it was a brilliantly-written and assembled book of Richard Burton, the actor or because it gave me such hiraeth.

As Burton, I have a 'posh' English voice, as Burton I cannot help but construct sentences in a Welsh, specifically Valleys, way and as Burton, I too regain the Welsh inflexion when I'm speaking of home or with passion. So I'm read
Mar 03, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hard to put down. Had no idea what a voracious reader he was, a lifelong autodidact. He read 2, 3, or 4 books per day. On every possible subject. Including Rimbaud in French. Loved poetry passionately since a boy. Wherever he went for shoots (Mexico, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary) he made serious attempts to learn to speak & read the language. He always hoped to write a book but could never decide on the form. Kept a diary intermittently since childhood. Passionate about books and his l ...more
James Murphy
Apr 26, 2013 James Murphy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the gift was the first impulse but it began a habit Richard Burton kept up with varying regularity the rest of his life. That first beginning in December 1939 was in a diary given to him. He recorded the family and school and church activities of his home in Port Talbot, Wales faithfully all the next year. That first diary reveals what you'd expect, a boyish enthusiasm about sports and the war. He ended it after a year and didn't record his days again until 1960. By that time he'd begun ...more
Paul Wilner
Jan 12, 2013 Paul Wilner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sample quote: "E {]Taylor] anxious that I write about her so here goes. She is a nice fat girl who loves mosquitos and hates pustular carbuncular Welshmen, loathes boats and loves planes, has tiny blackcurrant eyes and minute breasts and has no sense of humour. She is prudish, priggish and painfully self-conscious."

Delicious. Burton would have crashed Good Reads if it had been around during his stormy life, since he seems to have been constantly reading (love his bashing of Edmund Wilson) in bet
J. Walker
Jan 23, 2014 J. Walker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a rip-roaring good time! He is so brilliant, and he is my favorite film actor of my lifetime. He's blunt and funny, and witty, and well-read, well-spoken, and in his diary as honest and forthright as you can be.
Between Dick and Liz, they knew everybody, and anybody who wanted to be someone wanted to know them in return.

I laugh out loud constantly; when I take it with me to read while eating dinner out, I have to explain and apologize to people at the adjoining tables because I CAN'T HELP
Oct 25, 2012 Karyn marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
From NYT:

"Come to this volume for the love story, stay for the lit talk. Burton often read as many as three books a day and hated anything or anyone getting in his way. “Maria Callas arrived,” he jots in November 1968, “and since I was in a reading mood she was not welcome.”

Burton read everything, high and low, and his running commentary is mostly a joy to behold. Edmund Wilson is “wrong about everything” and “a bore.” A Kingsley Amis novel is “expertly written but has ‘don’ written all over it.
Mar 17, 2013 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Richard Burton fans
Disclaimer re the 5 stars: Clearly biased because I consider Burton the finest actor and sexiest man of the 20th century, so I was hardly surprised to learn that he was brilliant on paper as well as on stage and screen.

This is a v-e-r-y long book, 655 dense pages covering Burton's life from his early teens, when he was obsessed with soccer, schoolwork, and earning odd bits of money, until near his death, although unfortunately with large gaps, notably omitting the time of the great scandal, dur
Michael Llewellyn
Jan 16, 2013 Michael Llewellyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The private musings of one of the last century's most public figures reveal an ongoing search for identity and purpose. Many forget that Burton had a stunning theatrical track record before marriage to Elizabeth Taylor brought stratospheric fame and fortune. Their well-documented liaison is one of staggering excess but beyond the diamonds, yachts and jet-setting was a man of great generosity and with a consuming passion for books and a quiet place to read them. As with most diaries, there are te ...more
For readers interested in the life of the late great actor Richard Burton, these diaries cover the early years while he was still the young Richard Jenkins, growing up in a poor Welsh mining town during the Second World War, and of course, the tempestuous Burton and Taylor years following the stars' meeting during the making of the movie Cleopatra. A portrait of two passionately connected, talented yet volatile actors emerges. Burton himself comes across as a man comfortable with his talent, yet ...more
Nov 24, 2012 Kc rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
These diaries were obviously not meant to be published and it shows. Frankly it seems like a gross invasion of privacy to print them. For the most part they are tedious and repetitious: Here's what I drank today, here's what I ate today, here's where I went, who I saw. He lists the books he read. One day he absolutely quits drinking and then has a couple martinis or "just some wine with dinner."
He obviously really loved Elizabeth Taylor and they clearly fought like cats and dogs much of the tim
Robert Collette
Jun 28, 2013 Robert Collette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My wife would ask what I was reading and then say in astonishment, "you're still reading that?". The truth is, I didn't want it to finish. It was like getting to talk to a friend everyday, who you know, is going to be taken away from you much too soon. I am happy now to go on to read something else, but at the same time left wishing there was more.
Sep 29, 2014 Constance rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"She will be awake in a few minutes so that is something to look forward to." Quote by Richard Burton while watching Elizabeth sleep.

After reading this tome, I feel like a just spent a month with Mr. Burton. Every page was a delight & I will cherish this book forever.
Mar 01, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure what I was expecting from this book, but it certainly took me very much by surprise.
I think the first thing I would say is that I felt very much that I was intruding on the private thoughts of an often troubled man, whose celebrity status sat uneasily with him.
The second thing I would say is that the copious and tedious footnotes became immensely irritating and tended to distract from the enjoyment. Did we really need to be informed, for example, that Tolstoy was a novelist or that
Sarah Cler
Dense reading, even for hardcore Richard Burton fans. I was alternately fascinated and bored with his entries, which really weren't edited at all, other than to have quite a few - often irritating and pointless - footnotes inserted. (I don't need to know the birth and death date of every individual mentioned, but would like to know a little background and/or context for Burton's reference of the person.) If you want to know what Richard Burton ate and drank and read (and weighed) every day, here ...more
Nov 26, 2012 Dale rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite all-time actors. An well read, incredibly smart artist. One of the a few who was an actor's actor. His diaries full of antidotes of the world he was very involved in. But if I had to rate Mr. Burton as a human, I would have to quote St Augustine...But what marvel that I was thus carried away to vanities, and went out from Thy presence, O my God, when men were set before me as models, who, if in relating some action of theirs, in itself not ill, they committed some barbarism or ...more
Jul 19, 2014 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best read of the year for me so far. What a life, what a voice, what a man! The diaries are patchy in places but cover the 1960's through to the early 1980's. Burton writes not only of his daily life and the people in it but also of current affairs at the time. He's opinionated, funny, poignant and insightful.
Sometimes I laughed out loud and sometimes, when he's clearly battling the demon booze, wanted to cry. As I neared the end of the book I just wanted to start it over - always a sign for
Cindy Knoke
Dec 28, 2012 Cindy Knoke rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In a word. BOOORING!
This book needed major editing but was published as written by Burton. The reader must wade through pages and pages of something akin to: “Woke up after frightful row with E. Both drank too much. Dined at Segrevs.” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
I know Richard Burton was a brilliant actor. His diary makes him seem trite and inconsequential.
A good editor could have changed this.
Pass. Pass. Pass.
Sep 13, 2013 Velouria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Completely absorbing. At times voyeuristic, often an escapist immersion in the lives of the rich and famous in the 60's and 70's. packed with great anecdotes, cautionary tales, melancholic wisdom and humour. The index is exhaustive and thankfully means I will dip into this book again and again. Lovely stuff.
Nasser Hashmi
Mar 03, 2016 Nasser Hashmi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bitter, compelling story of a man trapped in a giant, golden handshake.

Sad, garish and beautiful.
Linda Beuret
Feb 24, 2013 Linda Beuret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, facinating for anyone interested in the Burton-Taylor saga. My husband had no interest but I find his talent and tale telling so excellent that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Nov 22, 2013 Belinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Sigh. This is one of those books you don't want to end because you have become so enamored of the characters or in this case, person the book is about. I adore Richard Burton, always have. Elizabeth Taylor is one of my favorite film stars and people ever. Of course I was going to read this, especially after watching the superb film about a section of their lives that was recently on the BBC and starred the divine Helena Bonham Carter.
Even with all the love I have for Richard Burton I was rather
Joy H.
Apr 21, 2016 Joy H. marked it as read-partially  ·  review of another edition
Added 2/16/16. (This book was first published in 2012.)
I found out about this book while taking a quiz on 2/16/16.
The FunTrivia quiz question was as follows:
"Who said of Elizabeth Taylor, 'She is beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography'"?
"Answer: Richard Burton"
"After Burton's death, thousands of his innermost thoughts were found recorded in reams of handwritten notes, diaries and pocket books, and this was one of them. In a heartbeat it capture
This book took me two months – to the day – to read. For someone who used to read a book a day and has now slowed down to generally a book a week, that is LONG time. But don’t think that it was because I didn’t enjoy reading this – on the contrary, I loved it, to the extent that I would put it in my top ten favourite books.

Because it is Richard Burton’s diaries, it is not an autobiography as such, but it does paint an revealing and fascinating picture of his life, particularly during his first m
I suppose the Taylor-Burtons were the couple who took celebrity to a different level in the 1960s, and I was sort of fascinated by this book because I kept trying to work out why Burton would have been so besotted by a spolit, vain, avaricious drama queen like Elizabeth Taylor. Sadly, this book doesn't do much to enlighten me. Neither could I quite fathom why Burton kept acting when he said he hated it - except for the fact that Taylor was a very expensive item to run and he had to keep getting ...more
Feb 22, 2013 Sher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delete Mr. Burton's passages about his passion for football (soccer), or how he hopes to outfit his yacht, and you have an up close and personal look at what it's like to be one of the world's most notable (and notorious) celebrities.

The first chapters cover Burton's early life in Wales. While it's interesting to learn more about what shaped him as a man and a person, Burton is at his best when he writes about his life as an actor and as the man who loves Elizabeth Taylor.

Mr. Burton has definit
Marissa Morrison
I didn't read the whole thing--just skimmed the first half. I stopped at the part where he wrote about how boring and unpleasant it was to spend time with his step-children. Considering the fact that these poor kids had already had a few step-fathers and spent most of their time in boarding school, that just seemed like an awful thought to have put into print.

Why do Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton hold any fascination for me? I don't even like movies. I saw Cleopatra on TV about 25 years ag
Mar 18, 2014 Starcndy1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved reading Richard Burton's diaries. Richard was sharply and hilariously sarcastic, poking holes in celebrities who were full of themselves. Self-deprecating and, at most times, very honest about himself and Elizabeth Taylor, Richard documented a day in the life of successful acting--even when he hated it. I actually found Richard's minutiae of everyday life interesting, since it gave clear pictures of what his and Liz's lives were really like (not always what the tabloids claimed). Other r ...more
Jeff Howells
This is quite an infuriating read. Although a thick book, Burton was not a regular diary keeper and only did so with any sort of consistency in the period between 1965-72. However this book contains almost everything he committed to paper including his youthful diaries as a teenager which are essentially of the 'played rugby, went to the pictures' variety. There was no real reason to include these as they offer no real insight. The most interesting parts of the diaries are those he wrote whilst ...more
Jan 24, 2016 Sull rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting in parts, boring in other parts. Long periods of no (or lost?) diary that pique one's interest. RB used the diaries to rate how he was doing in the arenas he cared about--his (prodigious) reading, his love life, acting career, exercise routine, the deepening hell his alcoholism put him through, and his relationships with his (step) children. The largest part of the diary (60s-late 70s) and by far the most interesting, covers his relationship with Elizabeth Taylor, and is written with ...more
Nov 18, 2015 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early on in these diaries I started to wonder how many of the entries that have been missed - and there are days and weeks when Burton failed to write anything - were simply because he was too drunk to hold a pencil? It’s a shame because it breaks the flow of the narrative. One minute, he seems to be warming up, with stories, recollections and opinions coming thick and fast, only for the editor to suddenly intervene and tell you that the next four months were omitted. You do wonder why? Most dia ...more
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Lush Library: Finish a book - *before* Christmas 2013 3 9 Dec 17, 2013 04:11PM  
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Librarian note: There is more than one author with this name in the Goodreads database.
Do not confuse with Richard Francis Burton
Richard Burton, CBE (10 November 1925 – 5 August 1984) was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award – for My Cousin Rachel (1952), The Robe (1953), Becket (1964), The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), An
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