One of the things we love most about Mad Men (and we’re big fans, so it’s hard to pick) is that the show is chock full of significant period details. And few things say more about a character or era than books. From its first season, the impeccably literate series has showcased everything from popular novels of the early ’60s to classic literature. After the jump, we’ve compiled an extensive list of books featured in, based on, or that inspired Mad Men, broken down by season. Happy — or, more realistically, dramatic and depressing but still valuable and gripping — reading!
The Best of Everything — Rona Jaffe (1958) Don snuggles up to this book in bed with Betty. So, what’s a manly man like our hero doing with what basically amounted to ’50s chick lit? We’re guessing market research… which may also be exactly what his marriage amounts to, in the end.
Read: An excerpt of The Best of Everything
Atlas Shrugged — Ayn Rand Basically all you need to know about mysterious Sterling Cooper partner Bert Cooper is that he’s obsessed with Ayn Rand. In season one, he tells Don, “I believe we are alike. You are a productive and reasonable man, and in the end, completely self interested” and tells him to buy a copy of Atlas Shrugged. And that’s pretty much the inspiration behind Cooper’s entire cultured, eccentric, capitalist persona.
Read: An excerpt of Atlas Shrugged
Watch: Bert preaches the gospel of Rand
The Sound and the Fury — William Faulkner (1929) You want to know how good sex with Don Draper is? Well, when he’s in bed with Joy in Los Angeles, she’s reading The Sound and the Fury. When he asks her how she likes Faulkner’s masterpiece, she replies that it’s just OK compared to their roll in the hay.
Read: A free hypertext version of the novel
Meditations in an Emergency — Frank O’Hara (1957) Perhaps the most visible book to appear on the show, Meditations in an Emergency is also the title of Mad Men’s second season finale. Way back in the first episode of that series, Don Draper meets a bohemian reading it in a bar where O’Hara happens to have composed much of the book who suggests that he’s too square to appreciate it. That, of course, is good enough to sell Don on the book. The New York School poet’s pieces, like the chaotic episode, are fraught with personal crisis.
Read: “Meditations in an Emergency”
Watch: Don reading from O’Hara’s “Mayakovsky”
The Group — Mary McCarthy (1963) Undoubtedly part of the wising up process for Bryn Mawr grad Betty, The Group is a quick, gossipy, but also smart and satirical novel about a gaggle of Vassar grads and their largely unhappy adult lives. It’s just the kind of downer we can imagine her savoring in season three.
Read: Natasha Vargas-Cooper of The Awl on Betty, The Group, and Sex and the Single Girl
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — Edward Gibbon (1776-1789) Is there any greater portent of total familial meltdown than Gibbon’s 18th-century masterpiece in the hands of little Sally Draper? Yes, that is the bedtime story she reads aloud to her beloved Grandpa Gene early in season three.
Read: All six volumes at Project Gutenberg
See the unabridged list HERE
Friday, July 30, 2010
"Man Men" Reading List: The Book Biz and the Ad World Collide
It seems the "Mad Men" craze is stretching even further than tv-land.
Clothing retailers have taken notice, gearing their styles toward 1960s New York. Cities are capatilizing on its popularity with open outdoor season premiere viewings (like the one in Times Square this past Sunday). Even the book biz is been tagging along for the ride.
In fact, just last week Boldtype (a online publishing segment by Flavorpill) posted an article called "The Definitive Man Men Reading List."
Included in the list are ten books that appeared in the first few seasons of the award-winning AMC drama, with a recap and screenshot of its time on-screen and a link to an excerpt of each book. The post was sent out via Flavorpill to subscibers all over the world, including to a friend of mine, J, who thoughtfully passed it my way. (Please not that the below quoted material has been abridged.):
The article also goes on to plug some of the recent "Mad Men" tie-in publications, such as:
Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America — Natasha Vargas-Cooper (2010)
Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing Is as It Seems — ed. Rod Carveth and James B. South (2010)
The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men — Janie Bryant with Monica Corcoran Harel (coming October 2010)