The Books They Read on TV's Mad Men

shelved under Movies & Television and Fiction

For those book lovers who occasionally dabble in television, undoubtedly you've discovered the gem that is AMC's "Mad Men". Set in the early '60s, this show is a flawless time machine back to the glamorous days of three martini lunches and ever-present plumes of cigarette smoke.

For readers, one of the best parts of the show is the circa 1960 books that are quite prominently featured. Below are the five that I recall from the first season. I'm sure I missed one or two and I didn't even look in Season Two — please let me know what I missed?

(Oh, and I'd like to dedicate this list to my favorite Bryn Mawr girl, @BettyDraper.)


The Best of Everything

by Rona Jaffe

While I wasn't around in the late '50s/early '60s, that's exactly when my Mom was a single career girl in New York City. She passed away some years ago and there are many reasons I'm sad about that — there are so many questions I'd like to ask her. But after reading this book I feel as if I have an incredibly accurate window into what her life must've been like.


Meditations in an Emergency

by Frank O'Hara

An interesting collection of poems from one of the great New American Poets.



by Leon Uris

For those who don't know this book or the author, it's an breezy read telling the tale of the 1940s birth of Israel — as told through a love story. (Fittingly, I read this on a vacation to... Israel.) Personally, the style reminded me a lot of Herman Wouk's "Winds of War" or some of the earlier James Michener. Bottom line? Interesting way to pick up some modern history, great plot, total page-turner that you won't be embarrassed to be seen reading.


Atlas Shrugged

by Ayn Rand

Wow. There seems to be a bit of a Mom theme going here. My Mom loved, loved, loved this book. She's wasn't one of those passionate Ayn Rand fans who won't stop extolling her (ok, maybe she was passionate about her but she wouldn't talk about it unless you were interested). If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and do so. Even if you don't agree with her ideas it's still a great read. Oh, and speaking of favors? I'll do you one. When you're 80% into the book and hit that 100 page long speech? Take my sister's advice � skip it. It's just a reiteration of all the ideas that were woven into the first 800 pages.


The Sound and the Fury

by William Faulkner

Anne Charnock says:

Here's a real challenge. It's an early example of fractured narrative, wielded to great effect in conveying the dysfunctional relationships within the Compson family — high-born Southerners fallen on hard times. Three sections are written from the point of view of different family members and the fourth by an omniscient narrator. Faulkner writes in stream of consciousness with frequent time slips. Infamously, he opens the novel with the meandering thoughts of mentally disabled Benji. Gradually, you piece together the family's traumas, their disgrace and the cruelties inflicted not only within the family but also on their servants. The latter part of the book is written more conventionally. Personally, I feel the transition in "readability" is too sharp between the first two and last two sections. Don't expect a neat and tidy ending.


Confessions of an Advertising Man

by Sir Alan Parker, David Ogilvy

This book by David Ogilvy (who went on to be one of THE names in advertising in the 2nd half of the 20th century) was the topic of discussion a little more than halfway through the 3rd season. While I haven't read the book, it strikes me as one of the very first "look at me!" books that have become so pervasive in our society.


The Group

by Mary McCarthy

I wasn't surprised when this book showed up in Betty's hands near the end of season 3 — it's really a perfect companion to the more up-to-date The Best of Everything that also appears on this list. While the just-graduated-from-Vassar women in this novel lead their independent lives during the 1930's, their hopes, dreams, and actions would all ring true to a 1963 Betty.