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16 Perfect Books To Fill The Void Left By Mad Men

Have a seat. Shut the door. Read a book.

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1. Meditations in an Emgergency by Frank O'Hara

What it's about: The New York that poet Frank O'Hara writes of is often indifferent and scattered, but yet as in the titular poem, he can't quite be apart from it.

Why you should read it: O'Hara's colloquial style captures the grittiness of New York that Don often finds himself above, though he can be seen reading it during the second season.


2. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

What it's about: Frank and April Wheeler have achieved the American Dream of the 1950s: a home with a white picket fence, two children. When their mutual unhappiness becomes too stifling, April proposes moving to Paris to reclaim their lives.

Why you should read it: The parallels between Don and Betty are striking, but their story and their disillusionment with the American Dream may be more heartbreaking than anything Matthew Weiner wrote.

3. Sex and the Single Girl Helen Gurley Brown

What it's about: Written before her tenure as Cosmopolitan's editor-in-chief, Helen Gurley Brown's book was a guide for young women on everything from wardrobe suggestions to how to properly have an affair.

Why you should read it: While it's not explicitly mentioned in Mad Men, Brown's book would have most likely been on the shelves of the secretaries and receptionists at SCDP.

4. Exodus by Leon Uris

What it's about: The 1958 novel depicts the struggles Jewish refugees faced when attempting to enter British-occupied Palestine as the new state of Israel was forming.

Why you should read it: Don is shown reading the novel in the first season of Mad Men, most notably in "Babylon," when he is preparing an ad campaign for the Israel Tourism Bureau. Notably, this is also when he is embarking on an affair with Rachel Menken.

5. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

What it's about: Christopher Isherwood's classic novel follows a day in the life of George, a British professor in California, who is mourning the death of his partner Jim.

Why you should read it: Groundbreaking for its frank discussion of homosexuality, A Single Man illustrates some of the struggles that fan favorite Salvatore faced in his life.


6. The White Album by Joan Didion

What it's about: The titular essay is the stand out in this collection. Joan Didion perfectly captures the pervasive unease the 1960s created for the upper-middle class.

Why you should read it: While it was published too late to have appeared in the show, Didion's work covers part of the late 1960s, like the Manson murders, that Mad Men only briefly referenced.

7. Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

What it's about: Written by the "father of advertising," David Ogilvy's approach to building an advertising business still resonants today.

Why you should read it: Published in 1963, the book appears in the third season as Don and the partners contemplate beginning an entirely new agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

8. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

What it's about: An essential tome of second wave feminism, Betty Friedan's work was critical in galvanizing women to demand further equality in the workplace and at home.

Why you should read it: While Mad Men had more of a "show, not tell" approach to Joan and Peggy's feminism, Friedan's ideas were behind the cultural shifts that enabled them to rise to the top.

9. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X with Alex Haley

What it's about: Told to writer Alex Haley over the course of two years, The Autobiography of Malcolm X illustrates his journey as an activist.

Why you should read it: Unfortunately, Mad Men often presented a white-washed version of the 1960s. This seminal work fills in the history the show left out.


10. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

What it's about: Rosemary Woodhouse moves into an old Gothic style apartment building with her husband Guy, an unlucky actor. Soon his luck turns, and Rosemary finds herself pregnant. Terror ensues.

Why you should read it: While on the surface a horror classic, Rosemary's Baby illuminates socio-economic tensions and the expectations placed on mothers in the 1960s. Just the same, it's best to not follow Sally's example in "The Crash": don't read it before bed.

11. The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton

What it's about: Usually grouped with the Confessional poets, Anne Sexton's poems deal frankly with mental illness, motherhood, and sexuality.

Why you should read it: While her poetry isn't mentioned in Mad Men, Betty may have found some solace in knowing she wasn't alone in her struggles as a housewife and mother.

12. The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson

What it's about: Tom Rath returns home from WWII to an unfulfilling public relations job at a television network, while striving to create a better life in suburbia for his family.

Why you should read it: Though the book doesn't appear in Mad Men, Rath's discontent with corporate America confirms everything that Don found distasteful about working in McCann-Erickson.

13. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

What it's about: Jacqueline Susann's classic roman à clef delves into the lives of three women who become addicted to depressants and stimulants.

Why you should read it: If you look closely at Don's bookshelves in the sixth season during "The Crash," you'll catch a glimpse of this book. While it's not mentioned by name, the novel speaks to the pressures women face in light of the male gaze.


14. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

What it's about: Jack Kerouac's stand-in Sal Paradise travels across the United States and paints a portrait of life beyond the confines of an office.

Why you should read it: Bert Cooper is again tasked with making one of the last literary references in Mad Men when his ghost quotes a line from On The Road to Don as he drives away from New York in "Lost Horizon."

15. The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe

What it's about: Published in 1958, Rona Jaffe's classic novel resonated with young women around the United States who saw glimpses of their own lives in those of characters navigating the publishing world.

Why you should read it: The novel still speaks to the challenges women face in the workplace today. Interestingly though, it's Don who is seen reading it in "Babylon" early in the first season.

16. American Pastoral by Philip Roth

What it's about: Philip Roth's classic novel is a guide to the societal upheavals of the 1960s through its focus on the upturned life of Seymour "Swede" Levov.

Why you should read it: While Don seems to prefer Roth's Portnoy's Complaint in the seventh season, American Pastoral more closely examines the unique tensions of the 1960s.

Know of another book that fills the Don Draper void in your life? Let us know below!

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