A GOOD READ: Mad about Mad Men and books

Normally, I don’t associate watching TV with reading. Imagine, then, my surprise when I began to notice books appearing on Mad Men.

It quickly occurred to me that books displayed on the popular, critically acclaimed show were used in a subtle way to emphasize the development of character and plot.

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe is a real page-turner. This is the story of five young women working for a New York publishing company, a fascinating pre-feminist look at career girls in 1950s New York. The novel gave me insight into the personal struggles of these girls at a time when ties for men and white gloves for women were the norm, along with drinking whiskey, smoking cigarettes and womanizing. This book has been called the Sex and The City of the ’50s.

One of the bestselling novels of the 1960s was Exodus by Leon Uris. Uris is known for the deep research into historical, cultural and geographical details that went into his novels. This fictional story is a grand, sweeping epic that takes place over several years during the creation of Israel.

Published in 1928, Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence tells the story of an adulterous love affair. The book was banned in Canada for 30 years and, although it may seem tame by today’s standards, it was considered risqué to most people during the early 1960s.

Atlas Shrugged made Ayn Rand one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Try reading some online reviews of this book and you’ll soon find out that a lot of people don’t like it. It’s good for spurring thought and opinion, and examining what the balance between individualism, the corporate needs of society and the role of government. This is a perfect book for the 1960s, a time of radical change in how the world was perceived.

In The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John le Carré explores the shadowy years when the cold war came to life. This book has been named one of the best spy novels of all time. The story examines the intelligence services of both the eastern and western nations and explores the question of whether there is really any difference between “us” and “them.”

The clothes worn by the characters of Mad Men have fascinated fans of the show. If fashion is your passion, have a look at The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men by Janie Bryant. Bryant’s wonderful book of illustrations and fashion advice contains historical information about fashion and insight into the clothes worn by the characters. Bryant offers advice on how to dress to suit your personality and there is information on accessories and vintage clothing.

Each character in Mad Men has a book in hand at one time or another and kids are no exception. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown appears in the show. This was one of our family’s favourite bedtime stories. It’s just so soothing for the little ones at bedtime. The illustrations are simple and the room darkens slowly as the little bunny says goodnight to his day and drifts off into sleep. This is still such a great way to tuck in a sleepy child.

Also in the show, Sally Draper curls up in a chair with Lloyd Alexander’s fantasy novel The Black Cauldron. The book is a Newbery Honor Book and is part of the wonderful Chronicles of Prydain series. Young readers are still captivated by the adventures of Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper and his quest to become a hero. Both kids and adults can enjoy this exciting and fast paced story.

These are just a few of the books that make an appearance on Mad Men. To have a look at more titles, New York Public Library has compiled a book list that covers what the characters were reading during each season of the show. Visit your local library for a list of popular writers from previous decades — it’s a great way to connect with some good reads and interesting authors.

A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published every Wednesday. Susan Clark works at Terry Fox Library in Port Coquitlam.

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