If you were among the 3.5 million people who tuned into the season five premiere of Mad Men this past Sunday, you're probably used to long waits between moments of joy. After all, fans of the show spent 17 months awaiting the return of Don, Peggy, Joan, and their island of misfit toys in bespoke suits.
So now, while you're languishing in inter-episode limbo, here are a few books from our shelves to take solace in until your TV is again alit with the sharp angles, smoldering cigarettes, and sly looks of the swinging guys and gals at the fictional advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
Then We Came to the End – Joshua Ferris
Set in a nameless Chicago ad agency, this riotous debut novel will appeal equally to fans of The Office – or to anyone who's felt even a shadow of an emotional connection to the people at work. Written entirely in the third-person-plural (i.e., "we"), the book chronicles the failures, flame-ups, and tiny triumphs of a group of unlike people who have chosen to spend the majority of their time on earth reporting to desks surrounded by strangers. In other words, it reads like your life. And you'll be better for reading it.
Can You Keep a Secret? – Sophie Kinsella
What if your boss knew all of your embarrassing secrets? That's the dilemma Emma Corrigan faces, having aired all of her dirty laundry on a fraught plane ride, only to find out the handsome stranger in the seat next to her was the CEO at the company where she's angling to become a marketing executive. A romantic relationship full of advice-dispensing ensues. The off-kilter relationship in this book by the author of Confessions of a Shopaholic feels a bit like if Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy hooked up in 30 Rock.
e (a novel) – Matt Beaumont
Ever felt like you've got a novel's worth of emails backed up in your inbox? Quite likely you do, but it’s probably not as funny as the catty and conniving exchanges between the characters in Matt Beaumont's electronic epistolary novel e. Set in a London ad agency at the turn of the millennium, the book offers a former copywriter's look at the advertising world through the medium that still rules working people’s lives and minds: email.
Women's Work – Anne Tolstoi Wallach
Like a real-world version of Peggy Olson, Anne Tolstoi Wallach entered the man's world of 1950s advertising as a talented, driven, and attractive woman – and she triumphed in the face of adversity (pun intended). She wrote this 1981 semi-autobiographical novel on weekends she didn't spend at her office as a VP at Grey.
Underworld – Don DeLillo
After graduating college, Don DeLillo worked as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather. Though his highly acclaimed 11th novel, Underworld, isn’t set exclusively in the ad world, it does contain a sketch of ad agency life in the '60s that (as the The Times has noted), reads like an epigraph for Mad Men: "The married copywriters met their secretaries, or the secretaries of other writers, or the tall and lissome secretaries of account executives, white-shod and well-spoken, and went about their tender regimen of lunchtime love."
Sterling's Gold -- "Roger Sterling"
Mad Men fans know that in season four, Roger Sterling, to his colleagues deep and private amusement, is working on a book of remembrances and witty rejoinders called, painfully, Sterling’s Gold. But fans may not realize the book was fully envisioned and published in the real world – and your Library was wacky sophisticated enough to buy a copy. More a novelty than anything else, Sterling’s Gold includes advice on the art of seduction, drinking, dealing with those pesky creatives, and other observations from Mad Men's chief agent of comic relief.
Confessions of an Advertising Man – David Ogilvy
Last, it’s hard to conceive of Mad Men without the “Father of Advertising” himself. As the demiurge behind the modern ad agency, Ogilvy’s specter looms over the show. Don Draper even has this book of business wisdom on his shelf. What higher recommendation do you need?
Now it’s your turn, pally pal: What has Mad Men got you reading? Also check out Flavorwire’s comprehensive list of books that have appeared on the show.
About the Author
Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.