“Advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” wrote ad exec Jerry Della Femina. Reading about advertising is a close second…until “Mad Men” premieres, that is. Grab a fedora, shake up a martini, and get your Don and Peggy on with these “Mad Men”-era reads. And if these don’t quite fit the bill, you can always pick up a copy of “Sterling’s Gold” (yes, Grove Press really published it; it’s filled with Roger Sterling’s pithy bon mots).
‘From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front Line Dispatches from the Advertising War’
By Jerry Della Femina
(Simon & Schuster).
For a nonfiction take on Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s three-martini lunches, office dalliances, and innovative ad campaigns, Della Femina’s frank and funny book is just the ticket. "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner even cites the memoir as an inspiration for the series. "I refuse to apologize for telling the truth about advertising, and if it offended some people, that's just too bad,” Della Femina says. “If I had wanted to be loved by those people I would have joined the Peace Corps.” How can you resist that sort of unapologetic take on the advertising industry (which Della Femina says was much, much worse than anything seen on AMC)? You can’t.
‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’
By David Ogilvy
Unlike Della Femina’s book, "Confessions of an Advertising Man" is more of an advertising handbook, dispensing advice and wisdom from Madison Avenue wunderkind David Ogilvy. Regarded as the father of modern advertising, Ogilvy lays down some mind-blowing concepts that can benefit many industries and business professionals. To wit: “The two most powerful words you can use in a headline are FREE and NEW. You can seldom use FREE, but you can always use NEW.” This is a fascinating read, and might provide you with a bit more insight into the enigmatic mind of Don Draper, who was seen reading the 1963 book in Season 3. “In the modern world of business,” Ogilvy wrote, “it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” And Don seems to have been a good student, having done a pretty good job selling his greatest creation: himself.
‘The Valley of the Dolls’
By Jacqueline Susann
A guilty pleasure read, "The Valley of the Dolls" has titillated the masses for decades, selling more than 30 million copies since its publication in 1966. The story is now a familiar classic: small-town girl Anne moves to the Big Apple to break into show business. She meets vaudeville star Neely O’Hara as well as beautiful but minimally talented Jennifer. All have roles in a Broadway musical and become fast friends. The novel chronicles how their friendship, careers, and drug addictions evolve over two decades. While "Mad Men"’s only real drug action — aside from rampant smoking and drinking — has Midge trying to pawn off a crappy painting to Don to nurse a heroin addiction at the end of Season 4, Susann’s juicy novel reveals the high price of fame and the lows of the dolls (slang for downers and barbiturates). For a more literary take on female friendships over time, check out Mary McCarthy’s 1963 novel, "The Group," which Betty was reading in the tub in Season 3.
More in books
By Charles Webb
(Washington Square Press)
Mrs. Robinson, I think you’re trying to seduce us. Charles Webb’s novel focuses on Benjamin Braddock, a recent graduate grappling with what to do next. Enter Mrs. Robinson. The wife of his dad’s business partner, the two begin a May-December affair that is destined to end badly, seeing as Benjamin is falling in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine. Webb’s novel captures the ennui of an educated young man with no clear direction, and the complicated emotions of a middle-aged woman who wants to be desired and a good mother.
‘Sex and the Single Girl’
By Helen Gurley Brown
Before she became the legendary editor of Cosmo, Helen Gurley Brown was a highly paid advertising copywriter. Then she published this daring book in 1962, and gave single women everywhere hope and a heroine. The book sold a crazy 2 million copies in three weeks, and why shouldn’t it? An advice book that encouraged women to make their own money and try sex on for size before or — gasp! — without getting married, "Sex and the Single Girl" captured the zeitgeist and imagination of millions of women around the world. “When I wrote 'Sex and the Single Girl,' which was the precursor to Cosmopolitan, if you didn't have a husband, you might as well go to the Grand Canyon and throw yourself in,” Brown said. “And if you were having sex with a man you were not married to? Well, your reputation was just shot.” The book set the stage for a whole category of self-help/relationship books and was, I suspect, read by more than one gal at Sterling Cooper.
‘The Golden Spur’
By Dawn Powell
Powell’s last novel is a glimpse into the world of 1960s Greenwich Village, and the sort of read you’d find in Peggy Olsen’s handbag. Jonathan Jaimison thinks his dad too pedantic to have sired the likes of him, so he heads to New York to track down the man with whom his mother may have gotten jiggy. Using his mother’s diaries, he trolls the bars and cafes of the Village, falling into an artsy group under the spell of a painter named Hugow. Despite, or perhaps because of, his own indiscretions, his journey helps him to find out the truth about his parentage, and to find himself.
Jennifer Worick is the author of more than 25 books and a publishing consultant; she can be found at The Business of Books.
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