Thursday, April 10, 2014 |
Popular books of the period are often featured on AMC's Mad Men. (AMC)
Don Draper and the rest of the cast of AMC's Mad Men head into the seventh, and final, season of the award-winning TV series this weekend. (Actually, the season has been split into two parts, so the final half of the season will air in 2015.)
Throughout the show's run, it has touched on major social and political events of the era, from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King to the Vietnam War. Popular and controversial books and authors of the period have also been featured on the show or been referenced, from the work of Ayn Rand to Meditations in an Emergency by poet Frank O'Hara to Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby.
Season six ended in 1968, so it's fair to assume that the coming season will move into the 1970s and deal with (among other things) the Watergate scandal. Don and company have also opened an office in Los Angeles, so the movie business could also figure prominently in what's to come. To mark the return of Mad Men, we've drawn up a reading list of seven books that are hallmarks of the era: they wouldn't look out of place on Don or Peggy's bedside table and they're still being read today.
All the President's Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
According to Time, this classic of investigative reportage, published in 1974, is "the work that brought down a presidency...perhaps the most influential piece of journalism in history."
It's an exhaustively detailed chronicle of the Watergate scandal by the two Washington Post reporters who broke the story. Richard Nixon was forced to resign as U.S. president as a result of the reporters' revelations of corruption -- and the public's trust in politicians suffered a major blow.
The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
This satirical 1969 novel put Atwood on the map as a fiction writer (she'd already proved her chops as a poet) and sharp social commentator. The protagonist is a young woman who works for a market research firm. Marian McAlpin gets engaged, and suddenly develops an eating disorder -- which mirrors the fact that she's being consumed by her relationship.
Gender stereotypes and constraints on women in a male-dominated world? Mad Men's Peggy and Joan can certainly relate.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) by David Reuben, MD
Psychiatrist Dr. Reuben initially pitched his book to publishers as a humorous book about sex. Probably the jaunty, wisecracking tone helped, but Rueben's informative guide to human sexuality, first published in 1969 and revised and updated in 1999, was also practical. And it was one of the first sex manuals to be widely available.
More than a hundred million readers have turned to the good doctor's book for tips on how to have a good sex life. (Is there anyone on the show who wouldn't be interested in that?)
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Truman Capote's ground-breaking chronicle of a grisly multiple murder in Kansas created a sensation when it was first published in 1966. The book was called "a masterpiece" by Life magazine and "the best documentary account of an American crime ever written" by the New York Review of Books.
This "non-fiction novel," the first of its kind, set the standard for the true crime genre. And it first appeared in installments in The New Yorker, so Madison Avenue would have paid attention.
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Benchley's gripping story of a white shark that menaces a New England town became an instant bestseller when it hit bookstores in early 1974. Steven Spielberg's blockbuster film adaptation came out the following year.
The book and film didn't do much for the reputation of sharks, but they're still regarded as classics of the suspense genre. Hard to imagine that Don and the crew would miss out on the grim fun, especially with this season's L.A. connection.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The story of Billy Pilgrim, an American soldier traumatized by his experiences in the Second World War, and particularly by the bombing of Dresden, is a dark comedy that features time travel, aliens and wild leaps in time and space. Vonnegut's 1969 novel made it into the Modern Library's top 20 of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century (it ranked 18th).
The trippy nature of the narrative might not appeal to Don Draper, but he'd probably appreciate its anti-war message (even if he wouldn't publicly admit it).
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Three women with dreams of succeeding in show business end up destroyed by pills (the "dolls" of the title is a slang term for barbiturates) booze and man trouble. It all makes for a tawdry tale.
Okay, so this guilty pleasure is no literary masterpiece. But, first published in 1966, it IS one of the best-selling books of all time.
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