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Mad Men Reading List


The revised Mad Men Reading List is now available here.


If you follow The Battery Park City Library on Twitter then you've seen our tweets linking to books that have appeared in the hit television show Mad Men. These titles are a great way to gain insight into the episodes and the social and cultural times in which the series is set. Like the set and costume design, the literary choices of the show really add a stamp of authenticity. Dipping into these classics is also a great way to help with withdrawals while waiting for new episodes to air.

Some of the titles are featured prominently in the series and others are mentioned in passing. Remember the book Sally read with her grandfather at bedtime? The book on Japanese culture the agency was told to read? The scandalous book the ladies passed between each other in secret? You can find all these and more! Search #MadMen #Reading on Twitter to stay up-to-date. Older tweets might temporarily be unavailable.

Also included at the end of the list is a "You might also like" section of related books and movies.

Do you have any favorite Mad Men books or literary quotes from the show? Please share!

For those of you who are not on Twitter here is the current book list:

Meditations in an Emergency - Frank O’Hara
The Best of Everything - Rona Jaffe
Confessions of an Advertising Man - David Ogilvy
Babylon Revisited and Other Stories - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword - Ruth Benedict
Exodus - Leon Uris
Ship of Fools - Katherine Ann Porter
Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
The Agony and the Ecstasy - Irving Stone
The Group - Mary Mccarthy
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Edward Gibbon

You might also like:

From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor - Jerry Della Femina
Advertising in America: The First 200 Years - Charles Goodrum and Helen Dalrymple
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates (also check out this great post).
Revolutionary Road - DVD
The 1960s - John Peacock
The Male Mystique: Men's magazine Ads of the 1960s and '70s - Jacques Boyreau
A Double Scotch: How Chivas Regal and the Glenlivet Became Global Icons - F. Paul Pacult
Bye Bye Birdie - DVD
Furniture & Interiors of the 1960s - Anne Bony
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit - Sloane Wilson
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit - DVD
Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers - edited by Regina Lee Blaszczyk

Pour yourself a scotch and enjoy!

Update: 9/19/10 episode: The Clue of the Black Keys - Carolyn Keene

9/22/10 update to "You might also like":  The John Cheever short story "The Swimmer," and the movie based on the same, especially in relation to season 4 episode 8 (4.8), "The Summer Man."

10/1/10 update:  I am rewatching everything with audio commentary.  In the pilot episode Peggy is seen reading an "It's Your Wedding Night" pamphlet in her doctor's office.  The subtitles of the publication: "What Every Bride Should Know" and "How to be a Good Wife."  The episode takes place in March 1960.

10/1/10 update #2: Rosemarie DeWitt, who plays Midge Daniels in the first season, mentions in the audio commentary that Matt Weiner suggested she read Memoirs of a Beatnik by Diane di Prima.

10/2/10 update to "You might also like": three films from 1960: From the Terrace, The Apartment, Strangers When We Meet

10/3/10 update: What does Don Draper read at work? Here are some of the spot on period and subject titles that have appeared on the shelf behind his desk:

The Hidden Persuaders - Vance Packard
The Lonely Crowd - David Riesman
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America - David Boorstin
The Hucksters - Frederick Wakeman

10/4/10 update: In the 10/3/10 episode "Chinese Wall" (4.11) the book Meeting with Japan by Fosco Maraini is seen on the bookshelf behind Peggy's bed.  The book Faye is reading while waiting in Don's apartment is Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships by Eric Berne.

10/12/10 update: Literary references in the 10/10/10 episode “Blowing Smoke” (4.12) : Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan.

10/18/10 update: In the season four finale "Tomorrowland" (4.13) Don is reading John Le Carré's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

10/20/10 update: Literary references: "Our worst fears lie in anticipation." - Balzac. The actual quote is "Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation." The line was used in two episodes in season 3.  In "Out of Town" (3.1), when Salvatore Romano is speaking to the executives at London Fog he says "Our worst fears lie in anticipation.  That's not me. That's Balzac."  Don repeats the same line to another expecting father in the hospital waiting room in "The Fog" (3.5). The other father replies, "Are you so sure about that?"

Also in "Out of Town":  Lane Pryce: "There is no fog in London. There is no London fog."  Bert Cooper: "Are you sure about that?"  Lane: "Quite.  There never was.  It was the coal dust from the industrial era. Charles Dickens and whatnot."

10/20/10 update #2: anachronism: The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary is shown behind Lane Pryce's desk in "Love Among the Ruins" (3.2). The Compact Edition wasn't published until 1971 and the 3-volume set shown wasn't published until 1987.
10/23/10 update: "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency" (3.6): The Adventures of Tom Sawyer / Mark Twain. Lane Pryce says he has been reading a lot of American literature, Tom Sawyer, and feels like he just went to his own funeral and didn't like the eulogy.  Earlier in the same episode Powell mentions Agatha Christie.
In the episode "Seven Twenty Three" (3.7) Peggy says that her mother gave her Conrad Hilton's book.  This is likely Hilton's Be My Guest, which was released in 1958.  Hilton's Inspirations of an Innkeeper was released in 1963 and though this episode takes place July 20-23, 1963, Inspirations of an Innkeeper was printed in a limited edition of 312 copies so it is unlikely that Peggy's mom would have given her a copy of that book.
In the episode "The Color Blue" (3.10) when Betty finds Don's box of secrets, some of the books on the shelf behind her include: Helping Yourself with Psychiatry by Frank Caprio, Set Theory and Logic by Robert Stoll, Meeting with Japan by Fosco Maraini (also seen on Peggy's shelf in 4.11!) and (anachronism alert) a compilation of the first three books in The Corps series by W.E.B Griffin.  The first book in the series, Semper Fi, was published in 1986. This compilation shown was published in 1994.
10/25/10 update: Literary reference in the episode "Ladies Room" (1.2): Midge says to Don, "It's 7:30. I have to go to Roy's reading. I have to be there to act surprised when Jack Kerouac doesn't show."
12/22/11 update: In a promotional still for the episode "Tomorrowland" (4.13) Henry Francis is shown reading Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, illustrated by Jo Polseno.
1/10/12 update: In a promotional still for the episode "The Chrysanthemum And The Sword" (4.5) Carla is shown reading Vivian L. Thompson's The Horse That Liked Sandwiches.
1/19/12 update: William Pène Du Bois meets F. Scott Fitzgerald, or a Mad Men Mystery solved:  The Twenty-One Balloons.
1/21/12 update: In this scene from the season four finale "Tomorrowland" (4.13) Don Draper breaks the news to Faye Miller that he is engaged to his secretary Megan. There are four books on Don's shelf but only one of them is right side up.  Would this be intentional? A way to say that book is more important to Don? Or was it done to make the viewers take note? Incidentally one of the upside down books, the second from the left, is Stuart Cloete's Gazella from 1958. The first book on the left is the only one that is right side up: 1963's You Are Not the Target, by Laura Archera Huxley. The book's subtitle is A Practical Manual of How to Cope With a World of Bewildering Change and it offers 33 "recipes" for "how to cope with stress, anxiety, competition, and the uncertainty of the times without going to pieces mentally or physically."  It is only appropriate that this book is on Don Draper's bookshelf.
1/22/12 update: In the episode "A Night to Remember" (2.8) Peggy visits her sister and gives her a copy of C. S. Forester's Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies that she got from the library for her brother-in-law, saying "I checked out the next Horatio Hornblower for him. I was right. There is only one book about Moby Dick." Her sister replies with exasperation, "Him with the books!" and tosses it on the table.


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Mad Men Reading list

As soon as I saw this, I wondered if "The Best of Everything" would be included. A little obscure, but fabulous, and an even more fabulous movie!

fan favorites

After talking to numerous patrons over the past few days the favorites on the list have been "The Best of Everything", "Atlas Shrugged", and "The Group". We have had a "Mad About Mad Men" display up in the branch that will probably last only through the weekend. Everything is checked out!

Update from 9/12/10 episode

Aesop's Fables - The North Wind and the Sun. The story was told, the moral discussed, but the book was not read. Close enough for me. Also at the show's opening: "when I'm watchin' my TV, and a man comes on and tells me how white my shirts can be, but he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me" Next up: #madmen #listening

Don't forget The Feminine Mystique

In one of the commentary sections of one of the DVD sets (I believe it was the first season), Matt Weiner mentioned some books he had the actresses read to prepare for their roles. In addition to Revolutionary Road, he mentioned The Feminine Mystique. There might be another one there. I'm thinking Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl.


I usually don't bother with the commentary on DVDs, but it appears I'll have to go back and rewatch all the episodes of Mad Men with the commentary.

Sex and the Single Girl

I recently read a reprint of this. This is a wonderful read. Helen Gurley Brown even includes recipes to woo your man. Great vintage stuff.

Mad Men

Thanks so much for posting this list!! I love Mad Men but I never remember all the books that have been mentioned. I will definitely have to read the ones that I haven't and I need to watch it with the commentary (great advice!!).

Love this list! I run

Love this list! I run writing workshops for adults and I copied out the book list to give them, along with your connection. I've never seen Mad Men (not a TV watcher or a Tweeter) but I think I'll have to further my education and watch some episodes. I write about that era and have read just about every book on the list. Thanks!

Thanks Eileen! It is by far

Thanks Eileen! It is by far the best writing on television. The Kodak presentation scene in the last episode of the first season (my favorite episode, "The Wheel"), even taken out of context from the rest of the show, is probably the best three minutes of TV ever.

You might also like...

The Conquest of Cool by Thomas Frank. Cultural history of Madison Avenue's appropriation of "cool."


A perfect addition. Thanks for the recommendation!

"Games People Play"

In the episode that aired on 10/2, Dr. Faye Miller was shown reading Berne's seminal "Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships" as she waited for Don to return to his apartment.

Great catch!

Thanks! I've added a Catalog link to that title in the 10/4 update above.

Ooh, and now with added fame!

Congratulations on the writeup in the Daily News! It's always nice when the library gets some good publicity, and even better when WE make it happen! Check it out:


I'm taking this list to the library! And then I'm going to buy scotch for the first time in my life, and smoke for the first time in 8 years, do my hair in pincurls, then settle in and read!

America vs Scotland

Thanks! For the sake of accuracy, I should mention that I believe Don Draper always drinks rye on the show. Rye is American whisky distilled from at least 51% rye. Scotch is made in Scotland and is distilled from malted barley. I prefer Scotch. Single Malt. But hey, it is all good! FYI: Roger Sterling likes vodka. This past Monday was National Vodka Day. Enjoy!!!

Peace of Mind

maybe Liebman's Peace of Mind should make an appearance, a worthy entry, it sold a half a million copies in the 60s

Forgot a movie

"The Apartment". They built a whole episode around it.

Billy Wilder

I think a lot of the office set design and the comedy of Roger Sterling's one-liners can be traced back to this film. Required viewing for all Mad Men fans in between seasons.

How about "How to Succeed in

How about "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" pulitzer prize winning play and the incredible film starring the young Robert Morse (Cooper)? Also, Taschen Publishing's "All-American Ads of the 60s" And, how about Don's mention of Antonioni's "La Notte" (1961) film.

Great recommendations!

In regards to films, one of my favorite moments from this season is when Lane and Don chose to see Gamera over The Umbrellas of Cherbourg!

Mad Men Reading List

Wasn't the novel Peyton Place mentioned in one of the episodes?


I'll look into that. I know the Peyton Place television show was mentioned. Between the novel (1956), the movie (1957), and the television show (1964-1969), Peyton Place certainly merits addition to the "you might also like" list. Thanks!

Thanks for this!!!

Our patrons LOVE this show. I'm doing a display next week using your list-- thanks for all the attention to detail!


With summer approaching the cocktail books have been popular on our Mad Men display! I'll be updating and reformating soon in preperation for Season 5.

You can add a new novel

You can add a new novel called SPLIT THIRTY -- it nails Madison Avenue in the early '70s.

Book correction

I believe you have the incorrect Horatio Hornblower book. The events of Mad Men are estimated to take place between July 21 and August 4, 1962. "Hornblower and the Hotspur" was released July 27, 1962. "Hornblower in the West Indies" (1958) would have already been almost 4 years old at the time.

Thanks Rick

You are right about the publication dates, but the book shown isn't "Hornblower and the Hotspur." My guess is that when Peggy said she checked out the next book, she meant the next one her brother-in-law needed to read, and not the most recent one. The cover is only seen in the episode for only a fraction of a second, the book shown is definitely Hornblower in the West Indies. Thanks!

Hi Billy,

Hi Billy, Great blog! Any idea what the edition of The Sound and the Fury is that Don is looking at in 2.11? Thanks.

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