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The Sally Draper Reading List

Last week I started a Tumblr account for The Battery Park City Branch.   I'm thinking it will be used for content too long for Twitter and too short for this blog.  The majority of the first few posts have been about library related ephemera: comic book art depicting libraries, things found in library books, and anonymous snapshots.

I've always been drawn to found photographs, those discarded documents of someone else's life. Someone else's memories drawn by light on paper.

Over the years I've managed to accumulate more than I'd like to admit, from vintage Photomatic and photobooth photographs to snapshots that depict the shadow of the photographer and vintage photographs of people reading.

One of the "people reading" photos that has always stood out shows a girl of about 11 or 12 years old at a family gathering. From the expression on her face it is obvious that she does not want to be there.  It is something we can all relate to at that age: dressing in our Sunday best, the forced attendance, the awkwardness of all the unwanted attention.  

Her expression shows her displeasure in the family obligations that brought her to that couch in that room. 

Like so many teens in these situations, she loses herself in a book.

The photograph is dated May 1955.  I began to wonder: in 1955, what would a girl at that age, with that attitude and that expression, be reading?  

The photo brings to mind Sally Draper.  If you watch the television show Mad Men then you've seen Sally grow from a cute and innocent girl in season one to a rebellious and vocal young teenager in season four.  I have a feeling the girl in the photograph and Sally Draper have similar personalities and tastes in literature, but I'm no expert in children's and young adult materials.  What books would they and teenage girls like them be reading?

We've seen that Sally reads Nancy Drew, but what other books do you think are on Sally Draper's bookshelf?  What books are on her library card?  What book does she lose herself in at family gatherings? How about what the Sally Drapers of today are reading?  A contrast between a book from that time period and one from today?

I've listed some titles below, all originally published in 1955, 1964, and 1965, the year the photo was taken and the years in which Mad Men season four take place. The hope though is that the Sally Draper Reading List will grow with recommendations from those in the know, so please offer your suggestions!


The Witch Tree Symbol - Carolyn Keene
An Episode of Sparrows - Rumer Godden
Beezus and Ramona - Beverly Cleary
Plain Girl - Virginia Sorensen
The Magician's Nephew - C.S. Lewis

1964 and 1965

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh
Over Sea, Under Stone - Susan Cooper
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Ian Fleming
The Phantom of Pine Hill - Carolyn Keene
The Long Secret - Louise Fitzhugh
The Black Cauldron - Lloyd Alexander
The Mouse and the Motorcycle - Beverly Cleary
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds - Paul Zindel


1/19/12 update! The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène Du Bois is also on Sally's bookshelf.

1/23/12 update: In the episode "The Inheritance" (2.10) Betty Draper and Glen Bishop are watching cartoons. On top of the television are copies of the 1959 editions of Collier's Junior Classics Volume 1 (Fairy Tales And Fables) and 7 (The Aninmal Book).


5/16/12 update: As guessed, Lloyd Alexander's The Black Cauldron was definitely on Sally's bookshelf, as she's reading the book in the episode "Dark Shadows" (5.9). Click here for more details.



5/24/13 update: eek! Sally is grown up and reading Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin in the episode "The Crash" (6.8).


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Books that a young girl in 1964 1965 would have been reading

I love this blog, and I could have been that girl. Let's see, what was I reading at that time? Seventeenth Summer by Marueen Daly, Fifteen by Beverly Cleary, My Sister Eileen by Ruth McKenney from which the play Wonderful Town with Brooke Shields was based upon, Going on Sixteen by Betty Cavanna and Mrs. Mike by Nancy and Benedict Freeman. These books might not have all been published in that year, but girls my age, I was 12 and 13 in 1964 and 1965, were reading that same type of teen romances. The Sally Draper's of today are still reading Nancy Drew. Romance is still very much alive, and some girls still read Fifteen as well as books by Sarah Dessen, and of course all of the Twilight series. Forever by Judy Blume and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton are still extremely popular and have definitely stood the test of time.

What was Sally reading?

I'm pretty much of an age with Sally. Once we got past kiddie books, Sally and I jumped into "respectable" adult best sellers like the works if James A. Michener, and "trashy" ones like Peyton Place and The Carpetbaggers. Urged on by memories of Classic Comics, we read our share of nineteenth century novels. We read Salinger and Orwell and Agatha Christie. Gone with the Wind, definitely. Truman Capote, ditto. Ayn Rand! Thornton Wilder! We read plays...Ibsen, Shaw Tennesee Williams. James Bond books, Brave New World, The Diary of Anne Frank, Hemingway, Beat poetry, The Girl With Green Eyes. And much more, but YA was a skinny shelf or two not much heeded by Sally and me.


With those suggestions the reading list has already doubled in size! I wondered about books Sally might take from her parent's shelves. The Ian Fleming Bond books (1953-1966)? Maybe a peek at Lolita (1958)? What books would she secretly read giggle about with Glen Bishop?


Sally being precocious, I don't think A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or To Kill a Mockingbird would be beyond her.

I totally agree!

I'd love to see a 7th grade summer reading list from say, 1964. It would be great, especially in hindsight, to see which books have stood the test of time and which books have been all but forgotten.

What was I reading in the early 60's?

I was reading all of the James Bond, Agatha Christi, & any other "who done it" books my parents had laying around. The ONE I remember checking out of the library was about my "Love" Mickey Mantle!!!

Sally's reading list

Marjorie Morningstar, Herman Wouk, TH White's Mistress Masham's Repose, and The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood, whatever there was of The Once and Future King, because Sally doesn't like the world she lives in much. From fantasy to science fiction: The People and The Anything Box by Zenna Henderson, some Philip K Dick, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg, William Gibson -- she'd be reading Amazing Tales.

Sally Draper's Reading List

I would add Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" to the list. Also I don't see any poetry and I think Sally would be familiar with e.e. cummings who died in 1962. Also, any chance she would have picked up Jack Kerouac's "On the Road"


You're right, I think Sally would definitely be reading poetry. Though Shel Silverstein's first collection of poems (Where the Sidewalk Ends) wasn't released until 1974 Sally would have probably been aware of his other work, especially The Giving Tree from 1964.

Perfect Timing

Right now I'm reading Sisters, Schoolgirls, and Sleuths ( in our catalog since the form won't let me hyperlink) a history of girls' series books from the mid 1800's to the present. Unlike Nancy Drew, most of them have been lost to history but it's a great history of how books for girls have reflected (or not) each time period's expectations for what kind of women they should grow into.


Thanks! I'll have a copy of that book soon and will add some "lost" titles to this list.

more great suggestions

Check out this blog: Wonderfully appropriate!!! The author of that blog tried to leave a comment and suggestions here, but unfortunately couldn't (please don't question your existence! you're not spam!) So, a link to the suggestions: Thanks!

Mrs. Mike! (published 1947)

Mrs. Mike! (published 1947)

spot on

I wasn't familiar with it (I know, I know, sorry....) but after a quick look at reviews and at reader comments on an online retail site ("...this is the book that made me fall in love with reading, 50 years ago, at the age of 11"...) I see that it is the perfect title for this list! Right now I'm reading Sisters, Schoolgirls, and Sleuths (recommended in an earlier comment) but I will then track down a copy of Mrs Mike. Thanks!

Sally's Bookshelf

Sally would have on her bookshelf the first three Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren. In 1961, Shirley Temple's Storybook program did an adaptation of the first book. She may also have been reading Misty of Chincoteague. Since Sally's mother was an avid horse rider, and the movie based on the book came out in 1961, no doubt Sally was acquainted with the writing of Marguerite Henry.

I have to second a lot of

I have to second a lot of other commenters' choices, especially Marjorie Morningstar, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (two of my favorites!), Peyton Place, the works of e.e. cummings and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

1955 Photo

Just the way she's holding the book, it looks like it isn't a hardcover book, and fairly slim. It appears to be a female of color in some sort of a "pilgrim" dress on the back, but a male on the cover. Such a mystery!

Sally Draper's reading list

I, too, could have been Sally Draper. Some of my early favorites were Stowaway to America by Borghild Dahl and The Talking Tree and Other Stories (Augusta Baker), as well as all of Louisa May Alcott's books. I began reading teen romances at age eight because I had read everything else in the children's section of the library. Then my fourth-grade teacher got permission for me to check out adult books when she noticed that I was reading "It Could Happen to Anyone" by Margaret Maze Craig (1961), a YA novel about teen pregnancy. She and the librarian decided that I might as well have access to everything else. In 1964 and 1965 I was in junior high school, reading Forever Amber, Gone with the Wind, and Katherine (by Anya Seton). I also read Taylor Caldwell's books and everything by Bess Streeter Aldrich. I loved The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Other favorites in my early teens were all of the Stolz books and especially Saturday Night by Marjorie Holmes, with its sequel Love Is a Hopscotch Thing (later renamed Sunday Morning). This is a fascinating topic---I could go on forever!

Photo and Sally's Reading

The "book" the girl is reading looks more like a digest-sized magazine. There were many more digest-sized magazines around back then, including those for children like HUMPTY DUMPTY, which she was probably too old for. Heck, it could even be TV GUIDE or a local television guide. Not sure about Sally Draper, but what I was reading in 1965 was BORN FREE...big bestseller back then. Also the Mushroom Planet books, Danny Dunn adventures, Miss Pickerel, A WRINKLE IN TIME, JOHNNY TREMAIN, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, WHAT KATY DID, Marguerite Henry, and lots of Whitman books because they were cheap: they did TV adaptations (LASSIE, DR. KILDARE, the Lennon sisters), mysteries like Trixie Belden, classics like BLACK BEAUTY and LITTLE WOMEN. For an older girl, the Betty Cavanna books were still very popular! Cavanna's stories usually involved girls going for careers rather than marriage (novel for those days), a handsome boy or two, and involved animals in some way.

Photo and Sally's Reading

I, too, am pretty much of an age with Sally, and around that time I was reading many of the above listed titles that others have submitted, but also the original GIDGET, and sneaking murder mysteries to read under the covers....anything by Mickey Spillane, for instance....and questionable biographies such as MY WICKED WICKED WAYS by Errol Flynn. My poor mother probably spent half her time trying to protect me from the 'corrupting influences' of what she would call trash literature :-) Reading is a lifelong love, however, and was firmly entrenched as a part of my nature in those years.

Thanks for your comments!

An argument can certainly be made that reading "trash literature" creates a life-long love of reading. Like comic books, it's a gateway to a more diverse world of literature!

Because I watched the TV

Because I watched the TV series, I was reading Payton Place in 1966. The girls it around in 8th grade. When it was my turn, I hid it under my bed.I guess Sally won't be as lucky. The book was wicked and delightful reading for a 13 year old.


A list of books Sally would have had to hide would be as great as a list of books that were on her shelf! Thanks for adding to the list!

Books Sally would have hidden

In 7th grade in 1957 I was the appointed keeper of a copy of Peyton Place, jointly owned by myself and friends, because my parents never looked at or critiqued what I was reading.


This is a great book for Sally's secret shelf!

a 1962 classic for Sally....

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (1962); I could also see her reading The Chronicles of Narnia (1950s) Too bad I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier wasn't written until 1977, Sally would have loved it. I had no idea until I read this post that Beverly Cleary books had been around for so long! She and Judy Blume were my favorites from 1980-1984. Fun Post!!!

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