It’s been a little over a month since the mid-season finale of Mad Men, and I still can’t get “The Best Things in Life are Free” out of my head. Actually, I can’t stop thinking about Mad Men in general. It’s a show that always keeps you guessing – just when you think everything is a little too calm, someone gets run over by a lawn mower. This season was no exception. From the quiet moments (like Don and Peggy’s moving dance), to the explosive ones (like Peggy getting a hacked-off nipple as a present), Mad Men never disappoints.
The second half of Season 7 won’t air until 2015, and I can’t even begin to guess where the show will take us. I’m hoping it will involve more 1960s communes and LSD, but all I’m really left with are lots of questions. Is this the end of the advertising firm? Is Megan really gone for good? Will Don manage to keep it all together in the final episodes? And maybe the most important question of all: Just what am I supposed to do while I wait?
Read, of course! Isn’t that always the best answer? Mad Men may be off the air for the moment, but books are eternal. Here are four must-reads for anyone else who’s already in need of a Don Draper fix.
From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor by Jerry Della Femina
This non-fiction book is like a real-life Sterling Cooper, chronicling the world of advertising in the 1960s. Apparently it even helped inspire the show, and author Della Femina was an advisor during Season 1. While not as character driven as Mad Men, this true account gives unflinchingly honest details of coworkers, clients, and what life was really like on Madison Avenue.
Drop City by TC Boyle
One of my favorite episodes this season involved Roger Sterling’s daughter running away to a commune. I love how much ‘60s counter-culture has pervaded the advertising firm’s formally stiff world of powerful men, and a leaderless commune is a perfect metaphor for that disruption. Drop City tells the story of members of a 1970s commune from California who travel to Alaska in search of peace and a connection to the land. But when they realize they’re not the only group with the same idea, their loyalties and bonds are tested, even as they try to survive in a harsh and unforgiving climate. A great read for the cynical Mad Men lover, and a deeper look into counter-culture in the ‘70s.
Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Didion’s 1968 collection of essays has become a modern classic—and deservedly so. Well-written and well-researched, these stories highlight and expose life in the late 60s, specifically within California’s counter-culture scene. One of the main staples of Mad Men is watching characters adjust to the current time period and then using advertising to turn it into a commodity. I bet Didion could write an awesome essay about that. But in the meantime, why not read one of her most celebrated works – which just happens to be set in almost the same year as Season 7.
The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black
Yearning for old-school Mad Men, where the men wore perfect suits and the women all had tailored dresses? Then pick up The Black-Eyed Blonde, a new Philip Marlowe detective novel. This book is noir at its best – a femme fatale, a tough hero, a twist-driven plot. I’ve always thought that Don Draper was one bad decision away from becoming a private eye. He seems built to sit behind a desk, drink whiskey, and wait for a hot blonde to walk in. Wait – isn’t that basically what he does anyway? Someone get that man a trench coat.