Beyond Richard Yates: A Mad Men Short Shelf

Ask for a book recommendation that will help ease your Mad Men withdrawal and it’s a safe bet that someone will mention Richard Yates. (If you Google “Mad Men Richard Yates,” you’ll get 119,000 hits.) And Richard Yates is fabulous — if you haven’t read Revolutionary Road, you should. (Skip the movie. Read the book.) But here are some other ideas that will keep you going until Mad Men itself returns on March 25. (Yay!)

November 22, 1963. Adam Braver’s novel looks at one searing day in American history–the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, if you can’t tell from the title–from the vantage point of the person with the front-row seat: Jacqueline Kennedy. There are other viewpoint characters, too; some major players, some with more tenuous connections to the president’s death. The book is a window into one tragic day, but also into the national culture at the time. It’s beautifully written and thought-provoking.

Daughters of the Revolution. Yes, Carolyn Cooke’s novel is set at a prep school, not an advertising agency. And unlike Peggy Olsen’s, Carole Faust’s admission to the white male enclave isn’t on purpose; it’s a clerical error. But what the novel is really about is how the world changed in the 1960s, and how institutions that had been limited to white men negotiated the changing times and the new diversity that was forced upon them.

Lightning Rods. It’s not entirely clear when Helen DeWitt’s satire of sexual tensions in the workplaces is supposed to be set; sometimes it seems to be today, other times it seems to be 1954. No matter the setting, this tale of a salesman who hits on the perfect solution to tensions between men and women in the workplace is deliberately absurd and shocking, but really not all that far off from what happens in the offices of Sterling Cooper.


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