Mad Men 101: A Required Reading List for Don Draper

Five books the mysterious ad exec should read, with an optional Old Fashioned in hand.
don draper beach book.jpg
AMC

"I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten," Ralph Waldo Emerson famously quipped, "even so, they have made me." In this new bi-weekly series, Flavorwire plays professor to some beloved pop-culture characters, assigning reading lists tailored to their temperaments or—in some cases—designed to make them into slightly better people. After all, even fictional characters can have their lives changed by books. Or so we can imagine. To start, here's a reading list for Don Draper.

Don Draper is a reader—definitely the most literary character on Mad Men—and actually betrays relatively eclectic tastes, from John Le Carré's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold to The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. He's even been spotted reading some Frank O'Hara, all the better to woo bohemian women with. But what should he be reading? A Draper-specific syllabus (with, admittedly, no attention to temporal plausibility) is below.

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The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

Look, Don, there's an artfully exposed breast on the cover. Eh, eh? Seriously, though, this novel is a classic, and one that might just make our semi-hero a little bit more sensitive to the complex internal landscapes of women who feel trapped. Because if there's anyone who needs to learn a little empathy for the opposite sex, it's Don Draper.

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Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert

Yes, this is another classic novel about a existentially unhappy woman that ends in her death. I'm hammering the point home. I also think Don would identify with Emma. Affairs to escape the mundanity of ordinary married life? Spoiler: It ends in death, Don.

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Delta of Venus, Anaïs Nin

Don could use a little guide from the other side.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

Don may not seem like a philosophical sort, but he has a gooey intellectual center, deep down. He should ponder the questions Kundera asks here: What is the difference between sex and love? Is there one answer? Who are we without each other? Essay due Friday.

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A Book of Common Prayer, Joan Didion

Everyone needs to read Joan Didion, especially men who think they know better than women about what's going on in the world. I see Don as a combination of Charlotte and Grace: part self-deceiving, romantic dreamer, and part detached, disconnected intellectual. Plus, it was recently announced that Christina Hendricks will be starring in an upcoming film adaptation of this book. Meta!

This post also appears on Flavorpill, an Atlantic partner site.

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Emily Temple is an editor at Flavorpill.

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