Have you ever been in a rut where you watch more television than you read books? A few weeks ago, I picked up Graham Simsion’s The Rosie Project, and I was struck at the similarities between the main character and Sheldon from the popular CBS show The Big Bang Theory. Don Tillman and Sheldon Cooper are both brilliant scientists who lack basic social skills, and who prefer to make all decisions based on logic and rational arguments. It’s a great comedic formula. This got me thinking about other TV tie-ins that may be out there waiting for me to make the transition back to reading.
AMC’s MadMen derived much of its original popularity from the retro fashions and depiction of cocktail culture within the advertising industry, but it was the progression of Don Draper’s character throughout the tumultuous years of the 1960s that kept many fans hooked. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates is often mentioned as a read alike for Mad Men due to a similar time period and similar themes of dissatisfaction beneath a glossy and successful surface: “Yates's incisive, moving, and often very funny prose weaves a tale that is at once a fascinating period piece and a prescient anticipation of the way we live now. Many of the cultural motifs seem quaintly dated--the early-evening cocktails, Frank's illicit lunch breaks with his secretary, the way Frank isn't averse to knocking April around when she speaks out of turn--and yet the quiet desperation at thwarted dreams reverberates as much now as it did years ago.” Publisher.
Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit also shares a retro time period and similar themes to Mad Men: “Dreaming of a bigger house for his wife and three kids, WWII veteran Tom leaves his job with an arts foundation to be a well-paid public relations executive at the United Broadcasting Corporation. But corporate ladder climbing and consumer rewards leave him miserable. Though his sentimental conclusion now seems dated, Wilson's portrait of the martini-soaked malcontents is sharp, memorable and still resonant today. “ Publisher.
Lena Dunham’s edgy HBO show Girls has garnered a lot of attention for its no-holds-barred look at a group of young women in New York City, but fans appreciate the nuanced depiction of the inevitable evolution of friendship in early adulthood. The Group by Mary McCarthy is set in the 1930s, but delves into similar themes. “Mary McCarthy’s most celebrated novel follows the lives of eight Vassar graduates, known simply to their classmates as “the group.” Through the years, some of the friends grow apart and some become entangled in each other's affairs, but all vow not to become like their mothers and fathers. It is only when one of them passes away that they all come back together again to mourn the loss of a friend, a confidante, and most importantly, a member of the group.” Publisher.
For those who’d like a more contemporary read that hits a lot of the same notes as Girls, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. might hit the spot. “Novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a flawed, sometimes infuriating modern man--one who thinks of himself as beyond superficial judgment, yet constantly struggles with his own status anxiety, who is drawn to women, yet has a habit of letting them down in ways that may just make him an emblem of our times.”Publisher.