Mad Men: Season One

It?s practically clich‚ at this point to say that last summer?s debut of the Golden Globe–winning Mad Men was one of the best, most exciting premieres on television in recent memory, but there?s a good reason for it: Creator Matt Weiner, an executive producer of The Sopranos, is a brilliant and thorough storyteller, with a productive obsession with precision and authenticity when it comes to period drama. Set in the fictional Manhattan advertising agency Sterling Cooper in 1960 -- a presidential election year and moments before a world-changing cultural revolution -- the series primarily follows the sphinx that is dashing creative director Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a master compartmentalizer who gives new meaning to the phrase ?self-made man.? Don?s conventional family is tucked away in suburban Connecticut, but the real clues to his multifaceted identity are partially exposed by his extramarital affairs with artist Midge Daniels (Rosemarie DeWitt) and department store owner Rachel Menken (Maggie Siff), for whom he feels deeply, even though he believes romantic love was ?invented by men like me to sell nylons.? Through campaigns for iconic brands like Lucky Strike and Right Guard, as well as the pervading haze of cigarette smoke and liquor -- viewers can get a contact hangover from the volume of nicotine and booze these Brylcreemed men consume. We also become intimately acquainted with the Sterling Cooper staff, most notably the Eve Harrington–esque ad-sales rep Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), the kitten-with-a-whip office manager, Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), and Don?s ambitious and na‹ve secretary, Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss). The cast is stellar, and the writing, sets, and clothing impeccable: in this limited-edition, Zippo lighter–shaped box set, numerous bonus features combine with exceptionally thorough audio commentaries to shed light on everything from the pitch-perfect wardrobe to some surprising ways the casting of the series wound up changing the story itself.

July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).