Don’t you wish you could know the full story behind your favorite film and TV characters? What was Walter White’s real endgame? How did Twin Peaks special agent Dale Cooper keep his cool? Why did Kenny from South Park have such trouble staying alive? For at least one of our favorite on-screen heroes, our curiosity has finally been satisfied with the release of Anchorman Ron Burgundy‘s memoir, Let Me Off at the Top! My Classy Life and Other Musings. Inspired by Burgundy’s illuminating tell-all, we’ve put together memoir ideas for our favorite TV and film characters—plus the real-life book each should use for inspiration.
Starting Small by Lisa Simpson
While Lisa Simpson’s later accomplishments are unparalleled—solving global warming, composing scores for several Oscar-winning movies, and, of course, becoming the youngest President of the United States—she still feels stifled by parental neglect during a childhood that seemed to last for decades, as she reveals in her stirring memoir, sure to inspire legions of young women.
The Heisenberg Principle: My Life in the Empire Business by Walter White
Discovered posthumously under the floorboards of a remote New Hampshire cabin, chemistry genius and drug kingpin Walter White’s manifesto reveals the workings of a brilliant but monomaniacal mind. Handwritten in what looks to be great haste, White meticulously lays out his philosophy of family and empire—a mix of Walt Whitman, Machiavelli and Vito Corleone (turns out he loved The Godfather even more than Leaves of Grass): Master the universe, but keep it in the family at all costs.
Credit: Ben Leuner/AMC
I Loved Lucy by Ethel Mertz
Can you blame her? Suffocated by a husband as stingy with affection as he was with money and by a society that didn’t accept her, Ethel retreated into the gentle embrace of vaudeville—and of her favorite tenant, Lucy Ricardo. As she reveals in her startling memoir, I Loved Lucy, Ethel and Lucy carried on an illicit, steamy affair beneath the noses of unsuspecting Fred and Ricky.
Master of All Trades by Jack Donaghy
Someone get a bucket to catch all these pearls of wisdom that fall from 30 Rock boss Jack Donaghy’s handsome lips. The author of Jack Attack: The Art of Aggression in Business expands upon his take-no-prisoners-in-life-and-love philosophy in his surprisingly touching memoir of rising from poverty to Princeton to president of NBC—with tips along the way, such as how to crush problems with your mind-vice.
The Game Beyond the Game by Russell “Stringer” Bell
Hero. Villain. Hustler. Businessman. The Wire‘s Stringer Bell was all of these and more—if he were born in another era, he may have been a prince, a tycoon, a Trojan warrior. But on the streets of Bal’more, he worked with the tools at hand. In this manual for hustlers (written in a happier time, alas, for String), Avon Barksdale’s right-hand man lays down his philosophy of the game: “It’s more than the rep you carry, the corner you hold. You gotta be fierce, but more than that, you gotta show some flex, give and take on both sides.” Now adjourn your asses.
Class, Sass, and Brass: The Sally Draper Story by Sally Draper
The world held its breath as the daughter of advertising virtuoso/serial philanderer Don Draper fell into an epic downward spiral during her teens in the late ’60s: Drag racing Don’s Coup de Ville down Madison Avenue, setting fire to the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices, storming a Woodstock stage while miles-high on LSD—young Sally Draper did it all. But in a turnaround just as remarkable as her fall—and with some help from Don’s AA group—Sally sobered up and became the star agent in Peggy Olson’s advertising firm, Ladies First. Her beautifully produced book comes complete with reproductions of her napkin-drafted designs.
Credit: Jamie Trueblood/AMC
Against My Wishes by Jeannie
With Mad Men casting a stark light on the casual chauvinism of the ’60s, it’s no surprise that famous female pop culture icons of that era are starting to tell their stories of mistreatment by men. Perhaps the most shocking of these is that of Jeannie, who recounts 2,000 years of slavery that culminated in a forced marriage with astronaut Larry Hagman, whom she’s made to dote on adoringly. Let’s be real: You think a woman came up with that outfit?
Credit: Public Domain
Heaven is Totally Awesome, You Guys by Kenny McCormick
After dying and going to heaven nearly 90 times in his young life, Kenny McCormick has passed through the pearly gates more than any other human, living or dead. In this remarkable book, our favorite orange-parka’d 10-year-old reveals that God loves bowling and Jesus sometimes likes to rock cornrows. And yes, it turns out “the Mormons” was the correct answer.
Credit: Comedy Central
Damn Good Coffee by Special Agent Dale Cooper
Was there ever a soul in law enforcement as noble as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper? Cheerful, savvy and seemingly incorruptible, Coop opens his memoir, Damn Good Coffee, by recounting the perplexities of investigating homecoming queen Laura Palmer’s murder. After wrapping things up in Twin Peaks, Agent Cooper went on to a storied career in the Bureau, solving the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, and finding Whitey Bulger. We’d all do well to follow Coop’s advice: “Once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it; don’t wait for it; just let it happen. It could be a new shirt in a men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black coffee.”
This piece originally ran on November 21, 2013.