You could waste hours puzzling over the current issue of Granta, “Best of Young American Novelists 2,” in which the judges crown 21 writers, including a few who have yet to publish a novel, a handful who are foreign-born (they could have called it “Best Not-Quite Novelists and Newly American 2”), and a couple—literally—who are both painfully overexposed and overrated (Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss). Or you could spend a pleasant evening leafing through How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors (Rizzoli, $35), which consists of another collection of writers, all of whom agreed to share the story of something that helps them write—a talisman, like Jonathan Franzen’s squeaky office chair, or a substance, like the beer and cigarettes that sustain Tony D’Souza. The book is gorgeously designed, with amusing, occasionally trenchant text. Consider, for example, Tibor Fisher’s bracing candor: “If you are willing to accept a one-word contribution, you can have it: money.” Dr. Johnson would approve.
He’s coming at you with a cleaver—or at least that’s the idea you get from the cover of bad-boy British chef Marco Pierre White’s memoir, The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef (Bloomsbury, $24.95). In fact, he’s just as likely to let his lawyer do his dirty work: Nearly a decade ago, this self-styled “devil” (nemesis of the similarly satanic Gordon Ramsay) took umbrage when The New York Times referred to “a well-publicized bout of drink and drugs”—so Mr. White sued for libel in the Royal Courts of Justice. And won, with damages of £75,000. His memoir is a nothing book, flavorless, flat, ready to be ripped. But if I were editing the reviews at The Times, I’d play it safe all the same.
Here’s to last-minute revision: The uncorrected proofs of Bruce Grierson’s book— about people who make sudden, drastic changes in their lives—has a new cover pasted over the old. Peel it back and you can read the original title: Wake-Up Calls. The new title? U-Turn (Bloomsbury, $24.95).