Our Tip Sheet On Current Reading

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).

Our Tip Sheet On Current Reading