LYNN NEARY, HOST:
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It's time now for a best of list. This one is for readers who like to kick back with a celebrity memoir. Writer Susan Jane Gilman has her list of the year's best tell-all books.
SUSAN JANE GILMAN: Ah, 'tis the season to be indulgent. As far as I'm concerned, December is guilty pleasures time. Five of the best of 2011 are entertaining and star-studded, and make for perfect holiday escapism with a cocktail or two in hand.
Speaking of cocktails, Aerosmith's front man, Steven Tyler, says: Go big or go home. And so I'll start with him. Tyler's rock 'n' roll memoir "Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?" is big-hearted, drug-addled and raunchy. But what do you expect? Tours, marriages, affairs, band breakups and drug fests are all recounted in music-like riffs peppered with trippy ramblings and pornographic wit. Tyler does a good job of explaining the banality of life on the road and the craziness that accompanies fame. "Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?" Not at all.
GILMAN: Now, let's say you're Steven Tyler or just super-rich. One night, you decide you need a private helicopter to fly you to Atlantic City or a bathtub filled with hot fudge. Who you're going to call? Michael Fazio, that's who. Fazio worked as a concierge at Manhattan's InterContinental Hotel. His book "Concierge Confidential" is a behind-the-scenes peek at the luxury service industry and the rich, crazy clientele it caters to. It's a must-read for prima donnas, voyeurs and even us regular travelers everywhere.
Speaking of regular, yeah, I'm a Gleek, like a zillion other Americans. But for me, Jane Lynch is the draw. Her brilliant Sue Sylvester prevents the TV show "Glee" from giving me diabetes, and "Happy Accidents," her memoir, achieves a similar feat. Born into a spirited Midwestern family, Lynch spent her youth denying her sexuality and sipping her parents' leftover cocktails. Like any good, closeted lesbian of the '70s, she writes, I developed a raging crush on Ron Howard.
For her first three decades, Lynch struggled as an actress, an alcoholic and a lesbian. But due to a sequence of happy accidents, she eventually came into her own. The result? An immensely frank, funny, generous book.
The title of Hal Needham's memoir "Stuntman! My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life" might sound like hyperbole, but it's not. Although he began life as a sharecropper's son, Needham went on to live a comic book hero's life: jumping out of planes, leaping onto runaway horses and setting himself on fire. "Stuntman!" can give you whiplash. And as you read, you share his adrenaline rush, even as he shrugs it off.
For years, actor Rob Lowe was labeled a pretty boy and a brat packer. But his autobiography, "Stories I Only Tell My Friends," reads more like "Forrest Gump." After moving to Malibu as a kid, he sees "Charlie's Angels" taped at his local school, meets John Belushi at a party, and some relatives who work in special effects take him to see this cheesy Western they're filming. Its title? "Star Wars."
Since then, Lowe has closely encountered much of Hollywood, and he writes about it astutely, commenting on the times and the nuts and bolts of celebrity. The result is an intelligent insider's guide to Hollywood and a pleasurable one at that.
NEARY: That's Susan Jane Gilman, a memoirist herself. Her latest is called "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven." You can get details on Susan's picks for best celebrity memoir at our website. Go to nprbooks.org and click on Best Books of 2011.
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