GUY RAZ, host:
If celebrity tell-all books are the junk food of the literary world, author Susan Jane Gilman has been on a binge this season. Her favorites may not be the most high-minded additions to your bookshelf, but they could be the most fun you've had reading all year.
Here's Susan Jane Gilman with a yearend wrap-up of our series My Guilty Pleasure, where authors talk about books they're embarrassed to admit they love.
Ms. SUSAN JANE GILMAN (Author, "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven"): I stayed up for two days with Keith Richards, took a bath with Chelsea Handler and snuggled with Jenny McCarthy. Just last week, I slept with Rick Springfield. I've been indulging my guiltiest pleasure: celebrity tell-all books. What can I say? I generally review hard-hitting nonfiction, but sometimes - so sue me - I just want to read about famous people's bad plastic surgery and drug habits. This year's confession fest began with that fabulous wicked wit of the East, comedienne Chelsea Handler.
Her latest book, "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang," relates her madcap antics during third grade, vacations and family powwows. Some of "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang" is perversely funny. Other times, well, her book is like stand-up - your enjoyment depends a lot upon your mood and how many martinis you've just consumed.
Next up, comedienne Jenny McCarthy, famous for being both a Playboy playmate and autism activist. Her new book titled "Love, Lust and Faking It" is like spending an afternoon with your best friend, a copy of Cosmo and a low-fat milkshake.
McCarthy confides personal stories of heartbreak and humiliation which are truly affecting but padded with Twitter surveys, pop psychology and bedroom horoscopes - total junk food.
Which brings me to Rick Springfield - pop singer, soap star, '80s heartthrob. His memoir "Late, Late at Night" is like binge drinking. You know it's a terrible idea. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, almost immediately, but it's addictive and you just can't put it down.
His book attempts naked honesty about his roller-coaster career, marriage, depression and sex addiction. If that's not enough, there are plenty of beefcakey photos.
Springfield is 61 and looks 38. There's loads of bad behavior and contrition but little real wisdom, which is a shame, because there's powerful material here.
At 17, Springfield attempted suicide. In 1968, he saw action in Vietnam as an Australian entertaining the troops. This should be riveting but somehow winds up glib.
But what did I expect, profundity? Well, enter Keith Richards and his memoir "Life."
Granted, I'm a huge Rolling Stones fan. Richards could cough up a hairball and I'd listen. Still, his book is surprising. While it opens with a drug bust, ultimately, "Life" isn't about partying like a rock star but working like one.
Richards goes on for pages about his craft and practicing blues riffs and about how he removed a guitar string to create a raunchier sound. The musical obsessions that have compelled him to keep playing for over 50 years seem to get more ink in the end than his dish about lovers, drugs or Mick Jagger.
Relentless, impassioned and oddly humble, Richards isn't unconscious in the least. He tells his epic rock 'n' roll life like it is with salt and candor but no apologies. This is a pleasure to read, and there's nothing guilty about it.
RAZ: Susan Jane Gilman is a writer of both fact and fiction. Her latest book is a memoir called "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven." For more on Susan Jane Gilman's recommendations plus yearend best-of lists from other NPR critics, go to npr.org.
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