"Natural Blonde: A Memoir," by Liz Smith (Hyperion, 459 pages, $25.95).
Professional gossip, as practiced by columnists, is either a motherlode of social and economic history or drivel. A lifetime of newspapering has taught me to take the best of it very seriously -- history's made by people who are watched by such columnists. In the present era, nobody is better at it than Liz Smith (a fondly remembered colleague of mine a decade and more back). Rare in the craft, she has a warm heart and genuinely likes people -- at least genuine ones. This rollicking romp through her life reads like the longest and best gossip column ever put to paper. Enchanting.