Beg, Borrow, Steal, By Michael Greenberg

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Though this book contains some of the most observant writing on New York since the great New Yorker reporter Joseph Mitchell, it originated in the TLS.

Greenberg was invited to contribute a fortnightly column with the sole instruction: "Give it a sense of personal necessity." The result works as well in book form as in the paper.

Relishing the odder aspects of the Big Apple, Greenberg visits the annual festival of the Dachshund Friendship Club and gazes aghast at the city's rats, "hanging out like teenagers".

His vignettes are a salutary reminder that the life of even a modestly successful writer is no bed of roses. Given money by a dying uncle, he has to extract the dollar bills from the man's trousers. "I stuffed them, reeking and soiled, in my pockets."