Grace Paley describes her first encounter with the stories of Isaac Babel; Charles Johnson recalls being moved by Black Boy and a volume about yoga he found on his mother's bookshelf; and Don DeLillo explains that he spent his childhood not reading at all, but playing games—"street games, card games, alley games, rooftop games, fire escape games, punchball, stickball, handball, stoop ball"—in The Book That Changed My Life: Interviews with National Book Award Winners and Finalists. Freelance writer and editor Diane Osen talks to 15 novelists, nonfiction writers, poets and children's authors—including E.L. Doctorow, Alice McDermott, Philip Levine and Katherine Paterson—about formative influences as well as their recent works. (Modern Library, $13.95 paper 320p ISBN 0-679-78351-2)
Treachery is the subject of My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy, the 1968 memoir of Kim Philby, the double agent who headed the Cambridge Five spy ring that fed British and American WWII and Cold War intelligence to the Soviet Union. Philby became a communist and Soviet agent in the 1930s, then easily joined MI6 and rose to be head of British Counterintelligence before seeking asylum in Moscow in 1963 (where he lived until his death in 1988). Back in print after 12 years, Philby's riveting, psychologically acute tale of spycraft offers a rather unflattering picture of the British secret service, and also addresses why he remained committed to communism even after revelations of Stalin's crimes. (Modern Library, $12.95 paper 240p ISBN 0-375-75983-2)
Fear epidemics have plagued people for centuries, and in the past year Americans have weathered anthrax scares, fears of the end of good economic times and fears of terrorism. In his new book, Markets, Mobs & Mayhem: A Modern Look at the Madness of Crowds, Robert Menschel, senior director of the Goldman Sachs Group, shows that, logically, it's "easy to counter" these fear epidemics, yet these epidemics and crowd behavior are often extremely powerful forces that can cause rational people to think and act irrationally. The author sets out to show readers "how to escape the crowd" and "what happens when you can't." He adroitly and sometimes comically charts Holland's mid-1600s' "tulipmania," Chicken Licken's fright about a falling sky, a 1938 panic outbreak spurred on by a radio dramatization of H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds, the Ku Klux Klan's violent acts and more, offering concrete suggestions for keeping one's head when the masses seem to be losing theirs. His book, which includes a foreword by William Safire, is a timely, intelligent and amusing study of peer pressure's extreme capabilities. Agent, Mort Janklow. (Wiley, $24.95 240p ISBN 0-471-23327-7)
There's a vast amount of intentionally misleading and erroneous information on the Web, says Anne P. Mintz, the director of knowledge management at Forbes Inc. To help readers recognize and deal with this problem, she has gathered 10 contributors to write Web of Deception: Misinformation on the Internet. The authors—who range from database experts to consultants to librarians—examine various pitfalls casual Internet users and professionals should watch out for. The subjects include e-commerce fraud, Web sites that "play doctor," identity theft, charity scams and more. One of the book's most revealing chapters is librarian LaJean Humphries's explanation of how to evaluate a Web site. She suggests considering who wrote the site's content, how often it is updated and if the document is well written. A "webliography" lists sites that offer quality information (among them, www.fraud.org and www.charitablechoices.org). Mintz's wise book will be of great help to parents, educators and every Internet surfer. (CyberAge Books [143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, N.J. 08055], $24.95 paper 304p ISBN 0-910965-60-9)
Correction: In the Nonfiction Forecasts (Sept. 9), the title of Jonathan Shay's forthcoming Scribner release was misstated. It is Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming.