By Nicholas Fonseca
Updated March 09, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Oft-caustic gossip columnist Jeannette Walls puts down her poison pen long enough to dredge up her dolorous, dirt-poor childhood, and it’s safe to say that none of her scoops could outshine the blunt truths on these pages. Jeannette accidentally set herself on fire at age 3, and it’s all downhill from there: Shuffled from the Arizona desert to the Appalachian wilds by their alcoholic scamp of a father and a neglectful mother, the four Walls children battled adversity from all sides, toughened by experience but taught never to feel sorry for themselves. ”We were always supposed to pretend our life was one long and incredibly fun adventure,” she writes. It shows: Walls has a God-given knack for spinning a yarn, and The Glass Castle is nothing short of spectacular.