I recently read Anthony Bourdain's memoir, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. I LOVED it. I'm new to the Bourdain club, but I'm definitely a fan. He's kind of awesome. I've been watching his show on Travel Channel, No Reservations, & was talking to my friend Cory about how much he reminds me of a young Anthony Bourdain (so much angst!). When Cory found out I hadn't read his book, he loaned it to me. I'm going to have to buy my own copy because I want to loan it to all of my friends. It's that good.
Bourdain wrote the book in the late 90s when he was Executive Chef for Les Halles in NYC. It's partly the story of how he came up in the restaurant biz & how he became who he is today & partly what it's really like to work in a restaurant, particularly in the kitchen.
Pollyannas, take heed, this book is not for you. You need to possess a high tolerance for foul, lascivious language (mostly in Spanish), legal & illegal immigrants, & a preparedness to learn things about restaurants that will forever change the way you eat out.
Everyone else, go out & buy this book immediately. And don't worry if you don't have prior restaurant/kitchen experience nor aspire to, it doesn't matter. This book is enjoyable regardless. I cannot recommend it enough.
FYI -- I recommend buying/reading the updated paperback edition because Bourdain does a '10 years later' thing at the end that's pretty neat.