New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast will be in in the news for the next several weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The best two books to get a flavor of what New Orleans' unique lifestyle is like are both novels. One is Patty Ann Friedmann's Second Hand Smoke; the other, John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prize-winning A Confederacy of Dunces. Both are brilliant, qirky romps through the Big Easy (and both are 'rated' a hard PG for a small number of sexual references). By the way, Friedmann's brother is a rabbi and a Jewish family plays a minor role in Toole's book.