The best nonfiction books to gift literature lovers this holiday season

Boris Kachka, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertaining

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness

Melancholy is nothing new for graphic stories (Daniel Clowes, anyone?), but Kristen Radtke achieves something a little more emotionally complex in this meditation on American loneliness. She shares studies and anecdotes in crisp, economical prose, but her drawings speak a different language, something like Edward Hopper’s — a darkness that consoles us. $30

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America

Why are some partisans lately so intent on limiting what students learn about our racist past and present? Clint Smith’s travelogue of the places where slavery is taught or misremembered or forgotten couldn’t have arrived at a better moment, visiting monuments and taking tours to construct a narrative of how we succeed and fail at learning from our collective sins. $29

Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California

To love L.A. is sometimes to hate it, and to succeed here is sometimes to fail. Matthew Specktor, who knows a lot about all of it, explores the lives of Angelenos who wove between success and flameout — Hal Ashby, Thomas McGuane, Tuesday Weld and others — in search of lessons for how to live creatively in the shadow of winner-take-all Hollywood. $18

Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood


Co-written celebrity memoirs are not, on the whole, the most promising genre. But Danny Trejo is no typical celebrity, and his journey from gangs to prison to character actor to icon is one only he can properly narrate — with the help of his buddy Hollywood veteran Donal Logue. The untold nuggets are fascinating, but the whole trip is soul-affirming, indelible. $27

Horizontal Vertigo: A City Called Mexico

Cities are often celebrated for their order, but Mexico City native Juan Villoro understands that the magic of any metropolis, particularly his own, lies in chaos. His collection of essays cuts a panoramic swath across every aspect of the world’s largest Spanish-speaking city: tire vendors, raunchy singers, luchadores, strange communal obsessions and so much more. $30


OK, maybe Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s exhaustive chronicle of the Trump/Biden transition is one of those books destined to sit unfinished. But face it: It’s the perfect gift for political completists, and if you’re handy with the index, there are more than enough revelations and climactic scenes to make Woodward’s last (?) Trump book worth a long read. $30