Books: Reagan, the art of the essay, and Critic at Large Rigoberto González is surprised at ALOUD

Books Editor

Welcome! I’m L.A Times books editor Carolyn Kellogg with this week’s newsletter.


Critic at Large Rigoberto González, who can usually be found on the East Coast, came our way recently to talk to Tommy Orange about his novel “There There.” The two appeared at the ALOUD series at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. In this powerful essay, González explains what was so difficult about being a part of the reading series, which has recently experienced public protests after its longtime organizers’ positions were eliminated.



In “Reagan,” a huge new biography about (you guessed it) Ronald Reagan, the former president comes off looking better than ever, even to Peter Schrag, “an unrepentant New Dealer,” who has our review. That’s due in no small part to another celebrity-turned-politician-turned-president, Donald Trump. Author Bob Spitz puts together Reagan’s epic life with a bit of a shiny spin.


Appearing at No. 7 on the fiction list is the YA novel “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, her first book, now in its 39th week on our bestseller list. A movie version debuts on screens this weekend; screenwriter Audrey Wells died Friday from cancer. “It was a joy to work with Audrey, and I’m forever grateful for what she gave us with The Hate U Give adaptation” Thomas wrote on Twitter. “She will truly be missed.”

Entering the nonfiction list at No. 4 is “Leadership” by Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin. The book looks at the varying leadership qualities in the presidents she’s studied: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.

You can find all the books on our bestseller lists here.



The new class of 25 MacArthur “genius” fellows was announced Thursday, including writers Natalie Diaz, John Keene and Kelly Link. Jessica Gelt talks to them about the honor.

David L. Ulin considers the art of the essay and reviews “Essayism: On Form, Feeling and Nonfiction” by Brian Dillon.

Julia Wick reviews “On Sunset” by Kathryn Harrison, an unusual memoir about the writer’s peculiar childhood in an out-of-time L.A. mansion.

The sort-of-guidebook “This Is (Not) L.A.” by Jen Bilik delights in taking apart everyone else’s myths about Los Angeles, writes Deborah Netburn.

Other parts of America struggle with tired cliches too. That’s what Sarah Smarsh aims to rectify in her essential new book “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.”

Acerbically witty Deborah Eisenberg’s new collection of short stories, “Your Duck is My Duck,” is reviewed by Heller McAlpin.

This year there will be no Nobel Prize in literature. But Critic at Large David Kipen has some alternatives.


Legendary Beatle Paul McCartney announced he’ll publish a children’s book next year. The title? “Hey, Grandude!”

"Hey, Grandude!" author Sir Paul McCartney performing in 2017.