February is the perfect month to hunker down beside the fire with a meaty, intellectually challenging book. Thankfully, two such books arrive this month, collections from legends in the world of narrative nonfiction: longtime New Yorker staff writers Calvin Trillin and Joan Acocella (who died last month at the age of 78).

Trillin’s The Lede: Dispatches From a Life in the Press (Random House, Feb. 13) continues in the vein of Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin, offering a broad showcase of the author’s talents for observation and storytelling. In a starred review, our critic calls The Lede “an invaluable collection of observations about journalism authored by a beloved American reporter and humorist.” In seven parts—The Trade, Reporters and Reporting, Big Shots, R.I.P., Controversies, Niches, and Closings—Trillin demonstrates his talent for combining rigorous research with humor and pathos. The latter is abundant throughout his tributes to Molly Ivins, Morley Safer, John Gregory Dunne, and other cultural and political figures. Perhaps the best piece is his riveting firsthand account of the 1961 Freedom Rides in the Deep South. “This book,” notes our reviewer, “should be savored by admirers, critics, and practitioners of journalism and journalists, as well as anyone who appreciates first-rate writing, humor, and engaging reporting.”

Readers would do well to alternate Trillin’s journalism with essays from Joan Acocella’s latest vibrant assemblage of cultural criticism, The Bloodied Nightgown: And Other Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Feb. 20), an excellent follow-up to Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints. In a starred review of Nightgown, our critic notes, “From Gilgamesh and Beowulf to Elmore Leonard and Richard Pryor, a brilliant critic unpacks centuries of artists and their works.” Covering the years 2007 to 2021, these pieces show a critic at the top of her game, a game she has been playing at a high level for decades. Our reviewer writes that the author’s assessment of “Kahlil Gibran…is worth the price of admission,” but there is plenty more to satisfy culture mavens of all stripes. Other topics include Agatha Christie, Dracula, the Book of Job, Little Women, Graham Greene, Edward Gorey, and Andy Warhol.

The author’s essay on Warhol is particularly illuminating. “Warhol once tried to give an old friend one of his Marilyn Monroe silk screens,” she writes, “and the man, who disliked Pop, said, ‘Just tell me in your heart of hearts that you know it isn’t art.’ Warhol, imperturbable, answered, ‘Wrap it up in brown paper, put it in the back of a closet—one day it will be worth a million dollars’.…There was no huger reputation than Warhol’s in the art of the sixties, and in late twentieth-century art there was no more important decade than the sixties. Much of the art that has followed, in the United States, is unthinkable without him, without his joining of high culture and low, without his love of sizzle and flash, without his combination of tenderness and sarcasm, without the use of photography and silk-screening and advertising.” This is another winner from Acocella, “a top-notch collection full of information, elegance, and humor.”

Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction editor.