Caitlin Flanagan goes on a road trip through California — including Sacramento, Berkeley, and Malibu — visiting the homes of the late Joan Didion and exploring why her writing has had such a powerful effect on people.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album created a new vocabulary of essay writing, one whose influence is on display every day of the week in the tide of personal essays published online by young writers. Those collections changed the way many people thought about nonfiction, and even the way they thought about themselves.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.