The holidays are almost here, with a flurry of gift-giving just ahead. The following big, beautiful books are full of vibrant narrative and photography that celebrates America's artistry, industry, cities and most especially her people, a treasure beyond price.

Destination America: The People and Cultures That Created a Nation examines 400 years of journeys to America in a succinct narrative that tracks the history of U.S. settlement and immigration, exploring who came to America and why. The driving motivation to immigrate is shown through man's enduring desire for freedom from religious persecution, oppression, want, fear and creative repression. Though Destination America augments filmmaker David Grubin's PBS documentary of the same name, author Chuck Wills has written an educational, stand-alone account of this country's diverse peoples and cultures. The book's images, enhanced by objective historical reporting, are portals into our past and present sometimes humorous, often heartbreaking, always illuminating. Destination America renders a multilayered portrait of America that will leave readers to ponder what it really means to be American. Wills posits a definition characterized by transience: "The one thing that unifies the 295 million people living in the United States today is that at some point . . . they, or their ancestors, came here from someplace else."

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