Vacation Reading | a post by Allison Hill

by Rachel on July 23, 2014

Today’s post comes to you from Allison Hill, CEO & President of Vroman’s Bookstore and Book Soup.  The original article  from 7/23/14 can be seen here on The Huffington Post.

As far as I’m concerned, there are only three necessary decisions to make when it comes to vacation: Beach or pool? SPF 15 or 30? And which books should I bring? More important even than my destination, are the books I’m taking with me.

These books will become my vacation soundtrack, and my ultimate contentment and satisfaction will be determined not by the choices made once I arrive — swim or nap, red or white, sleep late or sleep even later — but by the choices I make before I’ve even left home.

My process is always the same. I start with a practical “gatherer” strategy. I visit our guest room where the books we haven’t read yet live. A few of these books will start my list. But unconvinced that I’ve found the perfect vacation reading, I will continue and quickly adopt a “hunter” strategy.

I go to work and browse the bookshelves. Ask my fellow booksellers for recommendations. Buy more books. Then I evolve and start “surfing” online. Reading reviews and blogs. Spying on staff picks from other bookstores. The list of contenders grows.

By the time I start packing, there are 21 books next to my empty suitcase. One dress. Two swimsuits. Five shirts. And 21 books. For nine days.

In recent years the airlines have undermined this process with their tyrannical, anti-reading weight limits. More than a few ticket agents have me to thank for their summer reading as I reluctantly gave up novels to avoid paying the $25 overweight penalty. And a second bag for my books is definitely not an option anymore. So I spend an hour the night before we leave, reviewing the books, curating, whittling the list down to the final selection.

I know some of you are already composing your comments about how I need an e-reader. With a nod to Gloria Steinem, I need an e-reader like a fish needs a bicycle. I don’t want to stare at a screen on vacation, or worry about my battery life, or concern myself with whether someone is going to steal my electronic device while I’m in the ocean. That doesn’t seem relaxing to me; it feels like work. I want to grab a book, throw it in my beach bag, and head out for the day. I want the honeymooning couple next to me to ask if the book’s good, or tell me that they read it and loved it. I want to underline paragraphs I love so that when my sweetheart comes out of the waves, or wakes up from his nap, I can share the best parts with him. I want the satisfaction of leaving a good book behind for someone else to discover on their vacation, or, better yet, the thrill of discovering a book is so great that it’s worth taking home to live on my bookshelves forever.

Last year my soundtrack consisted of Julian Barnes’ exquisite novel Sense of an Ending; The Good Girl’s Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace; Mark Salzman’s moving memoir of anxiety and spirituality, The Man in the Empty Boat; Caitlin Moran’s hilarious How to be a Woman; and a couple of Michael Connelly’s (always great) mysteries. Then we happened to meet writer Randy Wayne White and his wife at a bar, and he gave me a copy of his Hannah Smith mystery, Gone. And we found a great little bookstore around the corner from our hotel! It was the perfect reading vacation.

I haven’t even started collecting books for this year’s vacation. As soon as I finish writing this, I’m headed to the guest room. My sweetheart has already picked out the tome he’s taking with him, a book long enough to last him the flight, the vacation, and the return flight home. Maybe now he’ll have time to help me cull my list, or, even better, maybe he’ll let me use some of the space in his suitcase.


Today’s post comes to you from Allison Hill, CEO & President of Vroman’s Bookstore and Book Soup.  The original article  from 7/14/14 can be seen here on The Huffington Post.

I’ve never belonged to a book club. (Unless Oprah’s Book Club counts. Btw, still waiting for Oprah to call. #OprahIndieBkstoreTour.) But in my profession, I meet a lot of book club members. And I gotta say, they’re badass.

The gravity of choosing a club name. The ongoing battles to select titles. The no holds barred opinions and heated debates. Kicking members out for failing to read the book or stay on topic. The wine! These readers are the masters of their literary domain.

And they’re a force to be reckoned with in the publishing and bookselling world. “How do we reach the book clubs?” the industry cries. These dedicated readers who read at least one book every month. Some studies show that 24 percent of Americans don’t even read one book a year! And that includes Fifty Shades of Grey.

The names of book clubs are often amusing: Bookies, Happy Bookers, Book Bags, Cross Talking Bettys, Qwill & Swill, Literary Giants, Ladies of the Evening. (Though nothing can beat the book club in Lorna Landvik’s novel of the same name, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.)

But there is also the underbelly of book clubs. Pretending to end the club, then starting again under a new name so as to get rid of a member. Members who treat the group like a drinking club with a book problem. The contention over who gets the book club in a divorce.

In the reading world at large, some book clubs have become legendary. Kathy (Patrick) Murphy founded the Pulpwood Queens Book Club in 2000 in her bookstore/beauty salon with six members. Fourteen years later they have 3,000 members and their annual event draws 500 girls who just wanna have fun, and read.

With smaller hair than their Texas counterparts and, well, less clothing, there’s the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society in New York. Although the group’s main objective is to promote toplessness, they have certainly made the idea of book clubs more (forgive me) titillating.

And a discussion of book clubs isn’t complete without mention of Goodreads, the book website with an estimated 20 million members. Goodreads may be an online book club, but based on some of the posted reviews and discussions I’d venture to guess that members imbibe just as much as their real world counterparts.

It’s estimated that over five million people belong to book clubs. So I wonder how an avid reader like myself somehow missed the boat. Why am I not in a book club? How are they not reaching me? Is there a void in the book club market? I thought about what kind of book club I would want to join. A book club for writers in need of procrastination. (“Let’s all read the book, a second time.”) A book club for insomniacs. (“Everybody available the first Tuesday of every month at, say, 3 a.m.?”) A book club that serves tapas and chocolate. (That one can’t be too hard to find.)

Then I started thinking, what if there was a book club just for famous authors? Like the Rock Bottom Remainders, the band made up of published writers — Stephen King, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver. I would love to be a fly on the wall when Chuck Palahniuk, David Sedaris, Anne Rice, Jackie Collins, James Patterson, and Zadie Smith get together to sip Two-Buck Chuck, nibble Brie, and discuss whether The Goldfinch is art.

For now I will stick with my book club of two: my sweetheart and me. We agree on the books to read. Scheduling won’t be an issue. And well, let’s just say, every book will have a happy ending.


Last night, we had the absolute pleasure of welcoming Edan Lepucki to our store for her new novel, California. This was a much-anticipated event for many reasons. A few weeks ago, author Sherman Alexie recommended California while he was a guest on The Colbert Report. A few days later, Colbert mentioned the book again on his show, creating a campaign for readers to pre-order California through their local indie bookstores in light of the ongoing Amazon/ Hachette dispute. Support for Edan and California was overwhelming, and she later signed 10,000 pre-order copies of her book at the Powell’s warehouse in Portland, Oregon, proving that she is, in fact, a book-signing machine.

About California:
The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they’ve left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can’t reclaim, they seek solace in each other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant.

Terrified of the unknown and unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind’s dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love. (Little, Brown and Company)

Vroman’s and Book Soup President, Allison Hill, introduced Edan to a room packed with guests, reminiscing about when she had first met Edan and when they had started working together. (Special thanks to Allison for making everyone in the room teary-eyed before the event had even started.)

Vroman’s and Book Soup president Allison Hill, busy making everyone cry during her glowing intro for Edan.

 Edan read a short passage from her book, detailing a transaction between Frida and August, the traveling salesman, and more information on Frida’s family and her past. I was taken with how Edan is able to write about remarkably bleak circumstances in such a lyrical manner. The discussion that followed was excellent; there were so many people with wonderful questions, and Edan had thoughtful advice for young authors and valuable insight on the writing process. It was apparent from the Q & A session why Edan is such a highly-regarded writing instructor.

Edan Lepucki reads from her new novel, CALIFORNIA at her event at Vroman’s Bookstore on July 9, 2014.

Edan is a former Vroman’s Ed writing instructor and a former Book Soup bookseller, so she’s a part of
our family here and we couldn’t be more proud of her.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by last night!

Congratulations, Edan— we’re so incredibly excited for you!

About Edan:
Edan is a graduate of Oberlin College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her short fiction has been published in Narrative Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, MeridianFiveChapters, and McSweeney’s, among others. She is a staff writer for The Millions, and teaches creative writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and for Writing Workshops Los Angeles, which she founded.

Visit her website.
Follow her on Twitter @EdanL


Darren Farrell is a children’s book author and illustrator, whose newest book, Thank You, Octopus, is one of Vroman’s new favorites! Darren was nice enough to answer some interview questions and share some special behind the scenes info about Thank You, Octopus with us!

Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell
(pre-k-1st grade, Dial Books, 05/2014)
Ahoy! It’s bedtime, and Octopus is here to help his buddy get ready. First up is a bath (Thank you, Octopus) . . . in egg salad (No, thank you, Octopus)! Then it’s time to brush teeth…with paint brushes!  And don’t worry, Octopus made sure there were no monsters under the bed…because they’re all in the closet! No, thank you, Octopus!  Each page turn brings new wordplay and laughs in this hip, nautical-themed take on bedtime and friendship . . . ending with a great big surprise for Octopus and sweet dreams for two best friends.

“On a tugboat in New York Harbor, a boy lives with Octopus, his eight-tentacled au pair. On Octopus’s watch, bedtime doesn’t go quite as expected. A bath in egg salad? Tooth-brushing with paint? “Yuck! No thank you, Octopus!” says the boy, who is always polite. Farrell has a sophisticated urban style that should appeal to any children who wish they had as silly a sitter. Parents might decide to stay home after all to read aloud.” The New York Times

“This hilarious nautical comedy of errors will lure in unsuspecting listeners—right
up to the boy’s neat turnabout at the end.” Kitty Flynn, The Horn Book

1. What inspired you to create a story that features such a mischievous octopus?

Be warned: ALL octopi are extra mischievous. You may be able to keep an eye on a few of those wiggly arms, but there is NO way you can watch what all eight of them are up to. AND chances are, at least a few of the arms you cannot see are doing something incredibly mischievous at all times.

As an octopus, with this ability to be incessantly mischievous, how could you possibly resist?

The octopus in Thank You, Octopus is inspired by a good friend of mine named Pete Bregman, to whom the book is dedicated. He is constantly tricking people into drinking awful concoctions, swallowing Big Mac’s nearly whole in 7.2 seconds like a python, and popping out of specially glued together stacks of boxes to scare people – just to name a few of his favorite tricks. He is by far the most hilarious and the most mischievous person whom I have ever been friends with. Here’s a YouTube clip of him as his wrestling alter-ego Johnny LeDoux where he can even make drinking water oddly funny.

2.    The illustrations are so clever and it’s fun to find all the hidden details in each page. Could you tell us a little bit about your creative process? Do you work on paper or digitally, or does it tend to be a hybrid of the two techniques?

I work in pencil on paper and scan everything into the computer before my left-handedness has a chance to smudge all the hard work away. Then I color digitally. I enjoy layering in the little details, like each tiny window in the New York skyline and tucking sea creatures into the ocean here and there.

A friend in San Francisco said his daughters love to count each cracker in the tub of egg salad – so it is nice to know the teensy detailing is appreciated and accounted for.

3.    What was your favorite part about writing and illustrating this book?

The backgrounds in Thank You, Octopus are a love letter to New York City. I created this book in Seoul, South Korea where my family had recently moved after living in New York for a long, long time. Sitting in my favorite Korean coffee shop, I could relive my most favorite part of New York – the gorgeous skyline at sunset.
This is the view my son and I enjoyed as often as possible, he from his comfortable seat in the jogging stroller, me from the slightly less comfortable jogging-whilst-pushing-a-human position behind him.

We start on the endpapers, looking out at the Bronx and Yankee Stadium before gradually work our way down Manhattan, past Governor’s Island and on out to sea in the final end papers. There is even a glimpse of Hoboken, New Jersey, a town we lived in and love dearly. It appears in the window on the “robot language” and “rock n roll” spreads – and those Hoboken buildings are precisely what you would see if you looked off the opposite side of the tugboat, which is where the bedroom window is.

4.    At the very beginning of the book, Octopus is helping his buddy get ready for bed, so he runs him a bath… but it’s a tub full of egg salad! How did you decide this would be the appropriate food for Octopus’ bath time shenanigans?

Figuring out which food to fill the tub with was not easy. It had to be gross to the touch but not a meal a child might find appealing in any way. It had to be super yucky for a kid to imagine eating, but something they are also quickly familiar with. Ideally something smelly and ideally warm. And I had to be careful that the color and texture didn’t read as something really gross that occasionally makes an accidental appearance in a child’s bathtub.

My first idea was chocolate pudding. But, in addition to being something most kids might actually WANT to have a bath in, it looked a wee bit too much like a scene from Caddyshack (on steroids). After imagining Jello (cold and grosss), Kool-Aid (sticky), Mac&Cheese (gooey), Manhattan Clam Chowder (fishy) and Split Pea (gross in every way), I almost went with Guacamole. Then egg salad arrived! It is a perfect combination of stinky, gooey, sticky, warm and something nobody would want to have a bath in. Except maybe my Grandfather, he loved egg salad.

5.    I hear that you’re now living in Seoul, South Korea, and much of your new work on your website has to do with your experiences there. Where did you live before, and how has living in a new place informed your work as an author/ illustrator/ artist?
I grew up in North Carolina and lived in New York for twelve years before embarking on a family adventure to Seoul. We are finishing up our second year in Seoul and will be back for a third next year.

A little bit of Korea snuck its way into Thank You, Octopus. There is a pennant for my family’s favorite Korean baseball team on the wall in the bedroom of the “robot language” spread. It reads LOTTE. The Lotte Giants are a team from Busan, which is where my wife’s family is originally from.
We root for Lotte primarily because they have the craziest cheers. At some point in each game, plastic orange shopping bags are passed throughout the crowd. Each person fills their bag with air, ties the handles into a knot and places the blobby bag atop their head with the handles looping over the ears so it stays put. It looks like everyone has orange jellyfish on their heads and I have absolutely no idea what it means – but there is a special cheer that goes along with it. So much fun. How could that not be your favorite Korean team!?

6.    You mentioned on your website that you are hard at work on another story. Can you give us a little teaser about what we can look forward to seeing from you next?

I am hard at work on a new book starring a little bear and a big moon. The new book is set in Yosemite National Park so I have been busy making lots of mountains with loads of tiny trees. Like Thank You, Octopus, the new book will be incredibly fun to read aloud, and it has a very sweet, hug of an ending.

Learn more about Darren Farrell here:


Vroman’s is extremely excited to host the book release party for Lisa See’s latest title, China Dolls on Wednesday, June 3rd at 7pm! Lisa See is the author of Dreams of Joy, Shanghai Girls, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and many other bestselling titles. Please join us in celebrating the release of this stunning new book by one of our beloved local authors!

It’s 1938 in San Francisco and Grace, Helen, and Ruby, three young women from very different backgrounds, meet by chance at a glamorous city nightclub.  Grace Lee, an American-born Chinese girl, has fled the Midwest to seek out a life of stardom. Helen Fong lives with her extended family in Chinatown, where her traditional parents insist that she stick to her roots. The stunning Ruby Tom challenges the boundaries of convention at every turn with her defiant attitude and no-holds-barred ambition.  The girls become fast friends, relying on one another through unexpected challenges and shifting fortunes. But after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, paranoia and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives and a shocking act of betrayal changes everything.

Those wishing to get books signed will be asked to purchase at least one copy of the author’s most recent title from Vroman’s. For each purchased copy of the newest title, customers may bring up to three copies from home to be signed. This policy applies to all Vroman’s Bookstore events unless otherwise noted. Save your Vroman’s receipt; it will be checked when you enter the signing line.


May seems to have been one of the busiest months for us and we just keep getting busier! On Saturday, May 17 at 5pm, we are very honored and excited to host  an event with food critic and writer extraordinaire, Ruth Reichl to kick off the annual Pasadena LitFest festivities. She will be discussing and signing her debut novel, Delicious!, outside on the Vroman’s stage at 5pm on 5/17.

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
In Ruth Reichl’s fiction debut, Delicious!, Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills.

To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to comes to terms with her fears, her big sister and her ability to open her heart to love. (Random House)

Ruth Reichl, former chief restaurant critic of the L.A. Times and New York Times and former editor of Gourmet Magazine, is the best-selling author of memoirs Tender at the Bone and Garlic and Sapphires.

Ruth Reichl will be joined in conversation by Laurie Ochoa, Los Angeles Times Arts and Entertainment Editor and co-founder of Slake magazine.

LitFest on the Prowl
Usually presented as a more conventional festival in the park, LitFest on the Prowl is shaking it up a bit and taking you on a tour through our neighborhood, Pasadena’s lovely Playhouse District.

So here’s what you need to know:

- Start with us at Vroman’s with Ruth Reichl at 5pm. Have your books signed by her and enjoy refreshments including a special beef guanciale prepared by Robert Simon of Bistro 45 in honor of Ruth Reichl, and beverages from Everson Royce Wine & Spirits.

- Head across the street to the Pasadena Playhouse area from 6pm-8pm. Meet over 25 authors and visit the local businesses there.  Check out the complete schedule of authors on the LitFest website.

- We’ll be selling books for the LitFest on the Prowl outside our Colorado Blvd. entrance from 5pm-9pm, so that’s where you can find all the books you’d like to have signed by the featured LitFest authors.

- From  8pm-10pm, mix and mingle with everyone at El Portal in the charming Arcade Lane. It’s a wonderful way to meet so many amazing SoCal authors!

Where You Can Go:
- Monopole Wine
- little junebugs
- Pasadena Playhouse
- CM Peck
- El Portal Restaurant

Who You Can Meet:
- Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlain
- Steph Cha
- Cindy Chupack
- Brendan Constantine
- Lian Dolan
- Yvonne Estrada
- Frank Giradot
- Chuck Greaves
- Annabelle Gurwitch
- Denise Hamilton
- Michelle Huneven
- Michael Jaime-Becerra
- Detrice Jones
- Ron Koertge
- Victoria Patterson
- Gary Phillips
- Gabrielle Pina
- Ruth Reichl
- Thelma Reyna
- Chris Robertson
- Conrad Romo
- Mona Simpson
- Fred Smith
- Jonathan Swerdlick
- Jervey Tervalon
- Jinghuan Liu Tervalon
- Desiree Zamorona




Today’s post comes to you from Allison Hill, CEO & President of Vroman’s Bookstore and Book Soup.  The original article  from 5/13/14 can be seen here on The Huffington Post.

Chip Kidd is the Meryl Streep of book design. He is widely regarded as one of the best book designers of our time, well known for his brilliant and beautiful covers –Murakami’s 1Q84, David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men — covers designed to inspire readers to read the books. Which is why I feel a little disrespectful revealing to you, and to Kidd, that I don’t judge a book by its cover.

Statistics say that most people do actually choose books based on their covers. Kidd certainly has contributed to that fact. But I’ve found that many booksellers, when faced with the sometimes daunting task of deciding what to read next, have developed their own idiosyncratic “strategies.” Often secret, until now.

Michael, an online book dealer known for his acerbic wit and vast book knowledge, swears by “The Page 84 Test,” a litmus test prescribed by a former Borders bookseller. He decides whether or not to read a book, by reading page 84 first. Michael says that by then, the plot, the characters, the writing, are all in full swing. So you can truly determine whether the book will be worth reading. It’s like bypassing the courtship and fast forwarding six months into a relationship. (I can think of a couple of “books” I wouldn’t have “read” if I could have seen that far ahead.)

Molly, another bookseller, grew tired of choosing books for herself. After all, she spends her days helping other people choose books. So she’s turned to Click on up to four of a dozen sliders to choose the likes of funny or sad, expected or unpredictable, no sex or lots of sex, and the site will provide you with a list of recommendations. (It’s like online dating, but without the awkward coffee dates.)

One bookseller I know uses (Though I suspect he uses this for every decision.) Another is reading authors in alphabetical order this year. Margaret Atwood for A, Aimee Bender for B . . . It may be awhile before I get my copy of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief back.

My own method is simple: If I can’t decide whether to read a book, I check out the last word, on the last page. The book can be 100,000 words long and I’ll still weigh entirely on that last word. Books that end with “that,” “sacrificed,” or “however,” don’t stand a chance. But I’m a sucker for “past,” “ready,” and my favorite, “home.” Recently I picked up a book and the last word was “cake.” Cake! (And yes, the book more than lived up to this delicious promise.)

In defense of these, some would say “irrational” approaches, let me remind you that booksellers are exposed to hundreds of new books every week. And the task of choosing what to read next can seem intimidating and impossible to many readers.

Some folks say they choose books based on titles. (There was a rumor years ago that a certain publisher instructed those reviewing the slush pile to only consider the titles of submissions before making the first cuts.) Other readers are heavily influenced by jacket cover reviews (also known as blurbs), but I’m skeptical. The source of my disillusionment? An author who wrote a glowing blurb for a book he hated because he wanted to be invited to the publisher’s annual party, and another whose prolific career blurbing questionable books has earned him a reputation as a “book slut.”

All of this is to say, a lot of time and effort is spent marketing books to readers in attempts to influence what we read, but in the end, reading is like love — who we choose, and how we choose them, is sometimes beyond reason. And in the case of Mr. Kidd’s books, it’s simply love at first sight.

You can read more Huffington Post pieces by Allison Hill here:

Dear Oprah (September 6, 2013)

Crimes of Passion (August 1, 2013)

This Book Will Change Your Life (March 5, 2013)


A few months ago, I had the honor of hosting an event  with Kelly Parsons for his debut thriller, Doing Harm. Kelly was nice enough to answer a few questions for the blog about his new book and his writing, so here they are!
1.        At your event, we started talking a little bit about how authors really put themselves out there by writing a book and sharing it with others.  Was this something you ever had difficulty with?  Do you have any advice for aspiring writers who may be struggling with this part of the writing process?

I’ve been interested in creative writing since I was a kid. I wrote a lot in middle and high school, and never shied away from sharing my work with my peers and teachers. But when I went off to college, I became very self concious, and reluctant to display my writing in a public venue. There was a popular creative writing class on campus, and one of the reasons I never tried to enroll was that I thought someone–the professor, other students–might tell me that I wasn’t any good. I’ve gained some perspective over the years.

My advice to aspiring writers would be to listen to your inner voice and not be fearful of sharing your work with the world. Sure, you’ll weather some criticism–there are always critics–but the experience will make you a better writer. Writing was meant to be shared.

2.       You are a college professor and a doctor, so it makes sense that you would be very busy.  Could you tell us a little bit more about your interest in writing, and more specifically, writing in this genre?

Doing Harm is a medical thriller, and working in this genre allows me to combine my two passions: medicine and fiction writing. I’ve been in the medical field for over 20 years now, and much of what I’ve experienced informs specific elements of Doing Harm. The descriptions of the diseases, surgeries and complications are about as real I could make them. I also wove some of the internal politics of large, traditional teaching hospitals into the story.

3.       At your event, we talked a little bit about the influence Michael Crichton had on your reading taste, as well as your writing.  What other authors  have served as inspiration or informed your writing?

So many, it would be impossible for me to name all of them here. Although there are many fine medical thrillers, my tastes are very eclectic, and I don’t routinely read them. I enjoy all types of genres and divide my time among them: contemporary fiction, literary fiction, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy and nonfiction.

4.       Are there any books you’ve read recently that you just weren’t able to put down?

Two older ones, actually, which I had never gotten around to reading until recently: American Gods by Neil Gaiman and The Shining by Stephen King. Both are terrific reads.

5.       What was the most challenging part about distilling surgical procedures or other hospital scenarios into words on a page?

Making the technical information accessible, succinct, interesting, and–most importantly–relevant to the narrative.

6.       There is a sense of overwhelming urgency and enormous tension running throughout the book.  How were you able to maintain this pace in your writing?

Thank you! Through an enormous amount of editing. I think that an important aspect of sustaining a page-turning pace is to keep the prose lean.

7.       Is there anything else you’d like to tell your readers about Doing Harm?

A central focus of Doing Harm is patient safety, a topic I’ve been interested in for many years. I conceived Doing Harm as entertainment, and I want readers to enjoy the ride. But while the specific circumstances of the story are pure fiction, patient safety is an important issue. Bad things happen to patients every day that have nothing to do with being sick. I think the medical community has made substantial progress in recognizing and fixing these problems, but we still have a long way to go.

Doing Harm has received excellent reviews— Stephen King event raved about the book on Twitter!


2014 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books!

by Rachel on April 8, 2014

USC Campus
Saturday, April 12, 10am-6pm
Sunday, April 13, 10am-5pm

It’s that time of year again!  Everyone here at Vroman’s has been working on Festival of Books-related projects for the past few months, and now the exciting weekend will be here in a few days!

Vroman’s will be at booth #117 this year, and we’re bringing amazing books and gifts, so get ready!  We’re also extremely excited to introduce our Vroman’s Children’s Annex (booth #111).  This way, we’re able to fill a whole booth with wonderful kids’ books and items for all our little readers!  We even have Vroman’s exclusive I read past my bedtime kids shirts and baby onesies, too!

Our sister store, Book Soup, will be at booth #88, and will be showing off an enchanting vintage circus theme, which can be summed up with this image:

Do you need any more reasons to visit them?  Exactly.

There are endless events for everyone at the Festival— kids events like Oliver Jeffers, David Shannon, and the National History Museum of Los Angeles County; events for foodies at the Cooking Stage like Suzanne Goin and Roy Choi; your favorite YA authors like Francesca Lia Block, Ransom Riggs, and Tony DiTerlizzi; poetry readings, musical performances, art shows, and more! You can find the complete schedule of events for both days here.

Representatives from Penguin will be working at the Penguin Book Truck (it’s like a food truck, but with books instead!) to bring you great reading suggestions and the best books Penguin has to offer!  Reps Amy and Tom even brought the truck by the store for a little test drive.  A few of our lovely booksellers will also be working at the Book Truck, so stop by and say hi!  You can  follow the Book Truck on Twitter @PenguinBkTruck.

The Festival of Books is two days of all books, all the time — excellent news for us book folk— but  it can also be a wee bit tricky when it comes to actually getting to the Festival and the USC campus.  But fear not! The Festival website has a great guide to transportation options to and from the USC campus, which you can find here.  For our Pasadena neighbors, we suggest you hop on the Metro Gold Line to Union Station, then take the Festival Shuttle Bus directly to the campus. You can also take the Expo Line from Union Station, and it will drop you right in front of the Festival. Inexpensive, easy, and fast— you can use the time you saved by not driving and parking and spend more time surrounded by all the glorious wonders of the Festival of Books!

We hope you’re as excited as we are for all of the fun things to do this weekend!
Bring your sunscreen, water, bags for all the books you will undoubtedly acquire while at the Festival, and stop by to visit us!




A portion of our parking lot and the adjacent buildings will be undergoing some changes soon and we just wanted to keep you in the loop about everything that is going on.  Please stay tuned— we will be sharing more information, maps, and images as we receive them from the developers.

Beginning the week of March 31st, a new Mack Urban development project will begin construction behind the Vroman’s main store on Colorado Blvd.

This will mean a few changes:

•    For years, Vroman’s has leased the parking spaces between the movie theater and the office building in order to provide customers with more parking. But these spaces actually belong to the developer and will be going away. (Unfortunately, it was not possible to buy the spaces.)

•    The El Molino Ave. entrance to the parking lot behind Vroman’s will be closed permanently.

•    Our handicap spots will be relocated.

•    Construction will be going on for the next 18 months.

Unfortunately, this is not a Vroman’s project so we do not have any control over the impact on our business, or you, our customers. But we remain hopeful that you will continue to support us during this critical time. And that in the long run, this multi-use building—apartments, restaurant, and retail, with underground parking—will be a wonderful addition to our community.

Things that won’t change:
•    All of the entrances to our building will continue to stay open.

•    Our other parking lot entrances (Oak Knoll Ave. and Union St.) will of course be open.

•    Our main parking lot of over 200 spaces will still be open. There is still nearby pay parking as well at Trio on El Molino, the city lot at Union St. & El Molino Ave., and across the street behind The Arcade building, off of Green St.

In the meantime, we thank you for your patience.


If you have any questions about this project, please feel free to email us at or comment on this post. We will also be keeping you updated about the construction here on our blog as we receive more information. Thank you again for all your support!