Striving and Thriving
Vroman’s Bookstore lures readers with a bonanza of book signings this fall
By Carl Kozlowski 09/04/2014
In a time in which bookstores seem to be closing left and right — including Pasadena’s own huge local branch of Barnes & Noble, which left town on New Year’s Eve — it takes an amazing effort to keep people coming in and scanning the shelves.
But in this post-paper literate society in which people seem to read their books on Kindles and iPads, if they’re reading them at all, the venerable Vroman’s Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena) has managed to figure out the formula for continued success: celebrity book signings.
Nearly every night of the week, the Colorado Boulevard branch of the two-store chain hosts an author event, ranging from monthly local author nights to epic events that require larger outside locations like All Saints Church to accommodate all the fans — such as an already sold-out Oct. 15 evening with acclaimed writer/director/actress Lena Dunham at Pasadena Presbyterian Church (585 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena). Info: (626) 449-5320.
“For the past few years we have been partnering with larger venues where we can better highlight some of the incredible authors we have coming through town, provide an experience to match and allow more people the opportunity to attend,” says Jennifer Ramos, promotional director for Vroman’s.
“Availability and the excellent theaters themselves are part of the deciding factor,” Ramos says. “And it’s part of offering our customers more, which has undeniable value in the marketplace.”
Vroman’s kicks off its season Sept. 9 with Bill Bradley discussing and signing “Los Angeles Union Station: Tracks to the Future.” His book offers a colorful history of the iconic transportation hub, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year, and comes complete with plenty of illustrative photos.
Vroman’s first blockbuster event spotlights Sheila E., the famous stick slinger who has banged the drums and assorted other percussion instruments for her legendary father Pete Escovedo’s band, Prince and countless others for the past four decades. Now 57, the still-sultry performer has finally compiled her musical memories in book form with her memoir “The Beat of My Own Drum.” She’ll discuss the book with Billboard magazine editor Gail Mitchell and do an audience Q&A and signing on Sept. 10 at the Ricardo Montalban Theater (1615 N. Vine St., Hollywood) — just the kind of special event Vroman’s has increasingly specialized in over the past few years.
British novelist David Mitchell has already achieved worldwide success by twice being shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize, bestowed upon the best English-language novel published in the United Kingdom each year. Vroman’s is bringing him to Los Angeles to promote his newest novel, “The Bone Clocks,” at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse (405 Hilgard Ave., Westwood) on Sept. 23 for an interview, an audience Q&A and then a signing of the book, which in his trademark fashion weaves together multiple stories from around the world and across decades.
One celebrated author who will actually appear inside Vroman’s is James Ellroy, the crime novelist who gave the world such classics as “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia.” His latest tome, “Perfidia,” looks at the ugly period of racial hatred toward LA’s Japanese-American community right after the Pearl Harbor attack by showing how several disparate Angelenos come together to solve the murder of a Japanese family even as the investigation seems destined to tear them apart. Ellroy will discuss and sign the novel on Sept. 25.
Richard Riordan became mayor of Los Angeles during one of its most turbulent periods, as he had to help the city get up and running after the LA riots and the Northridge earthquake in addition to the O. J. Simpson murder trial. He details that epic struggle in his new memoir “The Mayor: How I Turned Around Los Angeles After Riots, an Earthquake and the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial,” and will discuss and sign it on Oct. 10 at Vroman’s.
For those seeking a more alternative form of reading entertainment, look no further than Vroman’s on Oct. 29 when cult humor writer Kent Woodyard will discuss and sign his book “Non-Essential Mnemonics: An Unnecessary Journey Into Senseless Knowledge.” The tome builds on his column for the online magazine McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and pairs nonsensical mnemonics — words or phrases that help improve memory — with lavishly funny illustrations by Mark Downey, making for a memorable night indeed.
The whole world was fascinated by the plight of the Chilean miners in 2010, watching with anticipation as 33 men fought to survive and emerge from the earth’s depths. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar recounts their story in “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free.” Tobar will discuss and sign the tome at Vroman’s on Oct. 22.
Actor/writer/producer B.J. Novak (NBC’s “The Office”) made quite a splash in February with his debut collection of short stories, “One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories.” Now, he’s back with a book aimed at children ages 5 to 8 called “The Book With No Pictures,” a 48-page collection of absurd words and phrases designed to make kids laugh. It worked for the adults last spring, so this should be a fun night for the family when he discusses and signs his new release on Oct. 25 at Vroman’s.
Finally, chef, restaurateur and TV personality Fabio Viviani shares his recipes for beloved American dishes with an Italian flair in his new book “Fabio’s American Home Kitchen,” with over 125 accessible recipes for any occasion with easy-to-find ingredients. He’ll be cooking up an appearance at Vroman’s Oct. 27.
Vroman’s Bookstore is located at 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Visit
vromansbookstore.com or call (626) 449-5320.