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Allison's Staff Picks

Allison is the president of Vroman's and Book Soup 
“The cure for unhappiness is happiness. I don’t care what anyone says.”
-Elizabeth McCracken, Niagara Falls All Over Again
Allison K Hill is the president and chief executive officer of Vroman’s and Book Soup.
She began her bookselling career with Simon & Schuster Publishing and Waterstone’s Booksellers.
Allison is the former Vice President and Treasurer of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association; a former member of the American Booksellers Association's Bookseller Advisory Council; a current board member of the Independent Booksellers Consortium; and the co-founder of the Emerging Leaders Project, an initiative to support young people in the book industry. She is a former contributor to The Huffington Post, the current book columnist for the Los Angeles News Group (Los Angeles Daily News, Pasadena Star-News, etc.),
and the author of the blog Reading: A Love Story. Allison can be reached through her website at www.AllisonKHill.com.
Find some of Allison’s thoughts on books and the reading life here:
Love and BookstoresBooks I've Loved and Lost
This Book Will Change Your LifeHolding on to Each OtherRead with Abandon
Interviews With Allison: 
Some of Allison's Favorites: 
The Dude and the Zen Master Cover Image
ISBN: 9780142180525
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Plume - January 28th, 2014

Two good friends talking about life. It just happens that the friends are Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges and his Buddhist teacher and Zen master Bernie Glassman. I return to this book over and over like a touchstone. Bridges and Glassman are honest, funny, irreverent, and very “dude-like” as they dish about mindfulness, friendship, and how to be in the world.

IQ (An IQ Novel #1) Cover Image
By Joe Ide
ISBN: 9780316267724
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mulholland Books - October 18th, 2016

“...a debut novel by South Central native Joe Ide. For fans of Sherlock Holmes or Michael Connelly, this L.A. crime story offers a gripping plot, an unconventional hero, and a huge heart — all set in the City of Angels. Hollywood, pay attention to this one! I expect to see a film or a series and I hope Ide is as prolific as his fellow L.A. crime novelist Connelly because I eagerly await his next book.”

Los Angeles News Group, 10/28/16 column excerpt

The Rain in Portugal: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679644064
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - October 4th, 2016

If you get the humor in the title, you'll love Collins. His poetry is infused with humor, quirkiness, tenderness, and profundity. This book offers a calm in the storm. 

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307277251
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - June 1st, 2010

The Guardian once called de Botton “an absolute pair-of-aching balls of a man - a slapheaded, ruby-lipped pop philosopher who's forged a lucrative career stating the bleeding obvious.” And I would guess that even de Botton would admit that there's some truth in this description. But the fact remains that de Botton is an extraordinarily intelligent, keen observer whose writing is interesting, provocative, and, arguably, important.

In Vroman's circles de Botton's best known for his book How Proust Can Change Your Life, a philosophical piece by its own merit, that is sometimes used as a substitute for those too intimidated or too busy to go to the source and read Proust themselves. Personally, I think his best work is The Architecture of Happiness, a series of essays that discuss, among other things, how our interior lives are reflected in our exterior landscapes of houses, building, and cities.

De Botton's newest book is The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, the end result of his two years travelling the world interviewing people about their jobs and visiting various workplaces. De Botton reports and ruminates on the strange surreal facts about where we spend our daily lives, as well as the larger meaning of what we do and why it matters. A career counselor, a painter, television executives, bisquik manufacturers, and a man who installs electricity pylons, these are just a few of the many, varied occupations de Botton explores with his customary attention to detail and humor. Perhaps the timing of his book's publication, in the midst of a recession that has made the word “job” synonymous with “paycheck”, is in itself intended to be provocative. In the end though, de Botton merely offers up his observations; it's up to us what meaning we derive from them.

A Reliable Wife Cover Image
ISBN: 9781565129771
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Books - January 5th, 2010

Rural Wisconsin, 1909. A successful businessman places a newspaper ad looking for “a reliable wife.” The woman who responds is not who she appears to be. But neither is he.

The book is seductive: full of twists and turns, sex and suspense. It’s a gothic, page turner and a wild ride, worth the sleep I lost staying up all night finishing it. 

Let the Great World Spin: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812973990
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - November 30th, 2009

The cover blurb for Let the Great World Spin, from bestselling author Frank McCourt, reads: “Now I worry about Colum McCann. What is he going to do after this blockbuster groundbreaking heartbreaking symphony of a novel?” Frankly, I’m more concerned about myself right now, for what can I possibly read next that won’t pale in comparison to this ambitious, beautiful, breathtaking book.

If you’ve watched the lovely documentary, Man on Wire, then you’re familiar with the dazzling feat of Philippe Petit, an ordinary man who, in August 1974, walked a tightrope wire between the World Trade Towers in New York City. Using this extraordinary act as the touchstone to which he returns over and over again, McCann has written a novel about ten different individuals, each walking their own metaphorical tightrope. Set in New York, all of the individuals’ stories (an Irish immigrant, a man of God, an heroin addicted prostitute, a mother mourning her son, a young wife and artist, and a Park Avenue judge, among others) intertwine, all told in the shadow of the man on the wire.

This is a significant social novel about the radically changing America of the 70s. It’s a quiet novel about the daily lives of ordinary people. It is a quintessential New York novel, pulsing with the characters and noise and beauty of The Big Apple. It’s a novel about faith and Vietnam and forgiveness and right and wrong. It is as big as a man attempting to walk in midair, and as small as a man putting one foot in front of the other.

One could argue what the central theme of this multifaceted novel is, given the kaleidoscopic nature of the narrative. But it is difficult to escape the sense of loss that permeates every page, as much from the knowledge that the Towers no longer stand, as from anything that the author has written on the page.

I fell in love with this book within the first five pages. I was afraid to read further for fear that it would disappoint me. It didn’t. Ultimately, McCann dazzles.


On Chesil Beach Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307386175
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor - June 10th, 2008

This small jewel of a book is impeccably written, impossible to forget, and quite possibly a perfect specimen of a book. Award winning novelist McEwan tells the story of one couple's wedding night but this heartbreaking, masterful book is about how our lives are forever changed by the words that go unspoken.

Any Bitter Thing Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345477682
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Ballantine Books - April 25th, 2006

It’s my job to talk about books, but sometimes a book comes along that’s so beautiful, that it leaves even a seasoned veteran like myself at a loss for words. I can’t truly do justice to this deeply moving, wonderfully written novel, about a 30-year-old woman’s near fatal accident and the resulting convergence of her past and present, in a simple synopsis. Suffice it to say, the book is about faith: in God, in a marriage, and ultimately in ourselves, and it’s the best thing I’ve read in a long time. A rich treasure for book club discussion, or a satisfying treat for yourself. As my friend Margaret said when she sent me a copy, ”I’m so glad that you still have the pleasure of reading it in your future.”

Catalina: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374119751
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: MCD x FSG Originals - November 7th, 2017

“The title of the novel Catalina sounds like a book about a Hollywood starlet or perhaps a chick-lit beach read about a young woman escaping to Catalina Island for the weekend to recover from a breakup.

Look closer, though.

The palm tree on the cover looks a little sickly, like it’s dying from the fatal fungus that you read about — a threat to these non-native trees of Los Angeles. And the tree’s disjointed, blurry image seems as though you’re viewing it from underwater or perhaps through a haze of drugs or alcohol.

Something seems wrong.

And it is, as quickly becomes apparent in Liska Jacobs’ debut novel about Elsa, a young woman who isn’t so much recovering from her breakup with her married boss and subsequent layoff from her job, as unraveling.”

Los Angeles News Group, 11/2/17 column excerpt

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers Cover Image
ISBN: 9781328683786
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - December 6th, 2016

“Don’t be scared off by the intimidating size (673 pages!). This fascinating book from podcast king Ferriss serves up a buffet of tidbits in the categories of health, wealth, and happiness, most told through interviews (some from his podcasts, some new) with successful people. The nontraditional format won’t be for everyone; Ferriss doesn’t take a “how to” approach, instead inspiring readers to jump around the hundreds of quick takeaways. I walked away with 20 that I’m pretty sure will change my life.”

Los Angeles News Group, 2/3/17 column excerpt

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735213586
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - April 4th, 2017

“A couple of years ago I heard bestselling author Anne Lamott speak at All Saints Church in Pasadena. When asked about her next book she replied that she might have already said everything she had to say. Her answer was candid and thankfully wrong. This Northern California truth-teller, and author of nine books of nonfiction and seven novels, has at least one more thing to say in her new book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. If you’ve read Lamott previously, then I’m preaching to the choir. If you haven’t, don’t let Lamott’s nods to religion and the Old Testament scare off the more secular among you. She is a badass, born-again Christian and recovering alcoholic who has her God but respects you and yours. (“You do you,” would be her cheer.) And everyone would benefit from her profound and deliciously funny observations about the human condition, this time through the lens of mercy, what she describes as “radical kindness” to ourselves and to others. Mercy seems to me to be a good idea these days and Lamott reminds us of that truth in this forthright and engaging new book.”

Los Angeles News Group,4/17/17 column excerpt

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage Cover Image
ISBN: 9780451494481
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf - April 11th, 2017

“It’s a stretch to write about Dani Shapiro for a column about the SoCal literary landscape; Shapiro has never lived in California as far as I know, but she’s married to a screenwriter and she’s danced with Hollywood herself and, well, she’s another truth-teller with another gorgeous new book. Shapiro is a wonderful novelist and memoirist who may have become more famous from her appearance on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday than from her nine books combined. But her new book, an extraordinary memoir of her 18-year marriage, cements her reputation as a great writer. You won’t find the drama or affairs or subsequent aftermath at the core of other memoirs about marriages, but instead a quiet, lyrical meditation about what it’s like to spend a lifetime with another human being. Hourglass is insightful, compassionate, intelligent, and graceful. It bravely illuminates Shapiro’s long-term relationship, and thus our own relationships, contemplating how our lives evolve, separately and together, when those lives don’t turn out as we planned, or we don’t turn out as we planned. Shapiro speaks honestly about this rarely examined topic.”

Los Angeles News Group,4/17/17 column excerpt