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Allison K Hill

Reader. writer. indie bookseller.

 

Stealing the book, My Little Pony, from the local Roger Wilco at the age of four turned out to be my slippery slope into a life not of crime, but of books.

My Grandma Doris was convinced that I was friendless and destined for spinsterhood, but my childhood obsession with books and nights spent reading under the covers with a flashlight grew into a lifelong passion for reading and writing, and a lifetime career in bookselling. Book thief, late night reader, creative writer, Bookseller with a capital “B,” some would say, book addict . . . books have been the love of my life.

My resume says that I’m the President and Chief Executive Officer of Vroman’s Bookstore, Southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore, and a former Publisher’s Weekly Bookseller of the Year; and Book Soup, the legendary "Bookseller to the Great & Infamous" located in the heart of the world famous Sunset Strip, and that I began my bookselling career with Simon & Schuster Publishing and Waterstone’s Booksellers. I was formerly a reader for the Charlotte Gusay Literary Agency and a freelance scout and story analyst for CBS television and various film companies. I’m currently a freelance writer and business consultant, a sporadic contributor to the Huffington Post book section, and the book columnist for the Los Angeles News Group (Los Angeles Daily News, Pasadena Star-News, etc.). And you can occasionally (okay, once so far) hear me on KCRW. Here's a recent segment

What my resume doesn’t say: I have a freakish gift for speed reading. I’m on a constant quest for more bookshelves. I estimate I’ve read close to 10,000 books. I have a love/hate relationship with writing. I decide whether to read a book based on the last word of the book. I believe authors are the highest life form, except for dogs. And my favorite word is delicious.

 

 

  Nightstand Book:    Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America  . Urgent. Important. Riveting. 

Nightstand Book: Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America. Urgent. Important. Riveting. 

This Book Will Change Your Life

I was working in the bookstore late one evening when a customer asked for me. "I'm looking for a book," he said, "and I saw your staff picks around the store and thought you might be able to help me." I asked him what kind of book he was looking for. He paused for a moment, then his voice caught and it seemed like he might start crying: "I'm looking for a book that will change my life."

The Huffington Post

Losing Everything

When confronted by tragedy, anguish, unbearable sadness, the kind that until you experience it you didn’t realize could be a literal hurting of the heart, we say things like, “I am speechless.”... Again and again we are forced to realize that language for all of its evolutionary progress fails us in the face of loss and grief. Yet writers bravely take on this seemingly insurmountable challenge on our behalf and attempt to give words to that which can’t be spoken, that which we can’t begin to understand.

The Huffington Post

Literary Seductions

I'm struck by whether literary seductions are even possible in the digital future. Without CD collections, DVD collections, bookshelves, how do you know whose house you're really in? When the guy next to you on a plane pulls a book from his bag, it's an icebreaker, insight into who he is. When he pulls out an electronic device, it's just not the same. A Kindle on a nightstand? Just not sexy. Call me archaic, call me a romantic, call me a future unemployed bookseller, but I still believe in a good old fashioned literary seduction, and judging a book by its cover.

The Huffington Post

Books I've Loved and Lost

All of this is to say simply this: almost every day I am asked for my opinion about the future of the book. Will printed books cease to exist? And I honestly don't know the answer. But I know that I miss the books I've lost along the way. Not the stories that would otherwise be found in an e-book, or online these days, but the physical books with their notes and underlinings and associations, pressed flowers or photos stuck between the pages, bookmarks from a special place, an inscription from a friend. Without books, these time capsules, we lose something we can never get back. In this case, the excuse to look up an old flame...

The Huffington Post

Love and Bookstores

Scientists might call this an “imprinting,” like in the animal kingdom: an early encounter that provided me with information about who I was and who, or what, I find attractive. I hold a more romantic view. I would call my love of bookstores a Great Love, one recognized by the feeling that you are more yourself than you have ever been.

The Huffington Post

Losing My Literary Virginity

My sexual awakening came at the hands of John Irving, or his words anyway. Until then, everything I had known about sex had come from a religiously subtexted biology book called Wonderfully Made, which my parents dutifully gave me, and a church sponsored class called "You, Me and God Makes Three." The first taught me the basic biological facts of where babies come from, the second conveyed strategies for safeguarding one's virginity. The most memorable: "Always place your Bible on the car seat between you and a boy; if he tries anything, simply say, 'You'll have to get over Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to get to me.'"

The Huffington Post

 

We Are Not All Having the Same Experience

Which brings me back to reading and books. Most of us read in our comfort zone. Our favorite authors. Our friends' recommendations. The bestseller list. So here's the challenge I present to you today: Read something outside your comfort zone. Choose a book that doesn't share your perspective, but challenges it. Read a "boring" history book that you would never normally choose, but that might help you understand the world beyond your own a little better. Read as a political act.

The Huffington Post

 

Finding Faith

At this stage of my life I know deeply that the journey is the destination, that faith isn't something you find or finally reach, but a process and a choice every day. Not a certainty at all, in fact, but an openness. One that allows for my father's stroke, a bad day, a favorite author, and the perfect afternoon, all the same. And though I believe more in a universal spirit than in God (even though he may have sent two Jehovah's Witnesses to prove himself), I'm still a Sunday school girl at heart; I kind of believe I'll see Karl again someday in heaven. A place I believe looks a lot like a bookstore.

The Huffington Post

 

Vacation Reading

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.

The Huffington Post

 

Book Clubs are Badass

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.

The Huffington Post

 

Why are so many crime novels set in Los Angeles?

Southern California has a lot to offer a crime writer: a vast and varied landscape to use as backdrops — ocean, mountains, desert; a famous police department and thousands of unsolved cases to draw inspiration from; a fascinating city known for its shiny artifice, as well as its shady underbelly.

Los Angeles Daily News

 

5 Books that would make great movies

Regardless I think the book world needs its own night of singing, dancing, fancy dresses, red carpet, paparazzi and Neil Patrick Harris. (Well, maybe Ellen DeGeneres.)

Don’t you want to see Bill O’Reilly and Cheryl Strayed present an award together? Don’t you wonder who Stephen King and E.L. James would bring as their dates? Can’t you just imagine what a great speech Toni Morrison would give?

I’ve been waiting all my life for such a night. And I know exactly who I’m going to wear.

Los Angeles Daily News

 

Trash Reading

While my fellow booksellers and I spent the summer eagerly awaiting the new Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, and David Mitchell novels, I was also secretly counting down the days to the newest book in the Shopaholic series, Shopaholic to the Stars.

My name is Allison and I love trash reading. Call it chick lit, dick lit, café lit, airport fiction, potboilers, pulp fiction, pleasure reading, or escapist, I love it all.

The Huffington Post

 

The Right to Read

Books have been challenged and banned around the world for reasons as varied as “sexual content,” “blurring reality and fantasy,” and “focusing on negativity.” With this criteria in mind, some of my most treasured books would be banned and I would never have had the pleasure of reading them. The Scarlet Letter was banned for being obscene and pornographic even though there is actually no sex or sexual language in the book. Does this mean The Great Gatsby could be banned?! We’re never privy to the sex lives of Daisy and Gatsby, or Daisy’s husband and his mistress, but the affairs are central to the story all the same. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is one of the most challenged books of the 21st century because it “promotes the occult.” Is The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, a book celebrated for its “magic realism,” next? The Wizard of Oz was banned for celebrating “negativism.” There goes Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle; Kurt Vonnegut may be a brilliant writer, but he’s also a curmudgeonly one.

Darling Magzine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For reading, writing, and arithmetic services, as well as all book-related love (fan mail, book recommendations, speaking engagements, interviews, etc.) . . .

Email me at AllisonKHill@gmail.com

 

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                                                                                                                        Home Page and About Photo Credits: Jeff Becko                                                                                                                          Circa 1974 Photo Credit: My mom

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