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Sweet Home Pasadena

Local Authors, Publisher Collaborate on a New Edition of Wildly Popular “Hometown Pasadena”

If you’re one of the fans who have been waiting anxiously for the brand-new recently released edition of “Hometown Pasadena”, the wait is over.  If you’re not, you soon will be—some things, like authentic guidebooks brimming with local information and crafted with pride, are hard to resist.
Released just recently on October 20th, and available at local booksellers, “Hometown Pasadena” is a tour de force of and an actual tour through the “sixteen towns in one” that make up the Pasadena experience and environs.  Publisher, and driving force behind the project, Colleen Dunn Bates, wanted the book to be inclusive.  Cities covered include Monrovia, Arcadia, and Sierra Madre—not to mention Temple City, Eagle Rock, Glendale, San Marino, Altadena, La Canada, Herman, Alhambra, Highland Park, La Crescenta and Montrose, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and of course, sweet home Pasadena.  Everything worth seeing, knowing, or hearing about is packed into this handy little guide.  It’s small, but certainly not anything you could lose between the couch cushions.


In it's first edition, "Hometown Pasadena" was a raging success. This second edition is Prospect Park Books attempt to keep readers up to date on latest Pasadena hotspots and notspots.

To be sure, it was no small feat to get “Hometown Pasadena” started.  Acting as publisher, editor, writer, sales manager and even delivering copies herself to retail stores around the area, Bates poured everything she had and a pinch more into getting the ball rolling.
“A publisher actually does everything involved in putting a book together.  We hire freelance writers and designers.  Then comes editing, hiring a book printer, and finally marketing the finished product.  Oh, and we have to come up with the capital up front to pay everyone—we get our profits later, by selling the book!”


But Bates acknowledged that the process that went into “Hometown Pasadena” was a little different.  “One of my pet peeves,” she said, “is when New Yorkers blow into the area and four days later, appraise it all in a guidebook as if they know everything.”  Bates believed – and still does – that local writers are much more equipped to evaluate their own towns.  “There’s a familiarity, an ease to writing about a place you’ve lived in… There’s also the first-hand authority and the true passion for your hometown, opposed to someone who blows in and leaves after they think they’ve seen enough.”
The humblest of leaders, Bates is quick to give due credit to the whole team of friends, family and contractors that went into making the book such a success. She contacted several of her friends in the area including Sandy Gillis, Melody Malmberg, Mary Jane Horton, and Jill Alison Ganon, who together co-authored the book, each musing and informing in their particular areas of expertise.  Together, they all collaborated on an in-depth look at the Crown City that is as enjoyable to read as it is informative, both for long-time residents and first-time visitors.  With the addition of the aptly named and equally talented photographer Paul Click, the brilliant designer James Barkley whose body of work stops nowhere short genius, and a whole list of others to lengthy for mention in these columns, Prospect Park Books was born.
That was the first edition, which was published in 2006.  And it quickly became a hit, selling over 14,000 copies within a year of publication –no small feat in the world of independent, regional publishing, where 5,000 copies sold over a book’s lifespan is often considered great success.
“It was a frenzy,” Bates recalls, “there were no books left on the shelves.”
And “Hometown Pasadena” was not only wildly popular at the bookstores, but among critics as well, with praising pouring in from the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles magazine and Westways – not to mention its nomination for awards by organizations such as the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association and the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
Now, two years later, it’s back and better than ever.  This new version of the book contains sections on Pasadena and the surrounding cities liberally doused in history, architecture, horticulture, arts, entertainment, famous people, outdoorsy places, athletics, and of course, a whole lot of food and drink.  But there’s more, much more. In special sections that deal with things most would never think to look for in a traditional guidebook, “Hometown Pasadena” includes clear-cut interviews with six Caltech “Smarty-Pants,” all the cool places you can get to from the Gold Line, everything to do with children’s events and entertainment, and an almost wry, but elegantly doled out sense of humor that accompanies readers from one page to the next and never allows that dry, guidebook-as-a-phonebook feel.

Some highlights in the new edition include:

-A whole new chapter titled, “Pasadena Is…Literary” which recounts the area’s considerable literary history, shares excerpts from the great writing set in and around Pasadena, and points readers to the area’s best bookstores and places to sit down and write.
-Enough new restaurant, café, bar, food shop and coffeehouse reviews to fill a small town or a hungry belly.
-A tribute to Pasadena’s restored City Hall, which has notably been honored with a LEED Gold award for environmental sustainability (Don’t worry, we find out what that means inside the book).
-A look at the renovated Huntington Library with its Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, including the spectacular new Chinese garden.
-A tour of the bevy of midcentury antiques stores that have appeared on East Colorado.
-A talk with Betty and Charles McKenney, the volunteers behind the remarkable Arlington Garden.
-A crawl through Highland Park’s burgeoning gallery scene.
-Arts Along the Arroyo, a historic profile of the Arroyo culture that so influenced Los Angeles.

When Bates set out to create an in-depth look at Pasadena, she had more on her mind than just treating tourists.  “I grew up in Los Angeles, and had certain attitudes about Pasadena that proved untrue—I always thought it was too provincial, conservative, and dull.  But since moving here, 17 years ago, that impression changed.  There is so much going on here in Pasadena, and I just wanted to collaborate with my writer friends and do it justice.”  She attributes the heart and spirit of big “small-town” Pasadena and friends to community newspapers.  She laughed, “I started in community newspapers, and this book goes back to community newspapers.  It’s a celebration of the great potential which is found in small, community newspapers.”
With its colorful layout, clever formatting, and hundreds of pictures, “Hometown Pasadena” reads more like a magazine than a tour book.  The headings and captions are unmistakable and clear.  Every new informational point made is given a bold subheading, so it’s easy to find whatever you’re looking for.  And all of the relevant facts like phone numbers and addresses are right there included for planning’s sake.

Going painfully unmentioned in this article for no reason other that editorial incompetence, "At Home: Pasadena" is packed full with pithy copy and photos to die for of homes to die for.

Going painfully unmentioned in this article for no reason other that editorial incompetence,

In the past two years, the book’s success spawned a sibling, “Hometown Santa Monica” in 2007, then a third (and final?) leg of the trilogy, dubbed “Hometown Santa Barbara,” which was just released on November 1st of this year.  And Colleen’s next project is a much more ambitious project called “Eat L.A.” which, aside from challenges head-on the wildly popular Zagat restaurant guides, promises to lead the way in the search for L.A.’s best restaurants, ethnic markets, wine shops, gourmets-to-go, bakeries, caterers, farmers’ markets and taco trucks. That’s right, taco trucks.  Best of all, we can safely assume that “Eat L.A.” will be packed with just as much verve, humor, and hard-nosed intelligence that make “Hometown Pasadena” such a delightful treat.

“Hometown Pasadena” is written by Sandy Gillis, Melody Malmberg, Colleen Dunn Bates, Mary Jane Horton, and Jill Alison Ganon.  It is 280 pages, 6 x 9 inches, and flexibound lay-flat cover can be found at Vromans, online at Amazon, and pretty darn well near everywhere else around here.  It is published by Prospect Park Books, 969 S. Raymond Ave, Pasadena, 91105.  Visit for more information.

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