Join us in conversation with authors who explore the intersection of arts, science, and society through the lens of their life experiences and family histories. An audience Q&A follows each event. UP NEXT: Our 1st in-person and simultaneous YouTube Live event

Thursday, October 20, 2022, at 6 p.m. PT

A comic exploration of a year in the life of an "imaginatively twisted and fearless" (Los Angeles Times) best-selling author, The Madwoman and the Roomba chronicles a roller coaster year for Sandra Tsing Loh, her unmarried partner, and her two teenagers in their ramshackle quasi-Craftsman in Pasadena (an experimental stone's throw away from Caltech). Join Sandra in conversation with Samantha Dunn, Bookish Co-Host and Senior Editor of Engagement, Southern California News Group with a Q&A afterwards and book signing. This conversation is sure to make you laugh out loud and give personal insight into one of Caltech's Distinguished Alums, Sandra Tsing Loh. Join is in person or YouTube Live!

Vroman's Bookstore logo

Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena is a proud partner of our Behind the Book series. Help preserve a Pasadena treasure and shop local!

Watch Past Events

Harold McGee

Thursday, July 28 , 2022 at 6 p.m. PT

“In recent decades, a number of chefs/authors/scientists began to enlighten us with books that explore the intersection of food and the sciences. I am particularly proud that we are beginning this new subseries "Behind The Book: On Cooking and Science." A kitchen classic for over 35 years and hailed by Time magazine as "a minor masterpiece" when it first appeared in 1984, "On Food & Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen" pioneered the translation of technical food science into cook-friendly kitchen science and helped birth the inventive culinary movement known as molecular gastronomy. Though other books have been written about kitchen science, "On Food and Cooking" remains unmatched in its accuracy and clarity. It earned McGee an iconic status among swaggering chefs who wanted to test the boundaries between stoves and Bunsen burners. We're excited to present Harold McGee in conversation with Tom Mannion, Caltech Instructor of Culinary Sciences!

David J. Anderson

David J. Anderson
Tuesday, May 17, 2022 at 5 p.m. PT

"The Nature of the Beast: How Emotions Guide Us" asks "Does your dog get sad when you leave for the day? Does your cat purr because she loves you? Do bears attack when they’re angry?" You can’t very well ask them. In fact, scientists haven’t been able to reach a consensus on whether animals even have emotions like humans do, let alone how to study them. Yet studies of animal emotion are critical for understanding human emotion and mental illness. Pioneering neuroscientist David J. Anderson describes a new approach to solving this problem. His research has revolutionized what we know about animal fear and aggression. Here, he explains what studying emotions and related internal brain states in animals can teach us about human behavior, offering new insights into why isolation makes us more aggressive, how sex and violence connect, and whether there’s a link between aggression and mental illness.

Fraser MacDonald

Thursday, March 24, 2022 at 5 p.m. PT

"Escape from Earth: A Secret History of the Space Rocket" by Fraser MacDonald Los Angeles, 1930s: Everyone knows that rockets are just toys, the stuff of cranks and pulp magazines. Nevertheless, an earnest engineering student named Frank Malina sets out to prove the doubters wrong. With the help of his friend Jack Parsons, a grandiose and occult-obsessed explosives enthusiast, Malina embarks on a journey that takes him from junk yards and desert lots to the heights of the military-industrial complex. Drawing on an astonishing array of untapped sources, including FBI documents and private archives, Escape From Earth tells the inspiring true story of Malina's achievements—and the political fear that's kept them hidden. At its heart, this is an Icarus tale: a real-life fable about the miracle of human ingenuity and the frailty of dreams.

Roberta H. Martínez

Roberta H. Martínez
Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at 5 p.m. PT

Histories of Pasadena are rich in details about important citizens, time-honored traditions, and storied enclaves such as Millionaires Row and Lamanda Park. But the legacies of Mexican Americans and other Latino men and women who often worked for Pasadena's rich and famous have been sparsely preserved through the generations--even though these citizens often made remarkable community contributions and lived in close proximity to their employers. Join us as C. Raul Espinoza discusses Latinos in Pasadena with author Roberta H. Martínez.

Carolyn Campbell

btw of a middle aged blonde woman with glasses smiling
Thursday, November 18, 2021 at 5 p.m. PT

Author and photographer Carolyn Campbell, whose book City of Immortals: Pére-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris (2019, Goff Books) celebrates the novelty and eccentricity of the famous resting place, engages Caltech history professor Jed Buchwald in a spirited discussion as he takes on the persona of three scientists: astronomer Jérôme Lalande; mathematician, physicist, and historian Joseph Fourier; and decipherer of Egyptian hieroglyphics Jean-François Champollion. Together, Campbell and Buchwald bring to life these luminaries and uncover the controversies surrounding their provocative debates about science, politics, and religion; Napoleon's pivotal role in their cultural and intellectual adventures; and the significance of their discoveries that unfolded against the background of the French Revolution and the Restoration.

Eric Garen

Older gentleman in grey suit
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at 5 p.m. PT

Educator and astrophotographer Eric Garen combines his love of language and scientific training into Poems of the Planets: Solar System Science in Verse and Prose. Originally written with the middle school student in mind, the book invites readers of all ages to delight in the hidden wonders of our solar system, from the giant volcanoes on Venus’ moons to the icy rings of Saturn and everything in-between. Garen will be joined by Katherine de Kleer, science advisor and assistant professor of planetary science and astronomy at Caltech.

Cindy Weinstein

woman in green top with glasses and short cropped hair
Thursday, September 9, 2021

Cindy Weinstein is the author of Finding the Right Words: A Story of Literature, Grief, and the Brain. She is the Eli and Edythe Broad Professor of English and Vice Provost at Caltech, and serves as the Institute's Chief Diversity Officer. In collaboration with noted neurologist Dr. Bruce L. Miller, Weinstein combines personal memoir, literature, and the science and history of brain health into a unique, educational, and meditative work. Get Behind the Book with Cindy Weinstein and Bruce Miller as they discuss Finding the Right Words. Caltech Professor Catherine Jurca leads the conversation, which will be followed by an audience Q&A.

Blake Hill-Saya

Blake Hill-Saya
Monday, February 1, 2021

Author of Aaron McDuffie Moore: An African American Physician, Educator, and Founder of Durham's Black Wall Street

Blake Hill-Saya is a classical musician and creative writer living in Los Angeles. Born the biracial child of two literature professors, her love affair with books began at age four when her father found her reading one to herself out loud and upside down. She is the CEO of Tenacity Communications in Los Angeles.

Indre Viskontas

Indre Viskontas
Monday, April 12, 2020

Indre Viskontas combines a passion for music with scientific curiosity. Professor of Sciences and Humanities at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco, she is also a working opera singer and serves as the Creative Director of Pasadena Opera.