The first week of the new year is always rife with good intentions: drink more water, eat less sugar, be better person. But this year, as we face down increased creative censorship and corporate greed throughout the United States, resolve to read more - and not just more, but
better. Here are 13 indie presses you should know, because the only thing better than reading a good book is reading a good book that sticks it to the man on every level.
At this point in American culture, when it increasingly feels like there is one, homogenous narrative deemed acceptable by the powers that be, independent publishers provide platforms for silenced voices, for populations ignored by mainstream media, for those whose stories would otherwise never be shared. That's the power of indie presses: unfettered by a big-time corporate aesthetic, they are free to do
whatever they want.
Within this list of publishers, you'll almost certainly recognize best-sellers and critically acclaimed works. Many houses represent at least one prestigious, award-winning author - talent isn't exclusive to big-time publishers, dudes. But once you've read through those (and you should - they win awards for a reason), dig a little deeper. Seek out a writer you've never heard of before. Select a book just for its title, or its cover.
Based in Chicago,
"radically independent" Haymarket Books draws its name from the 1886 Haymarket Square labor riot, which erupted after pleas for an eight-hour work day (and is the basis for May Day, the international workers' holiday). Since 2001 they've published more than 500 non-fiction titles, including works by Angela Davis, Rebecca Solnit, Howard Zinn and Arundhati Roy, and work to cultivate "a critical, engaged, international left."
Curbside Splendor Publishing
Curbside Splendor did not start out as a press at all - it originally was a punk band in the '90s. The name stuck around long after the band did, and in 2009, it became a Chicago-based independent press. Curbside's dedication to maintaining the tradition of Midwestern publishing, as well as their annual novella competition, have established them as a go-to for slightly weird, always wonderful fiction, non-fiction and poetry picks. Coffee House Press, based in Minneapolis, Minn., aims to serve as a connector and a catalyst between readers and writers, between communities and books. Their offerings, which range from non-fiction anthologies to poetry to fiction, are notoriously, elegantly irreverent.
Family-run "boutique publisher" and film production company,
Two Dollar Radio has operated out of Columbus, Ohio since 2005. Specializing in novels, essays and graphic novels, Two Dollar Radio is as much known for their ability to curate boundary-pushing writers as they are for their DIY aesthetic. You can always pick out a Two Dollar Radio book on a shelf - and thank God for that.
Perhaps one of the best known independent publishers,
Graywolf Press, which operates out of Minneapolis, Minn., has been turning out incredible poetry since 1974. They've since expanded to novels, short stories, memoirs and essays, and pride themselves on "discovering" and supporting lesser known and new artists. They're doing, like, an okay job, I guess: two of their current writers, Claudia Rankine and Maggie Nelson, were awarded 2016 MacArthur Genius grants. Very casual. Catapult is more than a publisher; they offer classes, run an online magazine, and host Community, an open writing platform to which anyone can contribute. Catapult's literary fiction and narrative non-fiction tend to be stirring, and maybe a little unsettling. They catch you off guard, which, let's be real, is something we could all stand to have happen every so often.
Dorothy, a publishing project
Created by writer Danielle Dutton (whose own book,
Margaret The First, was published by Catapult in 2015) as a vehicle for highlighting "works of fiction or near fiction or about fiction, mostly by women," Dorothy only releases two books per year, simultaneously, in the fall. Inspired by an Aunt Dorothy who gave a book as a gift every year, Dorothy has maintained that same essence - a small, handpicked treasure, selected just for you.
Perhaps best known for their quarterly literary magazine,
Tin House brings the same level of crisp, refreshing curation to their publishing arm, which launched in 2005. Putting out only a dozen or so books a year, Tin House specializes in spotlighting "undiscovered" writers whose perspectives on the world may alter your own.
As a publisher specializing in experimental non-fiction, translation, and "performance texts,"
Ugly Duckling Presse is a go-to for readers curious about the literary frontier. UDP originated as a zine in the '90s, and continues to include handmade elements in much of its current catalog.
You know that any press whose mission statement is, "Reverse-gentrification of the literary world" is going to be bringing some heavy-hitters into rotation. Based in Brooklyn since 1996,
Akashic Press is an incredible resource for "niche" genres. One of their most prolific sub-genres, Noir Series, collects geographically-inspired, contemporary noir pieces and compiles them into anthologies. You never knew you needed Istanbul Noir until now, huh? The Feminist Press has seen some sh*t. As long-time veterans in the independent publishing game (since 1970!), the FP is now a "vanguard" of contemporary feminist literature, publishing everything from plays to an Afro-feminist coloring book. The New Press, founded in 1992, publishes works revolving around educational, cultural, ethnic, and community subjects. They believe publishers are responsible for highlighting the ills within a culture, and for providing platforms for new, curious, unheard voices willing to fight. Check out their education section. Their non-fiction selection is particularly impressive - check out their Education titles and prepare for your concept of "school" to be blown completely out of the water.
Though a relative newcomer to the independent publishing game (they were founded in 2009), Tyrant Books, based in Rome, Italy and New York, New York, has already garnered a reputation for curating eerily poignant works by up-and-coming fiction writers.