Now we’re in the midst of the holidays, it’s a terrific time to turn your attention toward independent presses, whether you’re purchasing gifts or considering where to make your year-end donations. With the tightest of budgets and smallest of staffs, independent presses annually produce exciting and ambitious books that may not otherwise have seen the light. Below I’ll highlight a few of my favorite titles from the presses I blogged about in 2016.
First up from Bellevue Literary Press is Jerome Charyn’s A Loaded Gun, a imaginative and unprecedented look at Emily Dickinson that is part biography, part literary criticism, and altogether fascinating. Some readers and reviewers have taken issue with Charyn’s exploration of Dickinson’s sexuality, but the book is an intriguing study that makes a compelling case.
Fans of genre-bending and blending should check out Small Beer Press. Their books are wondrous and fantastical, blurring the line between the speculative and the concrete. I recommend the two volume collection of Ursula K. LeGuin’s stories, The Unreal and the Real, a remarkable range of stories from one of the country’s most masterful and original writers.
A great read from Hobblebush Books in New Hampshire is Eric Pinder’s Life at the Top: Weather, Wisdom and High Cuisine from the Top of Mount Washington. Pinder worked year-round at the “home of the world’s worst weather,” the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire’s presidential range, and this memoir is a perfect mix of science, philosophy, and gastronomical delights.
For poetry, I love Sarabande’s varied and valuable collection of Quarternote Chapbooks, a remarkable series of titles from contemporary American poets including Stephen Dunn, Louise Glück, C.K. Williams, and James Tate. Paris Press is also a great go-to; my personal Paris favorite is The Life of Poetry by Muriel Rukeyser, a collection of essays exploring how resistance to poetry is connected to the modern world’s fear of individual thought and emotion. Rukeyser is a voice we need to read in the ever more fractured and confusing 21st century.
The breadth and depth of independent titles available in America is vast and wonderful; for further suggestions, check out the Indie Spotlight series archive. And if you’re buying an independent book, buy directly from the press or from the next best place—an independent bookstore.