The Independent Press

OK, so last week I said I’d be making a post about the NES game Crystalis, in accordance with my unspoken agreement that I would cover books one week and video games the next and that… will not be happening.

I thought… Crystalis is a twenty year old game that I’ve beaten more times than Mel Gibson’s ex-wife…  Certainly, I can clean it in a week, even using emulation.  Well… No.  The game is long, deep, and I’ve recently become stuck trying to remember which mountain I have to explore to get the item I need to continue (and I’m refusing the help of GameFAQs here), so… maybe next week!

For now, I’m going to let you in on a secret…  Beyond Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, and Simon and Schuster (OK, you too St Martin’s, you whiny bastard) there are hundreds (if not thousands) of smaller publishers, putting out works of literature that you probably wouldn’t look twice at at your local shop (if your local shop even carried the items.

This is the independent press.  There’s variations… I’ve heard some refer to themselves as indie publishers, small press publishers, art press publishers, and, on rare occasions, the vanity press…  But they are all good.  I’m going to list four of my favorites with recommended titles for each.  Check them out!  Keep the beauty of handmade (and literary!) books alive!


This one is kind of a cheat as they have fairly wide distribution, a large number of employees, and a large output on a yearly basis.  But they do all their hardcovers in-house, they have one of the strongest editing teams in the world, and as far as design goes… they’re unmatched.

And to top it all off, they’re having a sale right now.  My recommendations?

  • The Wild Things by Dave Eggers $7
  • The Convalescent by Jessica Anthony $9
  • McSweeney’s Quarterly #15 $3

Europa Editions

An independent press based out of both New York City and Italy, Europa Editions focuses mostly on the translated versions of non-American authors and they make some fantastic choices.  Distinctive covers and spines, interesting and literate works, and a constantly expanding library of books.  Try these!

  • Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky (new book coming from Europa May 15!)
  • A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth
  • Zeroville by Steve Erickson

Chance Press

Based in the Bay Area, Chance Press is a mere three years old, but has already made a huge splash by putting out beautiful, hand-crafted books on a variety of subjects (poetry, fiction, a couple art books, etc.).

I can’t do their incredible work justice by trying to describe it here, but I highly recommend you check out their stuff as quickly as possible (and not just because they were kind enough to send me a signed Dan Fante book, either!).

Top picks?

  • A Common Thread: The Poetry of (and good luck finding a copy)
  • Too Powerful A Thing To Reject: Charles Bukowski’s Transition Years, 1945-1957 by Abel Debritto
  • No. 2236 Flying Wedge by Michael Phillips

Bottle of Smoke Press

Based in Delaware, Bill Roberts’ Bottle of Smoke is pretty much the reason I got into small press publishing.  A chance encounter with one of the Bottle of Smoke books at Powell’s in 2005 set me into a frenzy of collecting (and given the quality of both the writers and the design of these books, collecting these books is only going to get more difficult).

Trying to weed out a top 3 would normally be difficult, but since much of the catalog is sold out and only available on the secondary market (if you can even find some there), my choices are easier (though somewhat limited).


  • Marching Unabashed Into The Weeping, Searing Sun… by Hosho McCreesh
  • Renewal by Dan Fante
  • Bottle #4 (Various Authors, a collection of broadsides

If you can track down The Pages Turned To Dust by Father Luke, or any of Bottle of Smoke’s Bukowski output, you won’t be disappointed either.

So there.  Check it all out, take it all in… let me know if you look into any of this and enjoy it!  I’ll be back next week with something video game related (hopefully!).


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