Even if the word’s used to describe just about everything these days, “indie” still has cachet. When my friends describe the music they like or movies they want to see, indie is often one of the first adjectives they say. Sure, indie-ness has been killed a bit by over-use, but it’s something my friends value because at least it means they’re not chowing down on the latest mainstream garbage like Bruno Mars, PF Chang’s, or the sequel to the prequel to The Amazing Spider-Man. And that’s fantastic.
Indie music, indie movies, indie fashion, indie food. But what about indie books? Are indie books even on the radar? As an avid reader and somebody with a ferociously enthusiastic plus somewhat badgering personality, I bother everyone I know into reading more books. Forget the new series on Netflix, your yoga class, and tonight’s OkCupid date, what you should be doing — I scream — is reading! And reading indie books at that.
Just like how a lot of the best music isn’t on the Billboard Hot 100 or being released by Atlantic Records, a lot of the best books aren’t New York Times bestsellers or published by Random House. Instead they’re published by much smaller presses you might not have heard of, which is good news. Now your “List of Books to Read” is going to grow by six or seven shelves at least.
4 great publishers you might not have heard of but whose books you ought to read asap
They’ve got it all. From vegetarian Italian cook books to Polish noir to hipster lit, Melville House puts out a bunch of topnotch titles every year. Plus, their Twitter feed’s pretty entertaining. For a quick read you can probably relate to, try Leigh Stein’s The Fallback Plan. For a bit of international fiendishness and intrigue, give their Crime Series a gander. This past year Melville House even published a book about how to sharpen pencils, which I didn’t read because honestly I prefer pens. They’ve always got something good coming out. The only downside is their novellas have the lamest covers ever.
Two Dollar Radio
Book for book, nobody beats Two Dollar Radio. They only publish 5 or 6 titles a year and they’re all must-reads. My go-to recommendations are The Correspondence Artist by Barbara Browning and Grace Krilanovich’s strangely beautiful The Orange Eats Creeps. No matter which book you nab from your local library or grab off their website, you can’t go wrong. P.S. If you love tattoos and free books, rumor has it Two Dollar Radio will make you an offer there’s no way to refuse.
It’s unclear what “Ig” means. Is it a grunt of disgruntlement at the fact that there are so many good books out there and never enough time to read them? Or is it the name of a friendly ogre? Regardless, Ig has got a solid lineup of titles surely worth investigating. They publish political non-fiction, guides to the dive bars, and fantastic fiction. Last year’s The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets was fun. My favorite is Small Town Punk by John Sheppard, a book that’s fierce and funny and set in the shittiest Pizza Hut on the planet.
When I first started getting into books, Dalkey was the publishing house whose name really stuck out in my mind. I’d heard of the legendary Grove Press, which published Naked Lunch and Last Exit to Brooklyn back in the day. And a buddy told me about Black Sparrow, whose publisher John Martin put out Bukowski’s first novel. But what about now, I wanted to know. Who’s publishing the wildest, funniest, freakiest fiction today? Then I read couple of titles that all had the Dalkey logo — this square-shaped spiral — on the spine and knew I’d found the answer. Here’s a publisher who’ll never let you down.
Now sure, the thing about books, versus music or movies or TV shows, is that books take a lot more time and effort. In the 6 hours it’d take to watch the first season of Dowton Abbey, you could probably get through a short novel. For the 19 hours required to watch every single Harry Potter movie, you’ll have time to read maybe 2 of the books. I get it. When I hassle friends about why they don’t read, my friends toss out the usual excuses — no time, busy, books are boring. But then, strangely enough, once they pick up a novel or short story collection and get into the thick of it, they’re mesmerized. It’s the first thing we talk about. What are you reading? How’s the book? And so now when a friend asks me for another recommendation or when I’m haranguing strangers in a dusty bookstore, I tell them to check these one of these awesome publishers that they’ll soon get to know like a close friend.