Located in Dallas, Texas, Deep Vellum is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing translated works of world literature. Not only are their covers beautiful, but they also publish some pretty fascinating books. For example, their latest publication, the Mexican novel The Journey by Álvaro Enrigue blurs the lines of reality through the manipulation of fact and fiction and takes a reader through the author’s experience of traveling throughout Soviet Russia.
Black Ocean is all about good literature and an aesthetic hodge-podge of early silent film narratives with some punk rock thrown in. Founded by contemporary poet Janaka Stucky in Boston, Massachusetts, Black Ocean press has become one of Boston’s leading indie publishing houses and is heavily involved in the creation and upkeep of Boston’s underground literary scene. They host a monthly BASH / poetry reading every month at Brookline Booksmith in Boston.
If you want beautiful, surreal, hardcover books look no further. Founded in San Francisco by Dave Eggers, McSweeney’s is a literary triple threat: a publishing house, a literary magazine, and an online humor site. They recently went non-profit and support a great amount of different philanthropic organizations. Their poetry collection x by Dan Chelotti, with its wildly imaginative surreal imagery and poems, is a great example of the type of work they publish.
Tin House is another literary triple threat located in Portland, Oregon. While they are mainly known for their phenomenal literary magazine, they also have a good catalogue of books. A recent hit of theirs is Allen Crawford’s Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself, an illustrated collection of Whitman’s poems. Tin House also hosts writing workshops and provides a hands-on entry-level internship for aspiring publishing professionals. All in all, they’re doing a lot of good work in all of their respective areas.
Melville House, I have to be honest, is my personal favorite. Located in Brooklyn, NY, they have been at the forefront of the indie house renaissance since 2001. Their biggest contributions to the independent literary scene are their Art of the Novella series and The Neversink Library. The Art of the Novella focuses on barely-circulated shorter works (not quite novels) of well-known authors, and The Neversink Library focuses on classical works of literature that were never known of as widely as they should have been. And on top of all that, their books are beautiful!
Another wonderful non-profit publishing house, Coffee House Press is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is devoted to publishing the best American literature. Although they’re small, they publish about ten books a year ranging from fiction, to poetry, to nonfiction. One of their recent major successes is The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, which focuses upon a traveling antique salesman that owns the teeth of infamous figures such as Plato, Virginia Woolf, and Petrarch. That’s one tooth story that I actually want to hear.
Based in Columbus, Ohio and run by a husband-wife team Two Dollar Radio is cool. And not just book cool, mainstream cool. As a multi-media publishing house (they make films too!) they focus on publishing literature that pushes boundaries – hard. One of their latest releases, Binary Star by poet Sarah Gerard focuses on the fragmented relationship between an anorexic aspiring-teacher and her radical vegan boyfriend. Sad? Yes. Stressful? Yes. Enthralling? Yes. Yes. Yes.
Ugly Duckling Presse is that friend in college that goes to protests and can’t stop talking about labor rights. No, but seriously. Based in Brooklyn, NY and dedicated to publishing books by artists and experimental novels/poetry, UDP tries to incorporate handmade elements into their books to call attention to the work that goes into the creation of physical books. These guys take their books seriously, and they’re anything but ugly.
Founded by a 22 year-old James Laughlin (a failed poet, at the time) in 1936, New Directions originally started as a publisher of poetry anthologies but has blossomed into a publishing house that is publishing plays, poetry in translation, and novels. They are famously known for having published Tennessee William’s poems first and for also publishing his famous play The Glass Menagerie. So no matter what New Directions author you read, you can be sure that they’re in good company.
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