#ReadIndies: What is indie on my shelf?

I may be pottering around Canada this month, but I wanted to take part somehow in the Read Indies month co-hosted by Lizzy’s Literary Life and Kaggsy’s Bookish Rambles. So I decided to have a look through my shelves and see which independent publishers have most caught my eye and made me take out my credit card. There are plenty of newer publishers that I haven’t yet explored – this is a list of those that I have in plentiful quantities. Please bear in mind also that I have a lot of books in other languages, and that the criteria for being an independent publisher is quite different elsewhere, so I will stick to the UK based publishers I own.

Translated Fiction:

Peirene Press – for short, concentrated bursts of brilliance from Central and Northern Europe (originally, although the selection has broadened in recent years). One of my all-time favourites was The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke. They were also the first to introduce an annual subscription model (as far as I know).

Istros Books – for SE European literature – or, to be precise – literature from countries bordering the River Danube. A recent favourite was Ludovic Bruckstein’s The Trap, and there is a new translation of Bruckstein’s work coming out now.

Alma Books – particularly for their translations of classics, from the Russian for me and all sorts of other languages for my son. Most recently enjoyed the detailed annotations and translation notes of Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island.

A good selection of Alma titles that I acquired in their annual book sale.

Tilted Axis – predominantly Asian selection of countries, forever grateful for introducing me to Thai literature via Prabda Yoon’s Moving Parts or daring Bengali author Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay.

Strangers Press – a very small outfit, linked to the UEA Publishing Programme and Norwich Writers’ Centre. I’ve been particularly interested in their Keshiki New Voices from Japan series, as you might expect, but they also have a series on Korean literature and another on Dutch literature.

Nordisk Books – contemporary Nordic fiction aimed at proving that there is more to Scandinavia than just crime fiction. Was particularly struck by Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen and Love/War by Ebba Witt-Brattström.

Bitter Lemon Press – I like to travel while reading crime fiction, so the mission of Bitter Lemon to cover the dark side of foreign places really appeals to me. They introduced me to Argentinian writer Claudia Pineiro and Spanish writer Teresa Solana, and The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda is the most recent book which really struck a chord.

Charco Press – an emphasis on striking, even challenging contemporary Latin American literature, with equally striking covers in a rainbow array of colours. Recommended titles include: Ariana Harwicz’s Die, My Love (the first I read from them and still a favourite) and Fish Soup by Margarita Garcia Robayo.

Since I arrange my books by countries, publishers like Charco mess up my system a little, since I cannot bear to not keep all their books together, so I’ve created a Latin American bookcase.

Fitzcarraldo Editions – this publisher straddles two worlds, with their blue-covered translations/fiction titles and white-covered essays/non-fiction. I discovered Olga Tokarczuk thanks to them and most recently was bowled over by Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season.

English Language:

Comma Press – another publisher which straddles two categories, their focus being on short stories, whether in English or in translation. I particularly enjoy their city series, such as The Book of Tokyo or The Book of Shanghai, and of course their Europa 28 (Writing by Women on the Future of Europe).

Persephone Books – how I miss the dinky little Persephone bookshop, which was dangerously close to my workplace! This publisher does reprints of largely forgotten titles by early to mid-twentieth century women authors. I’ve been smitten by Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski and The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into the autobiography of Tirzah Garwood, who was the wife of painter Eric Ravilious and an artist in her own right.

Orenda Books – there are far too few independent publishers of crime fiction, and Orenda does a great job of providing readers with both translated and English crime novels. Not only do I admire the publisher’s ability to create a real sense of community around her books and authors, but she is also happy to let her authors experiment with cross-genre fiction, which the bigger publishers are seldom prepared to do. Some of the authors I particularly like are: Antti Tuomainen, Helen Fitzgerald, Will Carver, Agnes Ravatn and Simone Buchholz.

Silver Press – a small, recently-founded feminist publisher, with a very promising list of authors including Leonora Carrington, Chantal Akerman, Nell Dunn and Audre Lorde. This is the new Virago in a way. For many years, I was an avid Virago fan, and I still am, but they do not count as independent (they are currently part of Hachette).

This post is getting rather long, so I will leave the poetry publishers for next week.

But before I go, I will just very gently remind you of Corylus Books as well: translated crime fiction with a social edge from countries and languages that tend to get fewer translations. We are currently in the process of reconfiguring our website so that it will work both in the UK and abroad. Our best reviewed books from our first year of operation were Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu and The Fox by Sólveig Pálsdóttir.

19 thoughts on “#ReadIndies: What is indie on my shelf?”

  1. I truly respect and admire what indie presses are doing to provide great books for people. That includes you good people at Corylus. I am in awe, especially in these uncertain times. As for the others, I couldn’t agree more about both Bitter Lemon and Orenda (those are the ones I know the best). I wish them and Corylus much success.

    1. There is such a range of good publishers – no sooner did I publish this post, then I started remembering some more. Although I try to tell myself that it is based on how many are on my shelves rather than how many I have read. Sadly, as always, if it’s on my Kindle, it tends to be out of sight, out of mind.

    1. Sadly, they seldom appear in libraries, so the only way to get hold of them is buying. I must have spent a fortune since lockdown on books almost exclusively from indie publishers, because I felt that they would struggle most with the lack of book launches, festivals etc.

    1. Of course – I definitely know which country the author is from, right? I do have the poetry books all together, and all the writing craft or academic books separate from the geography. But everything else goes by countries – or regions where I don’t have enough from one country.

      1. My sister recently sent me a photo of her books arranged by colour. Sigh! (Luckily she only owns about three shelves’ worth of books, so it wouldn’t be difficult to locate anything. But the librarian in me had to cringe.)

        1. It looks pretty but I’d never be able to find anything. I seldom remember books by their covers (unless it’s really, really striking or I have several different editions…)

  2. Also popping in to put in a good word for Pushkin Press, who were very good to me when I was a baby blogger and who do both translations and English-language originals. I’ve just ordered Agustina Bazterrica’s Tender Is the Flesh from them, and am preparing to be horrified/all-shook-up by it!

    1. Darn, I knew I’d forget somebody. Of course, I love Pushkin Press. I think I have more e-books than physical books from them for some reason, so they just slipped off my radar. Ooooops….

  3. So many options to choose from! It’s lovely to see independent presses being celebrated in this way. I’m planning to write about something from Handheld this month – a maybe a British Library Crime Classis or two, if there is time.

  4. What a great list of independent publishers. I’m bookmarking this blog page. I’m interested in several of them, but want to investigate soon the Latin America books.

  5. Bitter Lemon Press have a great catalogue.

    I have a lot of books from French independant publishers but I’ll stick to British ones for Kaggsy’s #ReadIndies month. (Already read The Cut, as you know.)

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