Did you know that there’s a whole world out there beyond Harper Collins and Penguin? (If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you do.) But just in case, consider this post your friendly reminder that small press publishers are out there, getting books out into the world that are unusual, or subversive, or just don’t happen to fit in with the big publishers’ current marketing trends.
This fall, the Toronto book festival The Word on the Street went virtual. Although I’m sure for many this was a sad transition, as gatherings with fellow book lovers are always pretty wonderful, for me it meant a rare chance to shop their newly-virtual marketplace. Before, this would have meant a trip to Toronto, but this year—I could shop online from my couch. Dangerous!
It was hard to choose—but somehow I managed. The books arrived at light speed, crowding into my mailbox a mere two days later. Many were accompanied by handwritten notes of thanks. One included a recipe! Every single one of them is gorgeously designed and impeccably printed.
I haven’t had a chance to dive into all of them yet, but without further ado, here are my picks:
Agatha by Anne Cathrine Bomann
translated by Caroline Waight
This was the first one I read. A lovely, spare book about an aging psychiatrist in Paris, and his late-life, slow recognition of wonder.
The Allspice Bath by Sonia Saikaley
I was drawn to this one first by its title, and, I’m not gonna lie—its cover. But the synopsis grabbed me too: an “unflinching and unsentimental” story of a “gutsy” first-generation Lebanese-Canadian girl struggling between family tradition and her own unique destiny.
Shackles by Madge Macbeth
Picton, Ontario is home to a small press that has an imprint called Throwback which publishes “revivals of forgotten Canadian books.” Um…this is my dream.
Shackles is one of these books. First published in 1926, it’s a classic woman’s story of struggling with her prescribed role in society, and “a colourful depiction of first-wave feminism in Canada.”
Fanny and the Mystery in the Grieving Forest by Rune Christiansen
translated by Kari Dickson
This title had me before I even read any more about the book. And then I read the synopsis: it’s about a teenage girl in Norway who has suddenly lost both of her parents, and the grieving process that is magical and fairy-tale-esque. Yes, please.
The Grimoire of Kensington Market by Lauren B. Davis
Wolsak and Wynn Publishers
Another great title. Especially for those of us who know Kensington Market in Toronto, this is pretty irresistible. I’m midway through reading this one, since it seemed appropriate as Halloween draws near. It’s a gorgeously-told fable set in a fantastical Toronto, centred around books. What’s not to love?
As I read my way through this alluring TBR pile, you can be assured that more detailed reviews will be forthcoming! For now, I’m just feeling thankful that these small press publishers are out there, discovering and championing amazing writing.
I’d love to hear of your favourite small presses. I’m always on the lookout for ones I haven’t heard of.