Thursday, November 20, 2008

local, organic, artisanal literature

This is for you, you frequenter of farmer’s markets. You eater of organic free-range pears. You drinker of fair-trade, shade-grown, puttin’-a-Mayan-child-through-college coffee.

I know you read. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t know how evil regular coffee was. But why do you think it’s okay to order a book off Amazon when you’re such an activist in every other way? As if the fact of its book-ness alone made it revolutionary. And while I’m sure Barack Obama’s father’s dreams were really fascinating, there are other people out there who have interesting things to say. They’re just saying them a little more quietly. Meaning their books might not be face-up on the bargain table two feet into Barnes & Noble. You might have to work a little bit.

And I know we’re all tired and busy, but if you can’t work your ass off around the holidays, then when?

A group of booky folks and I have been talking periodically about how small press publishing should have the aura of indie music—i.e., the more obscure the cooler—rather than the aura of meekness it sometimes gets saddled with/saddles itself with. So we compiled a helpful guide to local presses and indie bookstores for holiday shoppers who want to be progressive and to rock.

(For my four readers who live outside L.A., don’t think you’re off the hook: You can order online from almost all of these presses and stores, and there are great presses and stores in your area, I guarantee it. Well, no I don’t, because lots of stores are shutting down. But if you live in Seattle or San Francisco, I guarantee it.)

Southern California-based Presses:
Angel City Press ( nostalgic yet cool illustrated books
Arktoi Books ( poetry and fiction that give lesbian writers access to “the conversation”
Cahuenga Press ( poetry that honors creative freedom and cooperation
Cloverfield Press ( books as visually beautiful as they are intellectually and emotionally stimulating
Dzanc Books ( literary fiction that falls outside the mainstream
Gorsky Press ( risk-taking books that encourage readers to re-examine society
Green Integer ( essays, manifestos, speeches, epistles, narratives, and more
Les Figues Press ( aesthetic conversations between readers, writers, and artists, with an avant-garde emphasis
Make Now Press ( contemporary works of constraint and conceptual literature
Otis Books/Seismicity ( contemporary fiction, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction and translation
Red Hen Press ( poetry and more by writers whose work has been marginalized
San Diego City Works Press ( local, ethnic, political, and border writing (and a great little book by Cheryl Klein!)
Santa Monica Press ( offbeat looks at pop culture, lively how-to books, film history, travel, and humor

Independent Bookstores:
Book Soup, West Hollywood (
A Different Light, West Hollywood (
Eso Won Books, Leimert Park (
Family, Fairfax District (
IMIX Bookstore, Eagle Rock (
Metropolis Books, Downtown (
Skylight Books, Los Feliz (
Small World Books, Venice (
Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena (


Anonymous said...

I'm rushing out to buy an artisanal book from my neighborhood indie bookstore right now, to enjoy over the holidays with my free range tofurkey and local microbrew.

Seriously. If bloggers won't support local lit-makers, who will?

Claire said...

I confess a good discount will sway me online, but in my defense, I bought 4 books for my niece's bday this summer from a local indie bookstore.

Back in my LA days, I used to pick up Drama-logue and Back Stage West from Skylight Books every week.

the last noel said...

This is a great resource. And what a thrill to see the new Skylight Store in your post!

Cheryl said...

B52: I hear that indie books will help you survive the global cataclysm much better than regular books.

C: I try to be a cheapskate in other areas (like clothing, which I'm sure indie designers hate) so that I can spend a little more on books. That said, I do hit up for used books a lot.

N: Skylight is my favorite! (Don't tell Book Soup I said that.)

CC said...

Check this out, new indie bookstore in Echo Park:

Cheryl said...

That's great. And from the photo, it looks like a real bookstore with packed shelves, not one of those gift stores that sells like three coffee table books and calls itself a bookstore.

Don Cummings said...

What a great list. Thank you!