Small and university presses have long been an integral part of the literary landscape. But as large houses—Random House and Penguin, Harper and Harlequin—continue to consolidate, the idiosyncratic viewpoints often represented by indies are more important than ever.

I typically scour the small, indie, and university press catalogues as early as possible,” says Jonathon Welch, cofounder of Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo, N.Y. “Independent and university presses are cauldrons of both innovation and tradition, of the best, most interesting, and/or the most challenging writing and thinking. We need them and savor them for what they bring into the fields of our endeavor—diversity and distinction.”

That diversity is on display this season with books ranging from The Business of Naming Things, a story collection by Michael Coffey, PW’s former co-editorial director, to Lit Up Inside, a collection of Van Morrison’s lyrics that the singer/songwriter specifically wanted published by City Lights and its founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti. There are also many fine essay collections, including Rebecca Solnit’s Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, on history and justice.

In children’s books, Seven Stories is publishing The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature, a follow-up to its three-volume The Graphic Canon. And Grammy-winning songwriter Cynthia Weil has a novel for teens titled I’m Glad I Did, as well as four related songs.

Below is a selection of the many outstanding university and small press titles due out this fall. Some were buzzed about at BEA this past June, and more than a few have received starred reviews from PW. Links to reviews are provided when available.


(dist. by Consortium)

The Luminous Heart of Jonah S. by Gina B. Nahal (Oct., $29.95 hardcover, $16.95 paperback)

Published simultaneously with Tehran Noir, which includes one of Nahal’s stories; featured in Akashic Digits program; author tour

This sweeping saga set in Tehran and Los Angeles tells the story of an Iranian Jewish family, the Soleymans, who are tormented for decades by a man referred to only as Raphael’s Son, an unscrupulous financier who claims to be an heir to the family’s fortune. When he suddenly disappears, possibly murdered, suspects range from members of the Soleyman clan to Raphael’s Son’s wife and investors in his Ponzi scheme.


The High Divide by Lin Enger (Sept., $24.95)

Indie Next pick for September; Midwest Connections pick; 10-city author tour

In a starred review, PW called this novel of a man’s quest for redemption “reminiscent of John Ford’s classic The Searchers.... Set against a backdrop of beauty and danger, this is the moving story of a man coming to terms with his past.”


(dist. by PRH)

Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga (Sept., $18 paperback original)

Author tour

This debut novel, originally published in French in 2012 by Gallimard, takes place at an elite Catholic boarding school for young women 15 years prior to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In it, Mukasonga, who lost 27 family members to the genocide, captures a society hurtling toward horror. Winner of a Ahambadou Kouroma prize, the Renaudot prize, the Océans France Ô prize, and the French Voices Grand Prize. Translated by Melanie Mauthner.

Beacon Press

(dist. by PRH)

Black Prophetic Fire by Cornel West, in dialogue with and edited by Christa Buschendorf (Oct., $25.95)

Confirmed appearances on Crossfire and Real Time with Bill Maher; nine-city author tour

In a conversational format, the celebrated intellectual and activist reexamines the legacies of African-American leaders, including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X.


(dist. by Consortium)

The Business of Naming Things by Michael Coffey

(Jan. 2015, $14.95 paperback original)

Excerpted in Bomb

In his fiction debut, Coffey offers eight stories about disenchanted fathers, damaged sons, and orphans. “These beautiful stories—spare, rich, wise and compelling—go to the heart,” says Frederic Tuten.

Chicago Review Press

(dist. by IPG)

Cold Sweat: My Father James Brown and Me by Yamma Brown (Sept., $24.95)

Tie-in events with the release of Get On Up, a feature film about James Brown; author appearances

Cold Sweat brought tears to my eyes as I read the powerful story of Yamma’s journey,” says MC Hammer. “James Brown carried the gift of music that comes from God, but also the burden of a life lived on the mountaintop. This book makes the price he paid all too clear.” Written with Robin Gaby Fisher.

City Lights

(dist. by Consortium)

Lit Up Inside: Selected Lyrics by Van Morrison (Oct., $18.95)

Simultaneous publication in the U.S. and U.K.; a U.S. performance; 25,000-copy first printing

This is the only book that Morrison has ever endorsed in an official capacity. It brings together the lyrics of 100 songs from his 50-year, 40-album career. Introduction by Eammon Hughes; foreword by David Meltzer.

Coffee House

(dist. by Consortium)

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Sept., $24)

Six-city author tour

“McBride’s ferociously intense and stylistically challenging account of a young girl’s coming-of-age in rural Ireland is an astonishing literary debut... bracingly alive with sardonic humor and brilliantly realized set pieces,” wrote John Boland in the Irish Independent. Winner of the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction, the 2013 Goldsmiths Prize, and the 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize.

Copper Canyon

(dist. by Consortium)

Splitting an Order by Ted Kooser (Oct., $23)

In the follow-up to his 2005 Pulitzer Prize–winning Delights and Shadows, former U.S. poet laureate Kooser calls attention to the intimacies of life through commonplace objects and occurrences: an elderly couple sharing a sandwich is a study in transcendent love, while a tattered packet of spinach seeds evokes innate human potential.

Dorothy, a Publishing Project

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink (Oct., $16 paperback original)

Excerpts in n+1 and Electric Literature; launch event with Jonathan Franzen; author tour

In a starred review, PW called this debut novel an “introduction to an exciting new voice.” Written in short sections, the story focuses on a young American couple living in Europe who hit a bird called a wallcreeper with their car. After the accident, the wife miscarries, and the husband adopts the bird.


(dist. by PRH)

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (Sept., $18 paperback original)

Brooklyn Book Festival; profiles in Vogue and Harper’s

In the third book in Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, which PW said “surpasses the rapturous storytelling of the previous titles,” Lila and Elena are reunited. Lila has left her husband and now works as a laborer, while Elena has graduated from a university in Pisa and published a successful novel. Translated by Ann Goldstein.


On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss (Sept., $24)

A BEA Buzz Pick; four-city author tour

“This book has been amongst my most surprising reads of the year so far,” says Robert Sindelar, managing partner at Third Place Books in Seattle, Wash., of Biss’s essay collection. “Readers of Susan Sontag and Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of Maladies will find great riches here. This is really creative nonfiction at its best.”

Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty by Vikram Chandra (Sept., $16 paperback original)

Excerpt in Wired online; five-city author tour

In his first nonfiction book, coder and novelist Chandra, whose Sacred Games is being turned into a TV series, explores the connections between art and technology. The book offers a history of coding and a meditation on the writer’s art. The Observer calls it an “extraordinary thesis that is part autobiography, part crash course in coding, and unfailingly an ode to language.”

Lyons Press

(dist. by NBN)

My Heart Is a Drunken Compass by Domingo Martinez (Nov., $26.95)

Author appearances, including PNBA

In the follow-up to his debut, The Boy Kings of Texas, which ended with his fiancée plummeting off the side of an overpass after having a seizure while driving, the National Book Award finalist chronicles how her accident and subsequent coma caused him to unravel emotionally.


(dist. by PGW)

Burnt Tongues: Stories, edited by Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Thomas, and Dennis Widmyer (Aug., $14.95 paperback original)

Blog tour; author appearances at trade shows; rights sold to the U.K.

Twenty stories of transgressive fiction—taboo subjects, unique voices, and shocking images—selected by Chuck Palahniuk as the best of the Cult Workshop, his official fan website. Introduction by Palahniuk.

Melville House

Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyer (Sept., $23.95)

“Fresh from his acclaimed Spurious Trilogy (Spurious, Dogma, and Exodus), Iyer mines the history of Western philosophy in this unlikely fusion of a campus novel with high slapstick,” said PW’s starred review, which calls it his best novel yet.

Ada’s Algorithm by James Essinger (Oct., $25.95)

Pub date on Ada Lovelace Day, Oct. 15

This biography gives Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, her due for her work on the earliest computers, for which Charles Babbage is credited. In the U.K., where the book has already been published, the Times Educational Supplement praised it: “Essinger displays not only verve and affection... but also great scholarship.”

Milkweed Editions

(dist. by PGW)

Sins of Our Fathers by Shawn Lawrence Otto (Nov., $26)

Lottery-style scratch-off cards for the Indie Next white box mailing

The writer and coproducer of House of Sand and Fog makes his fiction debut with a thriller about a smalltown banker whose specialty is teaching other bankers in towns near Indian reservations how to profit from casino deposits. When the banker is caught embezzling funds, he’s blackmailed into sabotaging a Native American banker.

New York Review Books

You’ll Enjoy It When You Get There by Elizabeth Taylor (Sept., $16.95 paperback original)

This collection of 29 stories, edited and with an introduction by Margaret Drabble, highlights the long-neglected author, who shares a name with a much more famous actress. She is known best for her novels, including Angel and A Game of Hide and Seek, which have also recently been reissued.

Parallax Press

(dist. by PGW)

How to Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh, illustrated by Jason DeAntonis ( Sept., $9.95 paperback original)

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh explains what it means to eat as a meditative practice and why eating mindfully is important. This pocket-sized illustrated gift book is a sequel to How to Sit, which has appeared on several indie bestsellers lists, including NAIBA’s and SCIBA’s.

Peter Owen Publishers/Trafalgar

(dist. by IPG)

The Blood of Angels by Johanna Sinisalo (Dec., $15.95 paperback original)

Named one of PW’s top 10 SF/fantasy/horror books of the fall, this novel of eco-speculation from the Finnish author of Troll opens with bees vanishing in the United States. When Orvo, a Finnish beekeeper, sees the queen dead in his hives, it’s clear the epidemic has spread. To avert catastrophe, he tries a course of action that leads him into a conflict with his estranged son, a committed animal activist. Translated by Lois Rogers.

Rowman & Littlefield

The World We Create: A Message of Hope for a Planet in Peril by Frances Beinecke (Sept, $24.95)

Five-city author tour; interview in Vanity Fair

As she prepares to retire as president of the National Resources Defense Council, Beinecke lays out her vision for the future of the movement and the environmental challenges ahead. Foreword by Sigourney Weaver; written with Bob Deans.

Santa Fe Writers Project

(dist. by IPG)

The Last Girl by Rose Solari (Nov., $20 paperback original)

Author tour

In her first collection of poetry in a decade, Solari writes of a shimmering girl who disappears in daylight, a boy who goes to war and comes back broken, and new landscapes in which old ghosts appear. The Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize–winning poet’s first book of poems, Difficult Weather, is also being reissued in November.


(dist. by Consortium)

Thrown by Kerry Howley (Oct., $15.95 paperback original)

$10,000 marketing/publicity budget; national advertising; excerpts in Harper’s, the Daily Beast, and BuzzFeed; 10-city author tour

In this work of literary nonfiction, a bookish young woman follows two cage fighters—one a young prodigy, the other an aging journeyman—for three years. Josh Cook at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., calls this a “major work by a major mind.... Unlike anything you’ve ever read, Thrown is a philosophical exploration of what it means to be alive through the lens of mixed martial arts.”


(dist. by PRH)

The Buddha Walks into the Office: A Guide to Livelihood for a New Generation by Lodro Rinzler (Sept., $14.95 paperback original)

University lecture and corporate campus tour; lunch-time meditations and author events

In the follow-up to The Buddha Walks into a Bar, which has sold 60,000 copies to date, Rinzler discusses how to find a meaningful career, one that echoes the ideals of his recently founded Institute for Compassionate Leadership. Seth Godin calls it a “magnificent book that just happens to be truly fun to read.”

Soho Press

(dist. by PRH)

Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis (Sept., $25)

Four-figure galley printing; five-city author tour

Set in Greenwich Village in the 1970s, this novel told in multiple narratives follows 14-year-old Rainey Royal, whose father is a jazz musician. She’s deeply vulnerable, and struggles to become an artist and a person in a broken world. A section of this book was selected for a 2014 O’Henry Prize.

Tin House

Loitering: New and Collected Essays by Charles D’Ambrosio (Nov., $15.95

paperback original)

Advertising; ABA white box; seven-city author tour

Essays from D’Ambrosio’s cult classic Orphans appear here with new, previously uncollected pieces. In a starred review, PW noted that this new collection “highlights D’Ambrosio’s ability to mine his personal history for painful truths about the frailty of family and the strange quest to understand oneself, and in turn, be understood.”

Trinity University Press

Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit (Nov., $25.95)

10,000-copy first printing

Solnit combines commentary on history, justice, war, and peace and explorations of place, art, and community in this collection of 29 essays, some celebrated, others less well-known. She tours places as diverse as Haiti and Iceland and visits movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. This fall Haymarket will release an expanded hardcover edition of Solnit’s essays on Men Explain Things to Me (Oct., $15.95).


The Game Plan: The Art of Building a Winning Football Team by Bill Polian and Vic Carucci (Oct., $25.95)

Interviews on ESPN Radio affiliates; excerpts and features on; author tour

One of the most successful general managers and team presidents in NFL history shares his blueprint for building a successful football team. Foreword by Peyton Manning.

Tyrant Books

(dist. by Consortium)

Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish (Nov., $15 paperback original)

In his debut novel, Lish (Life Is with People) writes about undocumented Chinese immigrant Zou Lei, who falls in love with an American soldier. A new life may be possible if together they can survive homelessness, lockup, and the young man’s nightmares, which may be more prophecy than madness.


Five Four Whiskey by Robert Sweatmon (Oct., $26)

Prior to his longtime role as Mr. Boyd on the PBS children’s show Barney & Friends, Sweatmon was drafted into the military and served on the front lines in Vietnam and the invasion of Cambodia in 1970. His military memoir takes its title from the nighttime radio call and response between base camp and those on ambush patrol.

Children’s and YA Indie Titles

Overlook Press

Heap House: Book 1, The Ironmonger Trilogy written and illustrated by Edward Carey (Oct., $16.99)

Rights sales in nine countries

Playwright, novelist, and illustrator Carey’s first book for children is set in the Heaps, a vast sea of lost and discarded objects from all over London. In the center of it all is Heap House, a puzzle of houses, castles, and homes reclaimed from the city and built into a living maze of staircases and scurrying rats. When Lucy Pennant arrives from the city, everything changes.

Seven Stories

The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature edited by Russ Kick (Nov., $38.95 paperback original)

15,000-copy first printing; exhibit at the Society of Illustrators; advertising; four-city author tour

In this follow-up to the three-volume The Graphic Canon, young people’s literature through the ages is given new life by comics artists and illustrators.

Soho Teen

(dist. by PRH)

I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil (Jan. 2015, $17.99)

A BEA Buzz Pick; author tour; multimedia campaign centered on the four original songs that Grammy-winning songrwriter Weil wrote for the book

In 1963, JJ takes an internship at the Brill Building, the epicenter of a new sound called rock and roll. She and her friend Luke plan to cut their first demo with Dulcie Brown, a legend who’s fallen on hard times. When events take a dark turn, JJ must navigate a web of hidden identities and shattered lives.

World Book

J Is for Jazz by Ann Ingalls, illustrated by Maria Corte Maidagan (Sept., $16)

Book trailer; coloring contest

This ABC primer featuring bold illustrations, historical figures, and musical terms takes readers back to the golden age of jazz. A glossary covers jazz slang.