The Covid-19 pandemic has in no way diminished the strength of the upcoming season’s books from small presses and university presses. PW’s reviews editors and bookseller recommendations have helped us cull a list of 20 not-to-be-missed indie releases that have either just been published or are due out before the holidays. Selections include books for children and adults in a variety of formats and prices, with many in translation.
Salar Abdoh (Sept.1, $26.95 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 15,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual events; social media campaign; targeted outreach to indie bookstores and blogs; expanded outreach to bookstores and libraries in New York City, where Abdoh lives part of the year.
This novel, which received a starred and boxed review in PW, is narrated by a middle-aged Iranian journalist who moonlights as a writer for one of Iran’s most popular TV shows. It’s informed by Abdoh’s experiences being embedded with militias in Iraq and Syria. “In what should well become an essential portrait of the fight against the Islamic State, Salar Abdoh’s novel reinvigorates the way we write about war,” notes Chris Lee, who selected it as a staff pick for Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee. (Comments from Lee and other booksellers were provided to PW by publishers.)
Scholastique Mukasonga, trans. from the French by Jordan Stump (Sept.15, $18 trade paper)
Announced first printing: 3,500 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual tour, including appearances at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., and Point Reyes Books in Point Reyes, Calif.; the story “Grief” appeared in the June 15 issue of the New Yorker.
In these five stories, which have been translated into English for the first time, Mukasonga examines Rwanda before and after the genocide. In a starred review, PW called this collection “an impressive and affecting work of art.”
Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America
Hilary Levey Friedman (Aug. 25, $26.95 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 20,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Print and online advertising; online giveaways.
Friedman, a sociologist and the daughter of Miss America 1970, writes about the surprising connections between pageantry and feminism, and traces the role of pageants in many feminist movement achievements, including helping women take on leadership roles in business and politics. Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee calls this an “academically grounded, accessible, often fascinating history.”
White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color
Ruby Hamad (Oct. 6, $16.95 trade paper)
Publicity & marketing highlights: On several anti-racist reading lists, including those of BuzzFeed and Real Simple.
Hamad’s nonfiction debut grew out of a 2018 article for the Guardian titled “How White Women Use Strategic Tears to Silence Women of Color,” which went viral. In a starred review, PW called the book “a searing and wide-ranging condemnation of ‘strategic White Womanhood’ ” and noted that it “belongs in the contemporary feminist canon.”
Pink Mountain on Locust Island
Jamie Marina Lau (Sept. 8, $16.95 trade paper)
Announced first printing: 10,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Outreach to indie booksellers; a 2019 finalist for Australia’s Stella Prize.
Monk is a lonely 15-year-old girl living with her dad in an apartment in what she calls “the kind of Chinatown like late morning reruns on school holidays.” Things change when she meets an older boy named Santa Coy, who teams up with Monk’s dad on increasingly shady dealings with Santa Coy’s paintings. “Lau’s narrative voice walks a fine edge between irony and earnestness,” says Josh Cook, of Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., “creating an unforgettable character who turns a mundane, maybe even maudlin, tale of crime into a fresh, vibrant story of adolescent awakening.”
Yun Ko-eun, trans. from the Korean by Lizzie Buehler (Aug. 4, $16.95 trade paper)
Publicity & marketing highlights: Indie Next pick for August; featured in summer reading roundups in Brit & Co, the Everygirl, Harper’s Bazaar, and Refinery29.
PW gave a starred review to this novel about a travel agent who is told she can either quit or take a paid “vacation” to a desert island and pose as a tourist to assess the company’s least-profitable destination. Catherine Chapman, of Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Fla., calls this “a surreally dark, post-capitalist folktale privy to the role class, sex, and nationality play in the way people see one another.”
Elena Ferrante, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Sept.1, $26 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 150,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Translator virtual tour at bookstores in New York, Chicago, and Toronto; a September Indie Next pick; advertising; social media campaign; extended preorder campaign; authorless event guide for booksellers; online reading group guide; named a “most anticipated book of 2020” by Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times and others.
The first new novel by Ferrante since the publication of the final book in the bestselling Neapolitan quartet does not disappoint. Rachel Cass of Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., notes, “2020 has basically nothing to recommend it other than books, and The Lying Life of Adults is the indie book of the year.”
Just Us: An American Conversation
Claudia Rankine (Sept. 8, $30 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 80,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual author tour; advertising; social media promotion; academic promotion and conference placement; library marketing; book club outreach.
In its starred review, PW wrote, “MacArthur fellowship recipient Rankine (Citizen: An American Lyric) combines poetry, prose, and imagery in this unique and powerful meditation on the challenges of communicating across the racial divide in America.... Rankine highlights the necessity of having uncomfortable conversations in order to understand both the experiences of other people and one’s own needs and beliefs.”
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
Aimee Nezhukumatathil, illus. by Fumi Nakamura (Sept. 8, $25 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 10,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual book tour; interviews on NPR’s Morning Edition and in Poets and Writers.
In her nonfiction debut, poet Nezhukumatathil brings together essays about the denizens of the natural world—and how they teach and inspire. Kiese Laymon, author of the 2018 memoir Heavy, predicts that “this book is about to shake the earth,” noting that it “lingers in a world where power, people, and the literal outside wrestle painfully, beautifully.”
Not a Novel: A Memoir in Pieces
Jenny Erpenbeck, trans. from the German by Kurt Beals (Sept. 1, $16.95 trade paper)
Announced first printing: 5,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: First serial in Granta and the Paris Review; upcoming profile in the New Yorker; virtual events, including a book launch hosted by Community Bookstore in Brooklyn and a book club hosted by Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass.; social media campaign.
In this collection of essays, the author of Go, Went, Gone, among other novels, looks back at her childhood in East Berlin, the collapse of the Berlin Wall when she was 22, her literary influences, and finding her path as a writer.
The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gi˜ku˜yu˜ and Mu˜mbi
Ngu˜gi˜ wa Thiong’o (Oct. 6, $23.99 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 7,500 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Appearances at events, including the Brooklyn Book Festival.
Published in conjunction with the paperback of the Kenyan writer’s memoir, Birth of a Dream Weaver, this novel in verse tells the story of the founding of the Ggi˜ku˜yu˜ people of Kenya from a feminist perspective. Ngu˜gi˜ Wa Thiong’o has been tipped to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Why Didn’t We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland
Issac J. Bailey (Oct. 6, $21.99 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 50,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual author appearances; placement of op-ed pieces pegged to upcoming election.
The author of the memoir My Brother Moochie writes about being Black in America today. In these essays, he examines the cyclical forces of systemic racism, the legacy of the Jim Crow South, and the ways in which race, poverty, violence, drug abuse, and lack of opportunity intertwine.
The Mystery of Henri Pick
David Foenkinos, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor (Sept. 1, $16.95 trade paper)
Publicity & marketing highlights: Translated into 17 languages; adapted into a French feature film.
Pushkin is launching the Walter Presents series, named for the entertainment company, with this comic mystery set in the town of Crozon in Brittany, where a library houses manuscripts that were rejected for publication. When a young editor visits, she discovers a novel, which she then publishes, and it goes on to become a literary sensation.
The Book of Atlantis Black: The Search for a Sister Gone Missing
Betsy Bonner (Aug. 4, $26.95 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 15,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual events; Winter Institute and ALA featured author; social media campaign; galley giveaway to retailers and influencers; Goodreads giveaway.
“This is a memoir of two siblings’ frightening childhood and what it makes them as adults,” says Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond. “It is also very satisfying as a true crime read. The author is also a poet and the writing is spare and haunting and cuts like a knife.”
University of California
After the Gig: How the Sharing Economy Got Hijacked and How to Win It Back
Juliet B. Schor (Sept. 1, $24.95 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 7,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual appearances; print and digital advertising; social channel promotion; content marketing; giveaways; library marketing; academic marketing and academic conferences.
Despite exploited Uber drivers, neighborhoods ruined by Airbnb, and racial discrimination, the basic model of the sharing economy has the potential to meet its original promises, according to Schor. PW’s review said the book “punctures the hype surrounding the ‘sharing economy’ ” and that Schor “backs her claims with detailed evidence, and identifies specific, actionable reforms,” concluding, “This incisive account makes a perplexing subject easier to grasp.”
University of Chicago
White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America
David Herzberg (Nov. 4, $27.50 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 7,500 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual author tour; op-eds and book-related original content.
Herzberg argues that the vast majority of American experiences with drugs and addiction have taken place within what he calls “white markets,” where legal drugs—i.e., medicine—are sold to a largely white clientele. He advocates for a consumer protection approach that regulates all drug markets while caring for people with addiction by ensuring they have safe, reliable access to medication-assisted treatment. Accomplishing this, Herzberg explains, would require rethinking a racially segregated drug/medicine divide.
Eileen Myles (Sept. 22; $18 hardcover)
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual author tour at bookstores, including City Lights in San Francisco and Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.; excerpt to run in the September edition of Harper’s.
In the third volume in the Why I Write series, poet and novelist Myles addresses the social, political, and aesthetic conditions that shape their work. This book-length essay also investigates the ways that writing is inescapably captive to time.
Chasin’ the Bird: Charlie Parker in California
Dave Chisholm, with Peter Markowski (Sept. 29, $24.99 hardcover)
Publicity & marketing highlights: Includes a vinyl 45 with two tracks; timed with the release of Bird in L.A., an album of previously unreleased recordings by Charlie Parker, also in September.
This graphic novel by Instrumental author, cartoonist, and jazz musician Chisholm takes its title from Charlie Parker’s 1947 standard. In its starred review, PW wrote, “This superb book manifests the bleak circumstances surrounding Parker’s addictions while celebrating the musical genius that continues to influence jazz improvisors today. It’s an innovative exemplar of the graphic bio form and will win over Parker fans and jazz newbies alike.”
Apple: Skin to the Core
Eric Gansworth (Oct. 6, $18.99 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 25,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual tour kicks off on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 12; keynote at the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE; outreach to Native influencers; one of Literary Hub’s most anticipated books of 2020.
In this book (which is named for a slur used in Native communities), writer, poet, and visual artist Gansworth, who was born and raised in the Tuscarora Nation, tells his life story for young readers. As PW’s review said of his earlier YA novel Give Me Some Truth, “Gansworth vividly captures the difficulties of reservation life.” Ages 12–18.
Innosanto Nagara (Oct. 6, $17.95 hardcover)
Announced first printing: 30,000 copies
Publicity & marketing highlights: Virtual events at bookstores and schools, including some school events with PEN/Faulkner in the Schools; advertising; book giveaways on social media and GoodReads.
Activist graphic designer Nagara’s first children’s book, the bestselling A Is for Activist, launched his second career, writing and illustrating social justice–themed books. In his latest work, he speaks to young people participating in and witnessing today’s marches and demonstrations and offers up a vision of a better world—and a future worth fighting for. Ages 4–8.