The New Press is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2022, following two of the best years in its history. The company had record sales of $8.4 million in 2020 and followed that up with another strong performance in 2021 when sales hit $6 million. Topping off 2021, New Press publisher Ellen Alder was named PW’s Person of the Year.

Throughout its history The New Press has become known for publishing groundbreaking works, in these categories.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (criminal justice)

Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit and Pushout by Monique Morris (progressive education)

Critical Race Theory, edited by Kimberle Crenshaw et al. (African American studies)

Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild (sociology and current affairs),

The Dawn of Detroit by Tiya Miles and Blood on the River: A Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast by Marjoleine Kars (African American history and slavery)

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah and various books by Ngu˜gı˜ wa Thiong’o (international fiction)

Now with a staff of 27, The New Press has published well over 1,000 titles, and Adler estimates the publisher has sold more than 10 million copies of its books. To mark this year’s anniversary, New Press, which was cofounded in 1992 by André Schiffrin and Diane Wachtell, commissioned an oral history of its first decade; below are some excerpts from that work.

“There was a lot of initial skepticism in the publishing world about André’s ability to ‘balance his books.’ And those start-up years—and the years since!—have sometimes been financially precarious. But The New Press represented a far more important—and radical—approach to publishing than what was prevalent in an industry obsessed with celebrity bios, self-help manuals, and multimillion-dollar deals for those with established ‘platforms’: a recognition that books are the way societies share their best and most important ideas.”

“Over the ensuing decades, people who worked at The New Press as employees and interns during those early days took the ethic and values represented there with them as they built careers in publishing, the not-for-profit sphere, and beyond. Almost everyone who worked at The New Press during its start-up decade in those grimy offices on West 41st Street knew we were on to something special.” Diane Wachtell, executive director of The New Press

“I started as André’s assistant and ultimately wore many hats.”

“That job was like a laboratory. If someone was interesting and smart we were encouraged to pursue them. André was so progressive in terms of publishing nonmainstream voices, and encouraging us to do it. What people are just starting to get hip to, André was already enacting by hiring me and people like me at The New Press all those years ago.” —Dawn Davis, former editorial assistant at The New Press and currently editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit

“I can definitely remember being a bad intern. I didn’t know how offices worked. I wasn’t good at my job. And I remember there were letters that I would get, like from people who didn’t understand what The New Press was, or just had come to the wrong address, and I needed somewhere to stick them. So I made a file called ‘poorly conceived correspondence.’ And anything I didn’t know how to classify, I would put in that file and close the door. Infinite Jest is in there somewhere.” Lev Grossman, former New Press intern, a novelist, and former book critic and lead technology writer at Time

“New Press editorial meetings were different than other places because it wasn’t just about numbers and commercial things. We were very concerned about ‘What does it mean for us to publish this book? How does this fit in with everything else that we do?’ ” —Sarah Fan, former New Press editorial assistant and current senior editor at Lapham’s Quarterly

“Before I started working at The New Press, André invited me to an education advisory meeting in that conference room across the hall. I had no idea what to expect. It was at night, and I had to go down to 41st Street for the first time. André announced the purpose of the meeting; there were all sorts of interesting people there. But I thought André sounded sort of grandiose: ‘We have a chance to make a difference.’ He gave a very André, high-flying speech. But people rose to the occasion, so I thought, oh there’s more to this than I realized.” —Marc Favreau, editor of two early books published by The New Press, and currently The New Press’s director of editorial programs