From Akashic and McSweeney’s to the university presses of Chicago, Harvard, and Yale, independent and university presses make up an essential part of the inventory of all bookstores. For Paul Yamazaki, head buyer at City Lights in San Francisco, they create “the heart” of the bookstore. “Rexroth, Patchen, Adrienne Rich, Neruda, Walter Benjamin, and many other poets, novelists, historians, and philosophers would vanish from our shelves if indie and university presses were not represented well,” he says. And City Lights relies on these presses for more than 30% of its backlist sales, which represents a significant percentage of the store’s sales overall.

He’s not alone. “We thrive on small press fiction and poetry,” says Paul Ingram, buyer at Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Iowa. So does Washington, D.C.’s Politics & Prose. “We always find gems among publishers like Melville House, Europa, and Counterpoint,” says co-owner Lissa Muscatine. “Titles from small presses continue to gain visibility and sales both in and out of our store. Tinkers [Bellevue Literary Press] and Lord of Misrule [McPherson & Co.] both won major literary prizes, which certainly elevated the work of smaller presses. And university presses also have contributed important titles that remind people that they don’t simply produce academic or scholarly works, but serious books on topics of interest to a wider public.”

“I think the role of university presses in a store like ours is more important than ever,” says Geoff Nichols, the sciences and social sciences buyer at University Book Store in Seattle. “They continue to publish the kind of books that let us reach educated and adventurous readers.

So what are Nichols, Muscatine, Ingram, and Yamazaki betting that their customers will be buying this season? The selections below are based in part on their favorites, along with those of Cathy Langer, head buyer at Tattered Cover in Denver; Mason Smith, lead content manager of the Ingram Content Group; Pam Cady, assistant manager of University Book Store in Seattle; and PW’s children’s, graphic novel, and review editors. They range from Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s meditation on music, How Music Works, to a look at Coca-Cola, A Secret History of Coffee, Coca & Cola, from the illustrator of Go the F*** to Sleep, Ricardo Cortés. There are diaries by the famous, actor Richard Burton, and books commemorating famous events, as in This Is the Day: The March on Washington, which happened 50 years ago next spring. On the fiction side, readers will find a translation of Alexander Capus’s German bestseller Léon and Louise alongside a tale of modern India, Tarum Tejpal’s The Story of My Assassins, and two volumes of stories by Ursula Le Guin.


(dist. by Consortium)

A Secret History of Coffee, Coca & Cola by Ricardo Cortés (Dec., $17.95)

Book talks around the country with political writers and food writers, including Anthony Bordain and Michael Pollan.

The illustrator of the NYT bestseller Go the F*** to Sleep offers an illustrated look at the history of Coca-Cola, from cocaine factories in Peru to secret experiments at the University of Hawaii and the personal files of U.S. Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger of Reefer Madness fame.


The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro (Oct., $23.95)

15-city tour; 4 regional trade shows

Love, Degas, forgery, and the still unsolved 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in Boston come together in a novel filled with multiple plot twists. “You expect some deception in a book called The Art Forger but Barbara Shapiro confounds expectations in her literary art thriller.... The pleasure of the twisty plot is enhanced by the fascinating details about the process of painting and art reproduction,” says buyer Stan Hynds at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt.

Bellevue Literary Press

(dist. by Consortium)

The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfón (Oct., $14.95 paperback original)

Published simultaneously in the U.K.; New York events; Kickstarter campaign to bring the author into classrooms in NYC and London

PW gave this semiautobiographical novel, which marks the debut of a major new Latin American voice in English, a boxed review. The narrator, who like the author is a Guatemalan literature professor and writer named Eduard Halfón, travels from small Mayan villages to a Scottish bar in Antigua, a Mark Twain conference in North Carolina, through the memories of his Polish grandfather at Auschwitz, and to a gypsy neighborhood in Serbia. Trans. by Ollie Brock, Thomas Bunstead, Lisa Dillman, Daniel Hahn, and Anne McLean.

Cambridge University Press

Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century by James R. Flynn (Sept. laydown, $22 paperback original)

Pre-pub buzz in Time, ABC News, and Forbes; advertising

Reveals new data on the evolution of the mind and predicts which mental abilities will continue to be enhanced. According to Malcolm Gladwell, “the evidence in support of Flynn’s original observation is now so overwhelming that the Flynn effect [the finding that IQ test scores have had a massive increase between successive generations] has moved from theory to fact.”

Chicago Review

(dist. by IPG)

Golden: How Rod Blagojevich Talked Himself Out of the Governor’s Office and into Prison

by John Chase and Jeff Coen (Sept., $27.95)

Chicagoland appearances

In a starred review, PW said, “All those interested in the Blago drama or political intrigue in general can dive into this book with relish.”

Cutting Edge Press

(dist. by Trafalgar/IPG)

Cursive by Alex Wyndham Baker (Jan., $15.95 paperback original)

Epistolary vignettes stretch from 1930s colonial Africa to today’s edgy travel hotspots, linked by a Mabie Todd, Blackbird No. 8 ink pen with a heart-shaped reservoir.


The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln by Noah Van Sciver (Oct., $24.99; 10,000 copy first printing)

This extensively researched graphic novel about Abraham Lincoln’s depression, which he called “the Hypo,” got great buzz at BEA and Comic-Con. It’s a fall favorite of Pam Cady, assistant manager at University Book Store in Seattle, who says, “I’m really, really behind this book. It’s just terrific. I was charmed by the whole thing—the drawings were just terrific. It’s a look at Lincoln that you would never consider.”

Haus Publishing

(dist. by Consortium)

Léon and Louise by Alexander Capus (Nov., $15 paperback original)

This novel, based on the story of the author’s French grandfather and a life-long love affair that survived both world wars, was a bestseller in Germany for 50 consecutive weeks and longlisted for the German Book Prize. Cathy Langer of Tattered Cover calls it “a great gem. Capus is deft... at bringing not only the characters to life with depth and idiosyncratic personalities, but also France itself.” Trans. by John Brownjohn.

Ig Publishing

(dist. by Consortium)

The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets by Diana Wagman (Nov., $15.95 paperback original)

B&N Discover pick for the holidays.

Winnie Parker, ex-wife of a successful game show host, drops off her car at the repair shop and accepts what she believes is a ride to pick up her rental car. Too late she realizes that she’s been kidnapped. She must fight for her life in order to protect those she loves from the kidnapper’s deranged master plan. Wagman’s novel Spontaneous won the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction.

Islandport Press

(dist. by Bookmasters)

Strangers on the Beach by Josh Pahigian (Oct., $22.95)

Author appearances in Maine and Greater Boston area

This debut suspense novel from sportswriter Pahigian opens with a billionaire getting stranded in the tourist town of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, when a sailing stunt goes awry. Despite evidence to the contrary, he refuses to admit foul play was involved.

Counterpoint Press

(dist. by PGW)

From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of Our Fairytales by Sara Maitland (Nov., $28)

Offers a history of forests and how they shaped the themes of 12 well-known fairy tales, like Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood. Maitland uses fairy tales to explore how nature informs imagination and guides the reader on a series of walks, with photos taken by her son, of some of northern Europe’s best forests.


(dist. by IPG)

My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords from 70 Legendary Musicians by Julia Crowe (Sept., $19.95)

Seventy musicians from different genres talk about their first guitar. “Thank you, Julia,” said legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, who was interviewed for the book. “Stay in your heart and thank you for doing what you’re doing for the strings. You pull my heartstrings.”

Getty Publications

This Is the Day: The March on Washington, photos by Leonard Freed (Jan., $29.95)

Commemorates the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, the day on which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Rev. Jesse Jackson says, “Freed’s photographs show us just how strong a dream of freedom and justice can be.” Foreword by Julian Bond.


(dist. by FSG)

Familiar by J. Robert Lennon (Oct., $15 paperback original)

7-city tour; a Powell’s Indispensable selection; Oct. Nervous Breakdown book club

Elsa Brown is driving back from her annual visit to her son’s grave when something changes. In the world she now inhabits, he is no longer dead and his brother is disturbingly different. Has she had a psychotic break? PW’s reviewer calls this “[a] stealthy and thought-provoking literary thriller.”


(dist. by PGW)

How Music Works by David Byrne (Sept., $32; 40,000 copy first printing)

9-city tour

Musician Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries may have been a surprise hit, but this time around booksellers expect strong sales for the former Talking Heads frontman on a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about, music. Pam Cady at University Book Store says, “It’s going to be big.”

Melville House

(dist. by Random House)

The Story of My Assassins by Tarum Tejpal (Oct., $27.95)

5-city tour

In a starred review, PW calls this novel “masterful… an epic tale of modern-day India and its labyrinthine social and political machinations... a sweeping indictment of government bureaucracy, a revelation of the layered consequences of revenge, an exposé of the stunning violence visited upon victims of circumstance, and a brazen censure of how technology has quashed imagination.”

Milkweed Editions

The Fall of Alice K by Jim Heynen (Sept., $24)

Author tour

Alice Marie Kralyenbraak, a 17-year-old star student and gifted athlete in Dutch Center, Iowa, finds herself at odds with her family when she falls in love with a Hmong immigrant. “Jim Heynen shows himself wonderfully adept in his lovely first novel. For those who’ve known the heartland farm country Jim has written from, this new book contains familiar terrain but deepens and varies it,” says Rick Simonson, chief book buyer at the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle.

Oxford University Press

A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust by Mary Fulbrook (Nov., $34.95)

Looks at local functionaries across the Third Reich through the story of Udo Klausa, a civilian administrator in the town of Bedzin, who helped implement the Nazis’ inhumane policies toward Jews, but thought of himself as “a decent man.” For the author, Klausa’s story is personal; her mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany and a close friend of Klausa’s wife.

Princeton University Press

The Story of America: Essays on Origins by Jill Lepore (Oct., $27.95; 15,000 first printing)

$25,000 ad budget

The Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer investigates American origin stories, from John Smith’s account of the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural address, to show how American democracy is bound up with the history of print. Alan Brinkley calls Lepore “one of America’s most interesting scholars.... This prolific collection of articles and essays is a remarkable body of work that moves from early America to our present, contentious age.”

Small Beer Press

(dist. by Consortium)

The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin:

Vol. One: Where on Earth; Vol. Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands by Ursula K. Le Guin (Nov., $24 each)

$10,000 ad budget

Le Guin’s many books, including 11 collections of short stories, have shaped the way readers and writers see the world, and she has received numerous awards, including a National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, and six Nebulas. Le Guin is also an SFWA Grand Master and an SF Hall of Fame inductee. Neil Gaiman calls her “a master of the craft.”

Soft Skull Press

(dist. by PGW)

The Salt God’s Daughter by Ilie Ruby (Sept., $25)

Blog tour; events in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City

Ruby’s sophomore novel begins in 1970 in Long Beach, Calif., where Ruthie and her older sister, Dolly, carve out a life from the stories they’ve been told after their mother, a nomad guided by The Old Farmer’s Almanac, abandons them. Ruthie’s daughter, Naida, is born with an inexplicable yearning for the sea. “It is as if you are walking through a door, where things are at once utterly recognizable and utterly mysterious, like life, and like an ancient fairy tale, or a myth from a lost continent, another time and place,” says Joyce Maynard.

Sylph Editions/Seagull

(dist. by University of Chicago)

The Cahier Series (Oct., $19 paperback original)

These beautifully produced spineless books with French flaps are so special that stores like Tattered Cover are creating special sections to display them. Among the standout titles are Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red by Lydia Davis and Walking on Air by Muriel Spark. Geoff Nichols at University Book Store in Seattle points to Sylph when he says, “Beautiful books are the kind of thing that makes a store special.”

University of Chicago

A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity, photos by David Littschwager, essays by Elizabeth Kolbert and W.S. Di Piero, and others (Oct., $45)

Fashion photographer Littschwager performed an unusual experiment: he took an open-sided green metal cube, one foot by one foot by one foot, set it in varied ecosystems from Central Park to the Costa Rican rain forest and kept track of every living thing that moved through it in a 24-hour period. Geoff Nichols at University Book Store in Seattle describes this as “a good example of the kind of popular science book I love to see from university presses.... It’s packed with images, and it is the sort of thing that makes us take another look at what we take for granted all around us.” Foreword by E. O. Wilson.

Yale University Press

The Richard Burton Diaries by Richard Burton, ed. by Chris Williams (Nov., $35)

Buzz is building on both sides of the Atlantic, particularly about the steamy relations between the actor (born Richard Jenkins, 1925–1984) and Elizabeth Taylor based on his diaries, written between 1939 and 1983. Collected into a single volume, they cover both of his marriages to Taylor as well as his acting career and battles with alcohol.

Notable in Children’s


(dist. by Ingram)

The City’s Son by Tom Pollock (Sept., $16.99)

Pre-pub blog tour; monthlong promotions at GoodReads and TeenReads in August; Ustream online author launch; New York appearances

In the first book in the Skyscraper Throne trilogy—and Flux’s first hardcover in four years—graffiti artist Beth Bradley looks for a new home and finds Filius, the ragged crown prince of London’s underworld. Caught up in helping Filius raise an army, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when the enemy claims her best friend, she must choose. Ages 13–up.

Quirk Books

(dist. by Random House)

Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #1: Professor Gargoyle; Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #2: The Slither Sisters by Charles Gilman (Book 1: Sept. $13.99; Book 2: Jan., $13.99)

Book 1 is a Kids Indie Next Pick Launches a new series that pays tribute to H.P. Lovecraft—it’s set at Lovecraft Middle School—where seventh-grader Robert Arthur knows only the bully from his old school. “Fans of Goosebumps and other lightly creepy fare will look forward to spending more time with a series that manages to find the dark side of recycling,” says PW’s reviewer. This is Quirk’s first middle-grade book, hard on the heels of its breakout YA debut, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Ages 9–up.

Tanglewood Books

(dist. by PGW)

Ashen Winter (Ashfall Book 2) by Mike Mullin (Oct., $17.95)

2,000 ARCs; just completed a 31-blog tour; Midwest appearances In the follow-up to his debut novel, Ashfall, which was named one of the top five YA novels of 2011 by NPR, Mullin continues the story of Alex and Darla. They must retrace their journey into Iowa to bring back Alex’s parents. Mullin spent 20 years working with his mother, Shirley Mullin, in her children’s specialty bookstore, Kids Ink, in Indianapolis. Ages 14–up.

Focus on the Bookstore

Several of this season’s titles speak directly to the indie bookstore experience.

Black Dog & Leventhal

My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop edited by Ronald Rice, illus. by Leif Parsons (Nov., $23.95)

40 bookstore events at launch

Contains essays by more than 75 authors on their favorite stores, including Fannie Flagg on Page & Palette (Fairhope, Ala.), John Grisham on That Bookstore in Blytheville (Blytheville, Ark.), Dave Eggers on Green Apple Books (San Francisco), and Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Harvard Book Store (Cambridge, Mass.). A portion of authors’ fees will support bookseller scholarships to ABA’s Winter Institute and will support the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. Intro. by Richard Russo.

Coffee House Press

(dist. by Consortium)

Read This!: Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores, edited by Hans Weyandt (Aug., $12 paperback original)

Events in the Midwest and San Francisco.

Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber’s Books in St. Paul, Minn., will kick off the Heartland Fall Forum to promote this book, which expands on his blog, where he posted the top 50 hand-sells from 25 independents around the country. Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights, one of the featured buyers, calls it “a wonderful ‘bookseller in your pocket’-style book.” All the profits will go to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. Intro. by Ann Patchett.

University of Syracuse

Radical Chapters: Pacifist Bookseller Roy Kepler and the Paperback Revolution by Michael Doyle (Sept., $29.95)

This book about the early days of Kepler’s Books and Magazines in Palo Alto, Calif., is a fall favorite of Paul Yamazaki, head buyer at City Lights, which was founded within 18 months of Kepler’s and the now-defunct Cody’s. Kepler’s became one of the first bookstore-community spaces, where literary bohemians and countercultural musicians like Jerry Garcia, Joan Baez, and Stewart Brand came to exchange ideas.