Books from independent presses and university presses continue to offer some of the most exciting writing available today. These houses are not afraid to publish works in translation; to offer new ways of thinking about science, history, and economics; or to use a book as a way to make a statement on an important topic such as the environment. They even give a new gloss to memoirs. This year we considered more than 200 submissions from small presses and university presses, along with recommendations from booksellers and PW’s reviews editors, to come up with our picks for some of the best books for adults and children that are just out or scheduled to publish later this fall.

Atlantic Monthly

(dist. by PGW)

See What I Have Done

Sarah Schmidt (Aug., $26, hardcover)

Author tour, an August Indie Next pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, a PW Fall Writer to Watch

This debut novel about Lizzie Borden received a starred PW review for being “equally compelling as a whodunit, ‘whydunit,’ and historical novel.” The review continues, “The book honors known facts yet fearlessly claims its own striking vision.”


Reservoir 13

Jon McGregor (Oct., $16.95, trade paper)

New York City appearances, advertising on social media, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

The prize-winning British novelist tells the story of an English village in the wake of a teenage girl’s disappearance. “To read John McGregor’s novel Reservoir 13 is to read a thousand tiny poems in quick succession,” says David Enyeart at Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minn. “In fragments and glimpses of a small village in England, McGregor brilliantly contrasts the urgency of life with the banality of living.”

City Lights

(dist. by Consortium)

The Stone Building and Other Places

Asli Erdogan, trans. from the Turkish by Sevinç Türkkan (Nov., $14.95, trade paper)

Profiled in the New Yorker, the subject of PEN International and PEN America advocacy campaigns

In her second work to be translated into English, author and journalist Erdogan offers three interconnected stories and a novella, which feature women whose lives have been interrupted by forces beyond their control—exile, serious illness, or the imprisonment of a loved one. Erdogan, who was imprisoned for four months last year following a failed coup attempt in Turkey, awaits trial on charges that could result in life imprisonment.


(dist. by PGW)

The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage

Jared Yates Sexton (Aug., $26, hardcover)

14-city tour, including the Miami Book Festival

“Sexton’s chronicle of the 2016 election is the first that spoke to me on a visceral level,” says Tristan Charles at Parnassus Books in Nashville. “There’s a unique value in ignoring postmortems and what-ifs and instead drilling right to the center of America, to the fracturing, raging heart of our nation, and forcing oneself not to look away. The result is a gripping dirge for who we were, who we are, and who we might have been.”

Emily Books

(dist. by Consortium)


Myriam Gurba (Nov., $16.95, trade paper)

Author appearances, excerpts in Autostraddle, Bustle, and Bust

Billed as “a nonfiction novel,” Mean mixes true crime with memoir, a ghost story, and the coming-of-age tale of a queer, mixed-race Chicana. “I am such a gigantic fan,” Jill Soloway says of Gurba. “Her voice is an alchemy of queer magic, feminist wildness, and intersectional explosion. She’s a gigantic inspiration to my work and the sexiest, smartest literary discovery in Los Angeles.”


(dist. by FSG)

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

Carmen Maria Machado (Oct., $16, trade paper)

Author tour, advertising, 40,000-copy announced first printing

In a starred review, PW calls this an “engrossing” debut short story collection: “Machado creates eerie, inventive worlds shimmering with supernatural swerves. Her stories make strikingly feminist moves by combining elements of horror and speculative fiction with women’s everyday crises.”


(dist. by PGW)

A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters

Amy and Dave Freeman (Sept., $35, hardcover)

Author tour with 24 stops, advertising, book trailer by documentarian Nate Ptacek, 7,500-copy announced first printing

The Forest Service describes the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as “a unique area located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in Northeastern Minnesota.” Amy and Dave Freeman spent a year there to show the value of wilderness. “In this extraordinary book,” notes former vice president Walter Mondale, “they have done us all an invaluable service, offering a wonderfully compelling testimony for the value of wild places and the creatures who inhabit them.”

New Directions

(dist. by Norton)

The Book of Disquiet

Fernando Pessoa, edited by Jerónimo Pizarro, trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa (Aug., $24.95, hardcover)

Tributes in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco; printed in embossed cloth with iconic design by Peter Mendelsund; 6,000-copy print run

In a starred and signed PW review, Marcela Valdes describes this book as “the Portuguese cousin of ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’ and Waiting for Godot.” Although it was composed on the eve of World War I and in the war’s aftermath, it was first published in 1982, 47 years after Pessoa’s death.

New Press

(dist. by Ingram)

Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits

Tiya Miles (Oct., $27.95, hardcover)

Author appearances, including launch event at Source Booksellers in Detroit; dedicated freelance publicist; 12,500-copy announced first printing

Miles, a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, “places Detroit’s history in a more expansive frame than its 20th-century boom and decline, emphasizing racial inequalities far in advance of the Great Migration,” notes PW in a starred review.

New York Univ.

Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites Who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote

Johanna Neuman (Sept., $24.95, hardcover)

Author events, including at the 92nd Street Y in New York City; advertising; 10,000-copy announced first printing

This chronicle of how New York’s most glamorous women—with last names such as Astor, Belmont, Harriman, and Vanderbilt—aided the women’s suffrage movement is being published to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of women’s winning the right to vote in New York (Nov. 6, 1917).


(dist. by PGW)

Democracy and Its Crisis

A.C. Grayling (Oct., $21.99, hardcover)

Author appearances, including launch event in New York City hosted by PEN America; 10,000-copy announced first printing

Prompted by the most recent presidential election in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K., Grayling, who has frequently appeared on CNN and The Colbert Report, investigates why the institutions of representative democracy have been unable to hold up against forces they were designed to manage, and why it matters.


(dist. by PGW)

Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement

Carl Cederström and André Spicer (Nov., $22, trade paper)

Author appearances in New York City

In two parallel journals, the authors of The Wellness Syndrome dive inside the burgeoning self-optimization movement, which seeks to transcend the limits placed on us by being merely human. They devote each month to a different way of improving—January to productivity; June to sex; and September to money.


(dist. by Norton)

Marita: The Spy Who Loved Castro

Marita Lorenz (Sept., $27.95, hardcover)

Soon to be a motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence, 25,000-copy announced first printing

Born in Germany at the outbreak of WWII and incarcerated at Bergen-Belsen, Marita Lorenz met and fell in love with Fidel Castro, whom she was recruited by the CIA to assassinate. “Marita herself calmly tells you she’s been shot at, poisoned, firebombed, drugged, pistol-whipped, and dumped in the Amazon rainforest to die. If not an entirely glamorous life, it has certainly been one with all peaks and no valleys,” Vanity Fair writes.


(dist. by PRH)

Solar Bones

Mike McCormack (Sept., $25, hardcover)

Advertising, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, winner of the Goldsmiths Prize and BGE Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year, 50,000-copy announced first printing

“Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones, with its one calmly unspooling sentence, hearkens back to the great modernist novels, but also moves forward from the present with all the urgency and anxiety of our fraught new century,” writes Stephen Sparks, co-owner of Point Reyes Books in Point Reyes Station, Calif. “This is the kind of novel a reader yearns for, one that illuminates what it means to be here now. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece.”


(dist. by PGW)

The Emerald Circus

Jane Yolen (Nov., $15.95, trade paper)

Author tour in New England, national advertising, 10,000-copy announced first printing

Yolen’s first full adult collection in a dozen years brings together new and previously uncollected stories. They include the story of a Scottish academic who unearths ancient evil in a fishing village and one of Emily Dickinson sailing away in a starship made of light. Introduction by Holly Black.

Tin House

(dist. by Norton)

The Glass Eye: A Memoir

Jeannie Vanasco (Oct., $15.95, paper)

Author tour, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, ABA Indies Introduce pick, Indie Next pick, 20,000-copy announced first printing

“It would be easy to describe this book as a memoir about grief and mental illness, but The Glass Eye is the sort of book that requires more than your standard pat descriptors,” says Emily Ballaine at Green Apple Books in San Francisco. “Jeannie Vanasco has crafted a book that will worm its way under your skin, a book that will not give you easy answers or heartwarming takeaways.”

Two Dollar Radio

(dist. by Consortium)

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us: Essays

Hanif Abdurraqib (Nov., $16.99, trade paper with gatefold)

Buzzfeed excerpt, 10,000-copy announced first printing

A former columnist at MTV news uses music and culture as a lens through which to view our world so that we might better understand ourselves and our times. In a starred review, PW says that these new and previously published essays “are filled with honesty, providing the reader with the sensation of seeing the world through fresh eyes.”

Univ. of California

A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore (Oct., $24.95, hardcover)

Five-city author tour, radio tour, print and online advertising

Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future. “It’s remarkably rare that authors manage to find a really useful new lens through which to view the world—but Patel and Moore have done just that, writing an eye-opening account that helps us see the startling reality behind what we usually dismiss as the obvious and everyday,” Bill McKibben comments.


Black Sheep

(dist. by Consortium)

What Is Hip-Hop?

Eric Morse, with Nelson George, illus. by Anny Yi (Sept., $15.95, hardcover)

Cross-promotion in music markets with Nelson George’s simultaneously published novel, To Funk and Die in LA; videos of 3-D clay figures being created for the book; events with a focus on story time; 10,000-copy announced first printing

PW’s review of this colorful, G-rated picture-book look at hip-hop says, “Morse and Yi (the team behind What Is Punk?) highlight hip-hop’s cultural hegemony via an impressively encyclopedic parade of rhyming biographies. Yi’s meticulously styled clay figures are as magical as in the previous book.” Ages 3–7.

Top Shelf

(dist. by Diamond)

Home Time: Under the River, Book One

Campbell Whyte (Aug., $24.99, hardcover) )

From the Australian comics creator comes this tale of twins Lily and David, who don’t agree on much, except that the last summer before high school is the perfect time for relaxing. But their plans are destroyed when they and their friends fall into a river and wake up in a village of fantastic creatures. Shaun Tan calls this graphic novel “beautifully realized, funny, smart, weird and surprisingly epic in scope. Home Time is also just plain brilliant.” Ages 13–up.


I Am Alphonso Jones

Tony Medina, illus. by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings (Oct., $18.95, trade paper)

Author and illustrator appearances, social media advertising, teaching guide and discussion questions available, 15,000-copy announced first printing

In this graphic novel about police brutality, an off-duty police officer mistakenly thinks a clothes hanger is a gun and shoots Alfonso. The teen wakes up in the afterlife on a ghost train guided by other victims of police shootings. “Medina, Robinson, and Jennings do for us what the ghosts do for Alfonso in their story,” says Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. “They help us to see. They help us to remember. They help us to understand. A must-read.” Ages 12–up.

This story has been updated with new information on some titles.