A Book from an Independent Publisher or Self-Published Author: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2020
Independent and self-publishing puts diverse, experimental and unique books in reader's hands (or ereaders.) Staff and participant recommendations for this category encompass poetry, essay collections, short stories and novels. There is a book for every reader from the world of independent and self-publishing.
Homie by Danez Smith
Graywolf Press publishes many of my favourite contemporary poets. I especially loved Danez Smith's recent poetry collection. It is an ode to friendship in the face of racism, violence, homophobia and inequality.
The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho
Romance writers and readers have firmly embraced self-publishing, perhaps more than any other genre. Jade Yeo is one of my favourite romance heroines, I love her blunt and forthright approach to life. Cho portrays the true diversity of 1920s London, with a Chinese Malaysian main character and an Indian love interest.
These books were picked by our staff for "a book from an independent publisher or self-published author."
Men of Action by Howard Akler
Part of Coach House Books' excellent "Exploded Views" long form essay series. Men of Action is a fascinating exploration of human consciousness, told through the lens of the author caring for his father who has slipped into a coma.
– Thomas, Senior Branch Head
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
Europa Editions is mainly known for Elena Ferrante's books (which I also definitely recommend) but this year I read Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami. The book follows life in Japan for several women in a style that reads a little like Ferrante and Haruki Murakami (who is a fan and friend of Kawakami's!).
– Tessie, Librarian
Dear Current Occupant by Chelene Knight
A creative non-fiction memoir about home and belonging set in the 80s and 90s of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. So well written!!
– Lillian, Branch Head
The Buses and Other Short Stories by Dora Drivas-Avramis
A collection of short stories about the Greek Diaspora in Toronto. Dora's stories are engaging and meaningful to newcomers; I have my own copy and have read a few more than once. They address issues common to all diasporas, of course focusing on the Greek community. Dora is retired from TPL and worked in Scarborough Public Library for many years.
– Marie, Librarian
Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion
I’d like to recommend Kristyn Dunnion’s Big Big Sky published by Calgary’s Red Deer Press. Dunnion creates a fully imagined and detailed alternate world unlike anything I have experienced. Anyone interested in dystopian, sci-fi, LGBTQ2S+ positive stories should take note. And as a bonus, she’s a local author.
– Aaron, Librarian
Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta
I'm recommending Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta, published by House of Anansi. It's a collection of linked short stories about a young Jamaican-Canadian woman growing up a few blocks from where I live. Reid-Benta's depictions of the fraught interpersonal politics of teenage girls are so vivid and textured, they've given me a new sympathy for the kids I crowd in next to on the bus in the winter.
– Wendy, Digital Content Lead
Making Comics by Lynda Barry
Drawn & Quarterly is such a gem and publishes some of the very best cartoonists out there. Be sure to check out Lynda Barry's Making Comics, a magical course in creativity that's sure to ignite your imagination and get you drawing.
– Jennifer, Librarian
Monoceros by Suzette Mayr
This is an older book, but I loved Monoceros by Suzette Mayr from Coach House Books. It is a very heavy/sombre read about the suicide of a bullied gay teen. Each chapter is told through the eyes of a different person, including those who contributed to his bullying. The eh List Writer Series hosted Mayr years ago and it was nice to hear her speak about this very compelling book.
A great self-published poetry series is the Concrete Mirror Series by Melissa Compton. Melissa is Non-Status Mi'kmaq and currently lives in Toronto.
– Jamie Lee Morin. Indigenous Digital Content Lead
Recommendations from the Facebook Group
These are just some of the recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2020 discussion group.
- Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
- Rockets Versus Gravity by Richard Scarsbrook
- The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
- This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
- Sidewalk Flowers written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith
- Kamouraska by Anne Hébert
What did you read for "a book from an independent publisher or self-published author"? Do you have other recommendations? Share in the comments below!