Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gluttony and the New York Review of Books

It's funny, as writers and readers, that we don't talk about publishers more, at least in terms of the books we like. We might wail on the SOBs a lot, but we don't talk about publishers much in terms of our favourites, in terms of the books we love to read. Maybe this is because most publishers don't have much of a throughline of taste, and the selection is sometimes haphazard.

But there are publishers I like. Maybe it's the former bookstore owner in me, but I'm always curious about who publishes a book. And there are always publishers who seem to publish interesting books. The Dalkey Archive, Vintage International, etc. One of my favourites, though, is the New York Review of Books. They tend to publish great works of fiction and non-fiction, and they tend to publish either books in translation or great books that weren't recognized the way they should have been when they were first published (or, at least, have since been forgotten).

Looking through the nyrb lists is a little like going on a literary excavation, finding the voices that I should have heard, but never did.

And, as it happens, I have recently picked up a bushel of books by the nyrb, and I'm going to splurge on them. A massive reading fest! I have 12 in my little pile as we speak (though this could always rise, due to compulsive purchasing). They are beautiful books, and that's one reason I like the nyrb - they make fine books, in the sense of books as objects. I like the covers, the series design, the paper, the softe matte finish. Paper junkie heaven.

Okay, so here they are! I may not get through all of them in a row. In fact, the chance of failure is like 99.93578%. But I shall have a wonderful splurge, regardless.

The Road, Vasily Grossman

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Troubles, J.G. Farrell

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Warlock, Oakley Hall

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Rogue Male, Geoffrey Household

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Chess Story, Stefan Zweig

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Clandestine in Chile, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Fatale, Jean-Patrick Manchette

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Butcher's Crossing, John Williams

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Unforgiving Years, Victor Serge

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The Quest for Corvo, A.J.A. Symons

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Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, Daniel Paul Schreber

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A Savage War of Peace, Alistair Horne

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What about you? Do you pay attention to publishers? Do you have favourites? Does it mean more to have certain publishers on the spine?

14 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

I don't actually pay much attention. But I've certainly taken a liking to a few small presses in the recent past. These look like really beautiful books. I too get a thrill out of good looking books :o) Sometimes you'll find me stroking covers!

Adele Richards said...

I always check the publisher of the book I'm reading - but like you I have a background in an independent bookshop. I used to be much more up to date with various imprints that you could always count on for some classic quality.

Adele Richards said...

I like Random House's Vintage imprint - and Virago used to be a favourite.

Steve Abernathy said...

Nice haul. I loved WARLOCK and thought BUTCHERS CROSSING and TROUBLES were good.

I'd have to put Small Beer Press as my favorite publisher.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I don't pay attention to publishers when I'm reading, but I can see how a publisher with a certain niche could make an impression. Enjoy your reading-fest!

Marsha Sigman said...

I actually don't pay attention to the publishers. Or at least I didn't use to. But then I used to read so much I could barely tell you the titles of what I read...but I could tell you every detail of the story.

Now it's a little harder to find time and as a writer I pay more attention to the business details.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a lot of reading! I do notice Tor, as they do a lot of fantasy.

D.G. Hudson said...

I usually buy my books by author, without a lot of attention to the publisher. That's for fiction.

For non-fiction, the publisher can be important in how the material is presented. What audience do they (the publishers) consistently target?

Getting your work out there includes being aware of what publishers work with which type of stories, so as writers we should at least be minimally aware of who the big guys are and how they play. It's another form of self-education which may help the writer down the road.

Bryan Russell said...

I'm definitely looking forward to my binge. Luckily, some of the books are short.

j.bridget chicoine said...

In all honesty, I never gave any thought to the publisher on the spine until I started the process of getting published. I generally read based on reccomendations, regardless of the press--always have and still do.

Looks as if you have a lineup that will keep you busy for a while!

Bryan Russell said...

Started Fatale! The Great Splurge has begun...

Matthew MacNish said...

You have to click on them to see the titles, unless you have a magnifying glass.

Anyway. I've never really payed that much attention, although I should. When it comes to music I've always paid attention to the record label, sometimes even preferring the sound of a particular imprint to the sound of even a particular artist.

That Fatale is one awesome cover.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Award for you today, Bryan!

Deniz Bevan said...

You're right! I used to pay attention to this a lot more in my teens, when I was just figuring out which publishers put out which kinds of books. I always love the look of Penguins. Vintage, too. Black Sparrow always made Bukowski's books look great. And I've gotten suckered in by the Folio Society...