Ten Independent Bay Area Book Publishers, part 2

Yesterday I began a list of ten independent Bay Area book publishing companies, all of which are producing interesting work, though each has its own unique personality and focus. Today I continue with nos. 6-10.

6 McSweeney’s Books, San Francisco

lawrence weschler, everything that risesProbably best known for the literary journal begun by Dave Eggers in 1998, McSweeney’s also publishes books. Some good literary authors have been published by McSweeney’s, including Michael Chabon, Stephen Dixon, Nick Hornby, William Vollmann, and Lawrence Weschler. I think McSweeney’s was surprised to learn how difficult this kind of publishing is, and I believe they are currently offering many titles at steep discounts. Literary publishers always need and deserve support. (McSweeney’s is out of alpha order because I dropped a publisher whose list did not stand close scrutiny.)

7 Parallax Press, Berkeley

dalai lama, worlds in harmonyParallax Press publishes one thing, and they publish it well — Buddhist-related titles. They specialize in books by Thich Nhat Hanh, but they have also published Maxine Hong Kingston, the Dalai Lama, the Korean writer Ko Un, and others. I think they are still in the same building — a small old church that people used to call “the church of the book” — that used to house North Point Press back in the 1980s. Shown is Worlds in Harmony by the Dalai Lama.

8 Re/Search, San Francisco

re/search guide to bodily fluidsRe/Search says about itself “RE/Search is a counter-culture enterprise against the status quo/hierarchy which dictates prevailing aesthetics, technology, and everything else which controls our lives — often invisibly. The big goal is to accurately document cultural revolt/innovation wherever it may be found, not only in space but in time. We started in Punk Rock and we continue searching for that provocative “spirit/spark” wherever it manifests itself.” Their books often take off from such subjects as tattoo art, gender issues, punk expression, and pranks and hacks, frequently veering into the oddly fascinating, the disturbing, and the bizzare. Shown is The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids.

9 Stone Bridge Press,Berkeley

schodt, astroy boy essaysStone Bridge, under the direction of Peter Goodman, whose lineage includes working for ten years in Japan as an editor for Charles E. Tuttle and Kodansha International, has, over many years, steadily and somewhat quietly amassed a distinguished list of titles on Japan and Japanese culture. Subject areas include language, travel, design, reference, business, popular culture, and literature, both original fiction and in translation. Shown is The Astro Boy Essays by Fred Schodt.

10 Whereabouts Press, Berkeley

whereabouts, amsterdamWhereabouts Press is run by David Peattie, who was an associate of mine at Mercury House. The press takes its name from the title of a book by Alastair Reid. Whereabouts publishes “travelers’ literary companions” — anthologies of literary writings devoted to popular travel destinations — and other travel-related titles. Among the editors of their anthologies are Peter Bush and Lisa Dillman (Spain), James McElroy (Ireland) C. M. Mayo (Mexico), and Lawrence Venuti (Italy). The literary companions are published in a uniform format, as shown with Amsterdam, edited by by Manfred Wolf.

There is great diversity among Bay Area independent publishers. Which means there should be something for everyone.


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  1. Hi Tom. Nice list. Good to be reminded that the publishing world doesn’t just revolve around NYC.

    I am little bias because I work with these guys, but you could also mention Chronicle Books in San Francisco who publish very cool kids and adult titles, New Harbinger who publish psychology and self-help titles out of Oakland, and Berrett-Koehler, an award-winning business book publisher in downtown in SF. Lonely Planet have their US HQ in Bay Area too.

    It’s quite a hub! 🙂

  2. Good additions, Dan. I published a book called The Discovery of America with Chronicle Books. I worked with Steve Piersanti of Berrett-Koehler when we were both in marketing at Jossey-Bass (me just briefly). I don’t have any connections with New Harbinger. Lonely Planet is located in Oakland near Jack London Sqaure.

  3. Travelers’ Tales, now based in Palo Alto, has been publishing travel books since 1993, with more than 100 titles in print.

  4. Travelers’ Tales absolutely deserves to be on the list. Thanks for the reminder.

    The Travelers’ Tales website is here.

  5. Harvey Holland

    Your recommendation please.

    Ready for publication is the manuscript for “The Angel of Angel Island,” a non-fiction, historical overview of the life of Katharine Maurer, who became widely known as “The Angel of Angel Island.” The work is the revealing story of a gracious Christian woman, who devoted her life to to the stranger at the gate. Miss Maurer began her career as a home missionary in 1912, after graduating from The San Francisco National Training School for Deaconesses.

    “The Angel of Angel Island” captures the essence of life at the immigration facility in San Francisco Bay, and candidly looks at the world wanderers to whom Miss Maurer ministered, where they came from, and how they ended up on America’s western shore. Vignettes of station life, and touching personal episodes in the lives of people (along with original photos) who spent time in its cramped quarters, have been uncovered after years of careful research.

    For some, the involuntary deainment at Angel Island was just an inconvenience. For others, it was an emotional tragedy. The book speaks of their hopes, aspirations, and more often than not, the heartbreak of being declared personna non grata. Being denied entry at America’s doorstep, and forced to return to their homeland, was an emotional tragedy faced by untold thousands, especially the Chinese. In the midst of their grief and despair there was one who looked out for them, one who loved them. The Chinese called her “Kuan Yin,” after the goddess of mercy. Many from western countries simply called Miss Maurer “Mother.”

    Your recommendation for a bay area publisher will be most appreciated. Thank you.

    Harvey Holland