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The Year's 9 Best Books From Small Publishers

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Running the small press section at Powell's in Portland and running my own little press has put me in a position to see a lot of cool stuff from authors before anyone else has even heard of them. 2009 was no exception. Here are the highlights from my own personal reading list...

"Some Things That Meant the World To Me" by Joshua Mohr (novel, Two Dollar Radio)

Mohr takes the loser-guy down-on-his-luck story and turns it on its head. This bizarre story of a guy named Rhonda is like a weird Kafka-Murakami-Bukowski smoothie with a lot of chunky bits.

"A Jello Horse" by Matthew Simmons (novella, Publishing Genius)

An odd little road story, complete with surreal roadside attractions and a melancholy tone that will pleasantly haunt you when it's all over.

Gagaku Meat: The Steve Richmond Story by Mike Daily (biography zine)

This is an engaging and meticulously researched biography (in oversized chapbook form) about the enigmatic California poet (who died a few months after it came out). A wonderfully illustrated and revealing look at one mad dude.


"Everything Was Fine Until Whatever" by Chelsea Martin (stories, art, Future Tense Books)

Ok--so I actually published this one on my press, but it's such a weird little stew of stories, lists, meta-poems, and art that I can't keep my mind off of how brilliant and fresh it all is.


"The Collected Fanzines" by Harmony Korine (Drag City)

Published by the fine folks at Drag City record label, this thick tome includes all of Harmony's pre-famous filmmaker zines. And they're just as weird as his movies.

"Big World" by Mary Miller (short stories, Hobart)

Mary Miller writes likes a fine combo of Ray Carver and A.M. Homes. This is one of those books where you just think: Where the hell did this lady come from?!

"Ever" by Blake Butler (novella, Calamari Press)

Blake Butler published two books on great small presses this year and they're both saturated in their own lunatic worlds. Ever, if my brain translated it correctly, is about a woman trapped inside a house that won't let her out. A tormented and highly stylized wonder of a book.


"Scary No Scary" by Zachary Schomburg (poems, Black Ocean)

Schomburg is possibly the man who will save poetry for all of those readers who are about to give up on the genre. Scary No Scary is both funny and ridiculously original. A playful, mournful, and sometimes sweet collection full of fantastic images and odd dialogue.


"Capacity" by Theo Ellsworth (graphic novel, Secret Acres)

Ellsworth's weird little tales sometimes read like acid trips of the future, complete with lonely robots and unknown creatures. But there's also a nice personal story threading through this. I have no idea why this guy isn't considered a comics God yet. Maybe someday he rightfully will be.

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