Avoiding Amazon: Where We’re Buying Books

There’s a lot of Terrible going on right now, but books make things better! Lately it feels increasingly vital to show our support for small businesses, especially minority-owned ones. Not sure where to go for your book-ish needs, other than Amazon? Never fear! Members of your friendly neighborhood tmr staff have curated a list of places we’ve been supporting and buying from during these turbulent times. 

  • From Amanda, poetry reader:
  1. Mahogany Books: Based in Washington, DC, MahoganyBooks is a black-owned independent bookstore that promotes “reading, writing, and cultural awareness as tools to improve self-esteem, self-love,” and harmony in the local community. 
  2. Politics and Prose: Another DC-based bookstore, Politics and Prose is a women-founded business whose mission is “cultivating community and strengthening the common good through books, programs, and a respectful exchange of ideas. We’re committed to exceptional customer service and to the values of independence, inclusion, and diversity.”
  3. Kramerbooks: Kramerbooks & Afterwords opened in 1976, and can boast its status as the first bookstore/café in Washington, DC. It is committed to providing access to the best books, a variety of good food, and hosting and promoting an array of literary events. 
  • From Nathan, fiction reader:
  1. Fitzcarraldo: Fitzcarraldo Editions is a UK-based independent publisher. Founded in 2014, the press publishes fiction and creative nonfiction, both in translation and in English. 
  2. Dalkey: Dalkey Archive Press was founded in Chicago in 1984. It now has locations in the US, Ireland, and England. The press publishes fiction, poetry, and literary criticism. It values subversive work that “in some way challenge[s] received notions, whether those are literary, social or political.”
  3. Dorothy Publishing Project: This small press is dedicated to publishing and promoting fiction by primarily women writers.
  4. Coffee House Press: Coffee House Press is an internationally-recognized independent press based in Minneapolis. Since its founding in 1972, it has published an array of literary fiction, essays, and poetry, as well as work that defies genre. From the CHP website: “Our vision for the future is one in which a publisher is a catalyst and connector.”
  5. New Directions: Founded in 1936 by James Laughlin, New Directions is an independent, NYC-based press that specializes in publishing new and experimental American poetry and prose, as well as spotlighting contemporary international writers.
  • From Julie, poetry reader & blog editor:
  1. YesYes Books: YesYes Books is an internationally-recognized press, and has been publishing poetry, fiction, and experimental art since 2011. They seek to uplift work and voices that embody the tenacity and passion of the human spirit, and are committed to creating books “that are as beautiful to hold as they are to read.” 
  2. Bookshop: “Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores.” Enough said! Bookshop also has a nifty feature that allows you to search for a local bookstore you’d like to support. Once you order, that store will receive the full purchase amount. If you don’t have a specific store in mind, your money goes into a pool that is distributed evenly among independent bookstores, even those not strictly affiliated with Bookshop.
  • From Kennedy, fiction reader & editor
  1. 11:11 Press: 11:11 Press is a relatively new publisher, founded in 2018 in Minneapolis, MN. They currently have 15 books of experimental and cross-genre loveliness. I recommend Human Tetris by Vi Khi Nao and Ali Roz, described as “a cross between the genre of newspaper personals and the self-display of online dating.” Their books also come in neon banana-packaging and inside you’ll find little cards with the covers of their other books. This is Lark—a cat who isn’t my cat—approved.
  1. WORD: If you’re in Greenpoint in Brooklyn, you must check out WORD bookstore. If you’re not, that’s totally okay because you can order your books from them! Over the summer they were donating proceeds to HOUR CHILDREN, a food pantry in Queens, NY. They also have carefully crafted and curated book lists including “Anti-Racist Board Books,” “Anti-Social Distancing,” and “Women Writing Resistance.” If you’re looking to read Kathy Acker? Lynne Tillman? Eileen Myles? Michelle Tea? This is the place to order their books from!
  2. McSweeney’s: “McSweeney’s is an independent nonprofit publishing company based in San Francisco.” Their books are ogle-worthy aesthetically pleasing. They publish fiction, non-fiction, humor, poetry. Their magazine Illustria works through visual storytelling for children and adults. And there are of course always gems in Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern.

Happy reading!

Julie Armstrong & Kennedy Coyne

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