My name is Allyce, and I have an addiction to independently published books. They’re like potato chips; once you start you can’t stop.
Why are they addictive? Because indie books are the ones that take the chances, the ones that delve into the messy and the experimental. They go where books produced by the Big Five publishers are afraid to go. Find any “new” publishing trend, and I guarantee there are twelve indie publishers saying “yeah, we’ve been doing that for years.” That’s why they’re so good, that’s how they get in under your skin.
It started out innocently enough. Unconscious even. I didn’t even realize until I was filling out a job application for a distributor my last semester of college that I’d even read anything by an indie publisher. But when I clicked through to their list of publishers and turned to survey my bookshelves, I found to my surprise that the book we read in Stage Management last year was from an indie. And the translation we’d read just last week in my Multicultural Literature class was from another indie.
I got the job at the distributor, working in marketing, which basically consisted of eight hours of hearing wonderful tantalizing tidbits about hundreds of great indie books every day. I started sampling a book here, a book there. And then more. And more. I became a frequent shopper at our local indie bookstore.
Then I came here, to Foreword, where I actually get paid to read the best indie books (I’d do it for free; don’t tell my boss). You might think that, since it’s now my job, I don’t read indie in my free time. You’d be wrong. I can’t stop! The Goodreads app is open on my phone all day. My “to read” list is out of control. There are books above my kitchen cupboards (the cupboards, I say!) because there isn’t any more room for bookcases in my apartment.
A friend back in Minnesota asked recently what my favorite books are, since I work in publishing and spend all my time surrounded by books. That’s my least favorite question, because it’s like asking what my favorite air molecule is. It’s always changing depending on my mood, the season, what’s going on in my life. A book that is necessary to my life in one particular moment might be obsolete in the next.
But someone I respected deeply was asking, so I grudgingly sat down and compiled a list of ten books, books that I would like to force into the hands of everybody I meet, books that I could say mattered and would change your life for the better, books that I had deeply, deeply loved. Keep in mind I had twenty-two years of reading primarily Big Five books before I even knew indie books were a thing. I had expected it to skew heavily Big Five. I had hoped it wouldn’t, but I thought it would. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the majority, six out of the ten, were indie books.
Once you start reading indie, there’s no going back. That’s not to say Big Five books are bad. Two of the books on my list are relatively new Big Five books and I love them as fiercely as the indies. But there’s just something about indie books; once you start reading them, you don’t want to stop.
For those of you who are curious, here’s my list, in no particular order:
- Armageddon, Texas by Tommy Zurhellen
- Broken by Traci L. Slatton
- Waterlogged: Tales from the Seventh Sea edited by Jeffrey Ellis
- Myths of a Merciful God by Cynthia Ceilan
- Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan
- Valor edited by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melancon
- Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
- A Year in the World by Frances Mayes
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
Allyce Amidon is associate editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @allyce_amidon