I don’t know how it works for you guys, but over the past few years I have come to have a number of favorite publishers, companies that consistently publish the kinds of books that appeal to my reading tastes. And I mean consistently. It’s not that they never miss, but they hit my sweet spot way more times than other publishers can even dream of hitting it. Three publishers that immediately come to mind for me are Henry Holt, Soho Press, and the Library of America.
These guys publish very different books, so I know to go to Henry Holt when I’m looking for a new literary novel, to Soho when I want a crime thriller or something similar, and to Library of America when I want to revisit the writing that helped shape this country into what it is today.
I suppose that, if pressed, I would have to say that Library of America is the publisher I most admire both because of the quality of their books and the fact that they are a non-profit publisher on a distinct mission. I’ll let the LOA describe itself (taken from their website):
Library of America, a nonprofit organization, publishes, preserves, and celebrates America’s greatest writing and offers resources for readers to explore this rich and diverse cultural heritage.
Founded in 1979, the nonprofit organization was created with a unique and unprecedented goal: to curate and publish authoritative new editions of America’s best writing, including acknowledged classics, neglected masterpieces, and historically significant documents and texts.
Now widely recognized as the definitive collection of American writing, Library of America volumes encompass all periods and genres and showcase the vitality and variety of America’s literary legacy.
I started collecting Library of America books sometime in the mid-nineties and right now I have 87 of their books on my shelves. And what great books they are. The books are all of the highest production quality with beautiful binding jobs and acid free paper, ensuring that they can be passed down from generation to generation for a long, long time. Personally, I remove their dust jackets and shelve them that way because I think the colors of the cloth boards are so classic themselves that they bring a touch of class to any bookshelf they grace.
I plan to feature my favorite Library of America books here from time to time, but today just wanted to sort of set the stage for what is to come. I think you’ll be surprised by the great variety of authors, eras, styles, and genres being forever preserved by the LOA people. My 87 volumes is maybe one-third of what they have published since 1979, and I plan to add to my collection on a regular basis for (I hope) many years to come.