Just like Tindal Street Press, this week’s small publisher – And Other Stories (AOS) – is also a non-profit organization, and according to them, one that publishes “mindblowing” contemporary fiction, both in translation and originally in English.
What initially attracted me to AOS was their business model: they’re not only supported by the UK Arts Council Funding, but also by their “subscribers”. For £35 or £20, four or two books a year are delivered to your door, but there are twists and extras: 1) you can’t choose what books you’ll get 2) you receive a numbered first edition, 3) you’re thanked by name in an upcoming book, and 4) you’re asked for input on what books are published in the future.
Sounds like an exciting deal, right?
But that’s not my favorite feature of AOS. That honor goes to their Reading Groups, that exist to support the publication of foreign literature.
AOS receives suggestions and manuscripts from writers, agents, the general public, friends etc, and out of these a shortlist is sent out for discussion to their Reading Groups around the world. Anyone can join these groups and when a book isn’t yet translated, And Other Stories provides an extract in English.
The conclusions of the Groups are relayed back to AOS and the “core team” then makes the final decision. This summer there are three Reading Groups operating:
Upcoming Groups will likely focus on Arabic, Chinese, Swedish, Polish and Spanish.
It’s all about empowerment of the reader at And Other Stories. In an interview to Booktrust, the creator of AOS, Stefan Tobler said:
People are involved with the publisher through choosing the books or supporting us as subscribers or coming along to meetings to talk about strategy. We’re hopefully making the publisher less of a closed shop, something more approachable where people feel like they’re part of it.
And here are their recommendations:
A perfect summer read
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (“featured as Book at Bedtime on R4 back in Feb“)
Original language: English
“As he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into the heart of their holiday. Why is she there? What does she want from them all? And why does Joe’s wife allow her to remain?”
A book with food for thought / good bookclub-material
Zbinden’s Progress by Christoph Simon (“about feisty old age and walking as a strategy for life” )
Original language: German
“Lukas Zbinden leans on the arm of Kâzim, as they walk slowly down the stairway towards the door of his old people’s home. Step by step, the irrepressible Lukas recounts the life he shared with his wife Emilie and his son. She loved to walk in the countryside; he loved towns and meeting strangers. Different in so many ways, what was the secret of their life-long love? And why is it now so hard for him to talk to his son?
Gradually we get to know a man with a twinkle in his eye and learn the captivating story of this man, his late wife, their son and the many people he has met along the way. Zbinden’s Progress is heart-rending, heart-warming and hilarious.”
A first novel with promise
Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos (“a runaway success of a first novel actually – it was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, among other things“)
Original language: Spanish
“Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants and the odd corrupt politician or two.
Down the Rabbit Hole, a masterful and darkly comic first novel, is the chronicle of a delirious journey to grant a child’s wish.”
A book set in an interesting location
Happiness is Possible by Oleg Zaionchkovsky
Original language: Russian
“Happiness is Possible tells the story of a writer late delivering his novel, unable to write anything uplifting since his wife walked out. All he can produce is notes about the happiness of others.
But something draws him into the Moscow lives around him, bringing together lonely neighbours, restoring lost love, and helping out with building renovations. And happiness seems determined to catch up with him as well…”
An upcoming book
Original language: English
“‘All I want is to be a success. That’s all I ask.’ Failing salesman Joe has a dream — or rather an outrageous fantasy. Because holed up in his trailer Joe comes up with a jaw-dropping plan that will stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace and make his fortune. Win-win?
As he turns his life around, Lightning Rods takes us to the very top of corporate America…”