Alternative Sites For Great Reading

In the past few posts, I've had a lot to say about mainstream publishing and its literary contests, but where do you look to find something to read that is off the beaten path? I'll give you three hints.

Broken Pencil
Last spring, I came across this great little magazine which celebrates the zine culture and independent arts. Although it has been around for 50 issues, I only subscribed this past fall. From what I've gathered, zinesters have been known to become authors. In fact, up-and-coming authors such as Mariko Tamaki, Zoe Whittall and Heather O'Neill all started out with zines. And if you thought that the advent of the blog did away with our paper friends, think again. According to the most recent issue of BP, zines have never been stronger. I love the creativity of zines and the unconventional fusion of ideas, something that the big publishing companies shy away from.

BP also reviews books. I was recently sent a review copy of Greedy Little Eyes by Billie Livingston from Vintage, and the book was so good, I wondered why I'd never heard of Livingston before. When I did some online research, I discovered that BP had already reviewed her work and had this to say about Livingston: "She's a damn solid writer who will make your head spin and your knees buckle." And how could you not like a magazine that has featured Zine Queen Sonja Ahlers, "the pioneering feminist, visionary artist and wondering soul," on its cover not once, but twice. Ahlers is my favourite collage artist.

Microcosm Publishing
This little-engine-that-could started out as a zine distributor and record label from Joe Biel's bedroom in 1996. Today it is the world's largest distributor of zines. This not-for-profit collectively run publisher and zine distributor aims to add credibility to zine writers and their ethics, teach self-empowerment, show hidden history, and nurture people's creative side. I've spent hours perusing this site, and I invite you to do the same. In addition to zines and books, you will find buttons, stickers, t-shirts and patches. This site will help you to develop your inner activist, expand your knowledge of other grassroots movements and give you some insight into worlds that you might never have known existed. This is a great site for authors looking for original characters and researching alternative backgrounds.

My favourite reading titles today are She Must Be Having A Bad Day: The Cult of the Female Food Service Worker #2; Railroad Semantics #4, the adventures and photos from a real-life train jumpin' hobo; Revolutionary Women: A Book of Stencils; and The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved (obviously about slow food).

You will also find past issues of Broken Pencil at Microcosm. If you would like to read a review of a zine before buying one just click here.

Elevate Difference
I started reviewing books for Elevate Difference about a year ago, and I've been offered a vast range of books to write about, from a Buddhist approach to addiction to the environmental causes of cancer. The organization provides a forum of thoughtful critique on books, films and music from a diverse group of writers, who often have conflicting viewpoints. Elevate Difference aims to accommodate a diversity of perspectives and searches for common ground rather than supporting progressive groups that strive to assimilate other schools of thought. ED publishes three to four reviews a day, and I usually find something I want to read after a few minutes of surfing. I guarantee that you will find some gems here that have gone virtually unnoticed by the mainstream media.

This week I bought, A Strange Stirring, a book about the impact Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique on American society and culture in the 1960s. Now I have something to tide me over until the next season of Mad Men.

Related posts
Guerrilla Girls, Humour and Hope
Publishing: What If...?
Publishing: What's "Good" and "Important"  (Stats on the # of books authored by women that are reviewed)
CBC: The Elephant in the Room  (Terry Fallis's book beats Carol Shields in CanadaReads)
Reads from Men



Theresa Lemieux | April 14, 2011 at 8:46 PM

You forgot to mention Quattro Books. Loving Vanessa Smith these days - her novella and her blog - and Tom Reynolds' Break Me is devastatingly good if creepy and strange.

Heather | April 14, 2011 at 8:48 PM

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll check it out. H

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