As I’ve grown up reading books I was always looking for the next great book to read. Some stuff was recommendations from friends, some books from author’s I already liked. But quite a lot attracted my attention because of the publisher.
In the 60s you could generally rely on a Penguin Modern Classic. Boris Vian, Gormenghast, Flann O’Brien, Satre and Camus, Herbert Read’s Green Child, Alfred Kubin, the Beats – all discoveries because they were in that grey cover with a surrealist, symbolist or futurist cover.
Then in the 70s came Picador which not only had some great reprints but lots of new authors I hadn’t come across. And the new larger format paperback spurred Penguin to start their King Penguin range which was also a good indication of something I would like to read.
At university I suddenly had access to smaller presses and US imports (the only ones I had found before that were in the remaindered book bin in Woolworths). As well as working through Terry Carr’s Ace Science Fiction specials and Lin Carter’s Ballantine Adult Fantasy lists, I found Jonathan Cape and New Directions.
My key go to imprints now are Atlas Press (and not just because I know the publishers) and Dalkey Archive. Amazon has taken a lot of the pain out of finding books – most things are available new, second hand, or via print on demand, and lots of stuff is available as downloads for Kindle or as pdf’s. However, nothing replaces that joy of browsing in a bookshop and finding a book you didn’t know existed that you think you will love.