Assembling My Atheneum: Beacon Press
If I had unlimited funds, which authors would I want to see filling my bookshelves? That question originally arose from my musings about my home library, and I decided to start a new series to answer it. In Assembling My Atheneum, I’ll discuss the authors whose entire works I’d love to possess, as well as which books of theirs I’ve read, which I already own, and which I’d recommend to those wanting to give them a try. If you’re curious, you can see everyone I’ve featured so far.
This year, one of my favourite discoveries was Beacon Press, which describes itself as “an independent publisher of serious non-fiction and fiction.” It’s a US publisher affiliated with the Unitarian Universalists, and has been in operation since 1854. So far, I’ve mainly explored their non-fiction offerings, but I’m sure I’ll give their fiction a go soon. I love them for the progressive catalogue, full of books sure to appeal to any one interested in social justice issues. If you are at all interested in feminism, or gender/sexuality issues, or race issues (both within the US and on an international scale), or history that looks at marginalised people, or progressive Christianity, or foreign affairs analysed by international authors, and you’re looking for nonfiction authors who aren’t always white, middle class men from the US or UK, you owe it to yourself to peek at their selection. If you’re anything like me, doing a library catalogue search for Beacon Press feels like being presented with the most marvelous candy store and knowing you can choose anything; I get excited by the possibilities and overwhelmed at having to choose where to begin!
The titles I’ve read include: The Springs of Namje by Rajeev Goyal (actually the exception to the rule and one I didn’t much care for), Reimagining Equality by Anita Hall, The Iron Cage by Rashid Khalili, Kindred by Octavia Butler, The Tiger Ladies by Sudha Koul, Ruined by Reading by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Translated Woman by Ruth Behar, Encountering God by Diana Eck, Belfast Diary by John Conroy, and more. These are all books unafraid to confront important topics, from the religious to the political to the personal, and everything in between, written by thoughtful authors for thoughtful readers. The only one of those titles I own is Encountering God, although I might have some other Beacon books without realising it (they have a very extensive catalogue). There’s no point listing the titles of theirs I’d like to read, as every single book of theirs sounds appealing to me! They’re like my dream publisher, and luckily for me they’ve already been around long enough to put out tons of fascinating titles.
Usually on these posts I suggest a title or two for readers new to the author as good places to begin. But in this case, Beacon has such a variety (from poetry to autobiography/memoir to non-fiction on tons of topics to fiction), that seems a bit impossible. I will say that of the books I listed in the previous paragraph, I had the strongest emotional response to Encountering God by Diana Eck (enough to immediately include it in my next order from Better World Books), Translated Woman by Ruth Behar, and Kindred by Octavia Butler (a novel for the nonfiction averse). Beacon also carries quite a few of Mary Oliver’s collections, one of my very favourite poets. Otherwise, I’d suggest simply visiting their website, where they’ve helpfully organised their books by category, and browsing until something gets your attention. I suspect it won’t take long!