The History of Microcosm in 10 Books

Essential titles for understanding who we are, what we do, and why we do it

Some of these books hold the key to the Microcosm ethos; others are books that marked a turning point or opened significant doors for our publishing operation. Each is a damn good read selected by Elly for your reading, learning, and DIY-ing pleasure. Shop the collection or read on to learn more about the role each has played in the life of Microcosm!

Making Stuff and Doing Things: DIY Guides to Just About Everything by Kyle Bravo
When Tree of Knowledge folded their publishing operation in 1996, this was one of the first books we published and still one of our perennial bestsellers. 28 years later, this cut-and-paste zine-style compilation of how-to guides on subjects ranging from crafts to health to community is still capturing imaginations and turning 20-somethings away from consumer culture.

Make a Zine: Start Your Own Underground Publishing Revolution by Bill Brent and Joe Biel
The late, great Bill Brent started this guide to the ultimate, original form of self-publishing. Brent invited a young Joe Biel to be involved with the project as a way to appeal to younger readers. As zine popularity waxes and wanes, so does this little book, now in its fourth edition and almost completely rewritten for modern times. Is there anything more punk than putting out a zine?

Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs
This friendly, handwritten book came out in 2007. In 2008, just as the recession hit, it got a bunch of great blog write-ups and sold thousands of copies overnight. It was our bestseller by a mile until Dr. Faith came along.

Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever: Ridiculously Complete Edition by Tom Neely and Friends
This little comic began as a joke scribbled by cartoonists on napkins in a bar. We never sought out a lick of publicity for this book, but it quickly went viral and has escalated from there into more comics and much astonished laughter. If you get it, you get it.

Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy by Elly Blue
We’ve long published books about bikes, starting with the iconic Chainbreaker. Elly Blue wrote Bikenomics for Microcosm in 2012 and then got hired three years later, proving that you actually can leverage writing into making a living, sort of. Elly Blue Books and Microcosm merged companies in 2015, and we continue to publish feminist bicycle books and zines today.

Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life and Business with Autism by Joe Biel
Joe Biel’s honest, earnest, and sometimes harrowing memoir from 2016 also tells the story of Microcosm. Its publication deliberately marked a transition to new era and new culture for the company, in which we grew up and professionalized a bit while holding on tight to our values and spirit.

Unfuck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-outs, and Triggers by Dr. Faith G. Harper
Dr. Faith appeared in our office one day in 2015 with what looked like notes for a powerpoint presentation called “Your Brain Is an Asshole.” Over the course of the next hour and a half, we developed it into the seed of a book (and series, and line of books by other authors about mental health and healthy relationships) that’s changed millions of lives around the world.

A People’s Guide to Publishing: Building a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful Book Business From the Ground Up by Joe Biel
We made Joe sit down and write notes on everything learned about publishing in over the last quarter century, primarily so we could unlock that knowledge for ourselves. This one caused the book industry to really take notice of the work Microcosm has been doing, and, more important, has helped countless new publishers get their start.

The Practical Witch’s Almanac by Friday Gladheart
Around 2017, we had a salesperson on staff who discovered that witchy stores really, really like to buy books, so we started looking for witchy books to publish. Our turning point was meeting Friday Gladheart, who began publishing her almanacs the same year Microcosm started. It only took us 20 years to find each other. We started out distributing her 2018 almanac and became her publisher in 2019—the 2025 edition is now available for preorder!

How to Resist Amazon and Why: The Fight for Local Economics, Data Privacy, Fair Labor, Independent Bookstores, and a People-Powered Future! by Danny Caine
Danny Caine, owner of The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, KS, started publishing this zine during the height of the pandemic. Our publicist at the time found it on social media and reached out to see if Danny wanted a hand with production and distribution. We helped free up his bookstore team from stapling zines in their back office so they could focus on other groundbreaking initiatives, while we were able to help bring this ray of resistance to indie bookstores around the world.