John B. Thompson’s Merchants of Culture is not a how-to manual like the first two books in this list, and it’s not practical in quite the same way. Rather, the book is a history of the publishing industry in Britain and the United States, with a focus on current upheavals and uncertainties in the business. It historicizes the players in trade publishing: Agents, publishers, editors, bookstores, warehouse chains and online booksellers. If you’re a writer without past experience in publishing, you may not know much about the food chain or your position in it. The author, a Cambridge University sociologist, brings copious amounts of data to his analysis, whether working with numbers or qualitative interviews – and what results is an insightful and sometimes devastating look at how capital operates in the book trade today.