Nevada-based publisher of American West titles thrives after more than 60 years
Sixty years is a long time for any cultural institution. It’s even a larger milestone for a publishing house, given the flux of the book industry.
But the University of Nevada Press has hung in there for 61 years, and we’ll explain the anniversary math in a minute.
Started by author Robert Laxalt in 1961 and based at UNR, it has published 530 books about Nevada and the American West.
Even during the last two years of the pandemic, it’s published nearly 50 titles.
State of Nevada producer Mike Prevatt recently spoke with University of Nevada Press director Joanne Banducci.
He also talked to Monique Laxalt, who is not only a University of Nevada Press author, supporter and ambassador, but also the daughter of founder Robert Laxalt.
When an illness kept her father in bed for a year, his mother got him books from the Carson City Library, and started to write his own stories. He started a family, then continued to work as a journalist. In his spare time, he wrote books about Nevada prior to founding the Press.
He became known for “Sweet Promised Land,” published three years prior to the publishing company’s founding. Early published works were released not only for the scholarly community, but for Nevada as a whole.
It’s instilled some civic pride in Nevada.
“Just as an example, about two years ago, I was invited by the Nevada Supreme Court to be the keynote speaker for the annual congregation of state supreme court judges, which was held in Las Vegas, and all of the attending chief judges had been assigned to read ‘Sweet Promised Land.’ That was what our Nevada Supreme Court chose to represent the state of Nevada,” Laxalt said.
The Press is celebrating in its 61st year because they wanted to celebrate publicly.
JoAnne Banducci became its interim director as the pandemic hit in March 2020. She did double duty as the business manager due to hiring freezes.
“What I ended up doing was having to hire back some of the retired Press employees that continue to remain passionate about the Press, as Monique herself has, and they gladly welcomed the opportunity to come back and help out,” she said.
Their most bought book is The Sagebrush State by Michael Bowers, which is used as a textbook in several classes. Their top-sellers beyond that are titles on Native Americans, national parks and mining.
JoAnne Banducci, director, University of Nevada Press; Monique Laxalt, author and daughter of UNP founder Robert Laxalt