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New York City might be home to the big houses, but this scrappy city just happens to be the epicenter of publishing on the Best Coast. Join Alexis Coe every Wednesday for Read Local, a series on books produced in the Bay Area.

You may not know Insight Editions by name, but you know the type of books they publish. You've seen them in the doctor's office and on coffee tables. They're waiting for you under the Christmas tree. Perhaps a half-read volume is in your bathroom at this very moment.

Of course, that's not how Insight would describe themselves. They are dedicated to “creating superlative illustrated books” that “promote rich subject matter,” assertions I put to the test when they invited me to select titles from their 2012 list for review, which includes imprints Earth Aware and Mandala publishing. I choose three titles which seemed to speak to the depth and breadth of the list, but I was unprepared for how wildly different in quality they proved to be.

See also:

McSweeney's Makes Books Magical Again

When it Comes to Cooking, Judge a Book by Its Cover

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