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Author Archive: "Kyle"

How We Assembled Indiespensable #12

[Editor's Note: Did you miss the announcement? Indiespensable, Volume 13 is a custom edition of the acclaimed graphic memoir Stitches by David Small, available only to subscribers. Visit the Indiespensable page for full details.]

When Jill finished her advance copy of Into the Beautiful North, she knew right away that she wanted to interview its author, Luis Alberto Urrea. A month or so later, the 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist came to Powell's, and they sat down for a conversation. Jill emerged from that room, and... well, it's funny how blasé we get sometimes about meeting writers, even great writers, after working among them for years — which made Jill's over-the-moon reaction all the more remarkable. Some of that admiration comes across in her extensive interview, which you can read right here.

Jill calls Into the Beautiful North "funny, moving, and gorgeously written." She suggests, "If you haven't yet read this lyrical, generous, and important American writer, his new work is a great place to start."

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How We Assembled Indiespensable #11

The Twin

    Caution: Spoiler Alert!

    Subscribers, if you want to save the surprise for the moment you open your package, read (or scroll) no further. Below we reveal the full contents of this week's shipment. You can of course read the letter below when it accompanies your box, to be mailed on Wednesday.

We didn't set out to choose a book in translation, but we were excited to find one that we enjoyed so thoroughly.

Even after passing the book around, few of us realized that Archipelago Books is a not-for-profit press, devoted (in its own words) "to publishing excellent translations of classic and contemporary world literature." This belated discovery pleased us, too.

In our continuing effort to surprise and delight — more specifically, to create original, one-of-a-kind editions for Indiespensable subscribers — we enlisted the help of Jill Schoolman, Archipelago's publisher, to design the custom book jacket now in your possession. (The standard American edition is blue, with a different back.) Gerbrand Bakker, The Twin's author, and David Colmer, its translator, signed and numbered our custom wraps, fresh off the press. Then Powell's dedicated ...

Downtown Owl

Chuck — unleashed! Downtown Owl thrives on Klosterman's familiar brew of sharp commentary, pop culture references, and endlessly entertaining digressions into the inane and bizarre... served here in his predictably funny (but perhaps surprisingly sweet) fictional debut. Of course it all takes place in the author's native North Dakota, in the eighties, among characters who, for example, cite Black and Blue and Goat's Head Soup as the Rolling Stones' best albums. Fans will not be disappointed.

How We Assembled Indiespensable #10

Algonquin publishes smart books with a wide commercial appeal. Think Water for Elephants. Think Mudbound. A Reliable Wife fits the bill precisely.

On a Friday in February, we gave an advance copy to Kim. After the weekend, we asked her, "Have you started it?" To which she replied, "Oh, my God, yes. And I just want to go home and read more."

Her response, it turns out, is common.

It was around this time that Carolyn Kellogg at Jacket Copy, the LA Times books blog, asked Dave, "Are you excited about any new fiction this spring?"

"Come a day," he told her, "you might get sick of hearing about A Reliable Wife — so many people will have read it and raved to you about it."

[Editor's note: Dave strikes again. As we prepare this note for the blog, A Reliable Wife is the bestselling book at Powell's Portland stores and #3 among online customers.]

The decision had been made. But what else would go in the box?

"Little blue vials?" someone suggested. Too macabre, we decided.

After several dead ends of that sort, we remembered something Robert ...

Shop Class as Soulcraft

One of the most engaging, thought-provoking books I've read in a long time. Matthew Crawford has delivered an accessible, carefully reasoned examination of work and America's evolving ideas about it, addressing a host of important subjects — for example, how we prepare young men and women for the workforce, in terms of both education and the values we assign to labor. Whether you work with a computer (that'd be me) or power tools, Shop Class as Soulcraft will get you asking important questions about what you put into your job and, maybe more importantly, what your job gives back.


It's about time someone turned this subject into a great book. As the subtitle suggests, Schaffer found no lack of material in the crazy (and perhaps uncomfortably familiar?) world of American dog ownership. He brings an ideal blend of wit and insight to the task.

How We Assembled Indiespensable #9

[Editor's note (to the uninitiated): Every volume of Indiespensable includes a letter describing the process by which Powell's staff settled upon its contents. The latest installment was shipped to subscribers today. Learn more about our exceedingly popular subscription program here. (And sign up before #10 sells out!)]

Dear Indiespensable subscribers,

Have you tasted the chocolate yet?

What are you waiting for? Never mind this post; we won't be offended. True, a cup of coffee would indeed complement those delectables. Or a glass of red wine. My, what patience you have! The samples in our office disappeared faster than it's taken to type this paragraph.

Oh, but there are books in the box, too.

Christine Gillespie at Knopf told Dave about Sunnyside way back in October. She gave him a manuscript and shared Glen's idea for turning the novel's first section into the colorful, custom hardcover in your possession. (Careful of smearing that chocolate.)

We loved Glen's idea (and his novel), but we figured that subscribers should hear about his thought process, too. So we asked him: Could you give our readers that same background? And he did.

However, ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #8

Dear Indiespensable subscribers,

Erika Goldman, the editorial director at Bellevue Literary Press, was the second person to read Tinkers (after Booker Prize winner Barry Unsworth, one of Paul Harding's instructors at Iowa). Erika fell for the book immediately.

"For her to immediately say, 'This is the cover I want to use for it,'" Harding remembers, "that was a good sign. And then, even better news: When I saw the cover she wanted to use, I thought, Jesus, that reminds me of what I wrote!"

At Powell's, Megan read Tinkers first, an advance copy she'd scored from Bob Harrison, our Consortium rep. With high praise, Megan passed it on to Jill, whose reaction proved much the same. Next in line, Dave agreed, yes, what an impressive novel, and a debut no less, by an unknown author, from a tiny publisher we didn't even know. The exact format of our custom edition changed first this way and then that way during production; we're thrilled with the final product. We hope you are, too.

A wholphin is a cross between a whale and a dolphin. Now you know. The DVD magazine called Wholphin is yet one more kick-ass spawn ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #7

[Editor's Note: Each new edition of Indiespensable arrives with a note that explains, sometimes in a roundabout way, how its items came to be selected by Powell's staff. Our subscription club's seventh installment ships on December 4. Here, we offer the note as a sneak preview.]

The goal: to spoil you this holiday season with as much excellent and diverse writing as possible, by familiar authors and new discoveries, as well. And to support four great literary periodicals while we're at it.

Indiespensable, Volume 7

On the corner of NW 26th Avenue and Thurman Street stands a tin house — the headquarters of Portland's so-named, award-winning journal. It's just up the hill from the warehouse.

An odd coincidence: Lee Montgomery, author of The Things between Us and the Books Editor at Tin House, grew up down the street from Dave (Powell's Dave, we mean), in Framingham, Massachusetts. She lived in the red house at the corner of Winch and Grove. The two didn't meet, however, until many years later, in Oregon.

But here's where things get truly weird: Joanna Yas, the editor of Open City, grew up about


The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror

Please, Santa, come back from the dead! World-class satirist Christopher Moore is here just in time for the holidays.

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