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Archive for the 'Indiespensable' Category

How We Assembled Indiespensable #25

We'd love to say that we were reading Andre Dubus III before he was big. But, we'll admit that, like most of the country, we discovered him when he published his beautiful, heart-wrenching third book. Finalist for the National Book Award, #1 New York Times-bestseller, BookSense Book of the Year, and (last but not least) Oprah Book Club selection, House of Sand and Fog established Dubus as a writer to watch. It certainly grabbed our attention.

So, when we received Townie, Dubus's page-turning memoir, we thought, Hmm... Indiespensable? After reading it, we were sure. As Jill put it, "I have loved all his books. But Townie is better. It's astonishingly good." And Kim advised, "Don't miss this unforgettable book!"

For further enthusiasm, look to Dubus's fellow writers:

The best first-person account of an author's life I have ever read....I sincerely believe Andre Dubus III may be the best writer in America. His talent is enormous. No one who reads this book will ever forget it." —James Lee Burke, author of the Dave Robicheaux novels

"I've never read a better or more


How We Assembled Indiespensable #24

Author Hannah Pittard completely charmed us. Working with her on this Indiespensable installment was almost as enjoyable as reading her stunning debut, The Fates Will Find Their Way.

We're thrilled to present her work in a unique custom slipcase that is as beautiful as the book cover. And, it's high time that we lavish some praise on our own graphic designer, Lenore, who works with the book-jacket artists to create these works of art to complement each selection.

Megan, whose interview with Pittard you'll find on the enclosed author cards, was thoroughly enamored with the "melodic, purposeful prose" of the story.

But she wasn't the only one; it also received high praise from other authors:

[A] bold, wise, magical, and authentic novel about youthful infatuation and its legacy. Hannah Pittard's beautifully confident prose is sure to make readers look back on their own teenage years with fresh wonder.

— Vendela Vida, author of The Lovers

The Fates Will Find Their Way is simply tremendous — a beautiful, roving, restless and relentless exploration of a crime. It would


How We Assembled Indiespensable #23

When presented with what looked like a mountain of a novel, we were admittedly a little apprehensive. Not for long.

Mere pages in, Jill was lavishing praise on Adam Levin’s debut. Once through it, she didn’t stop, going on to say:

The Instructions is awe-inspiring. Addictively quotable, violently funny, insanely intelligent, and utterly compelling, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, in the best possible way. Read this book. You’ll savor every word on its thousand-plus pages.

We did. And so did the New York Observer:

This is a life-consuming novel, one that demands to be read feverishly. When it is over, other fiction feels insufficient, the newspaper seems irrelevant...

We were thrilled when McSweeney’s suggested printing an edition just for our subscribers — the cover design is unique, and they also created a special Indiespensable copyright page. Adam Levin was happy to sign these exclusive editions and to talk to Jill about his first novel. You’ll find her interview (during which Levin was charming, self-deprecating, and funny, even while his parrot squawked vociferously throughout) on the ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #22

When Graywolf sent us advance reader copies of The Wilding, Benjamin Percy's debut novel, they had our attention. We were excited to read a local author's work (Percy grew up in Bend, Oregon) set very close to home. Some of us had read and loved Percy's prize-winning story collection, Refresh, Refresh, and once we started The Wilding, we were all hooked.

Kim read the book in record time, pulled in by the suspenseful and gripping story, although she doesn't suggest reading the book after dark, unless the windows and doors are locked. And you're armed with a club or baseball bat. And, as far as camping is concerned... Well, it may take a while to get her back in the woods.

Antonya Nelson, award-winning author of Bound, raves:

The Wilding is a tour de force meditation and treatise on the nature of violence, the violence of nature, man in the wild, and the wild in man — cleverly disguised as a page-turning adventure. Not just a "must" read, but a need read,


How We Assembled Indiespensable #21

When The Corrections came out in 2001, Jonathan Franzen was lauded for writing the literary phenomenon of the decade. Almost 10 years passed without another novel.

Then, early this summer, we received advanced reading copies of Freedom. We tried not to get our hopes up. The Corrections had won the National Book Award, was a finalist for the Pulitzer, and even caught the mighty Oprah's attention. But, lightning rarely strikes twice — topping an incredibly well-received work of fiction seldom yields the desired result.

It turns out we shouldn't have worried. Freedom is a jaw-dropping feat of literature.

Jill says:

Franzen has surpassed the achievements of The Corrections. Freedom examines every major theme in American life — politics, class, work, culture, and sex, to name a few — through the lens of one stubborn, fascinating, wholly believable family. The best novel yet this year.

Hype or no hype, we love this book for what it is: a tremendously well-executed novel.

Speaking of mesmerizing displays of literary aptitude, we're also ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #20

When Out Stealing Horses was released in the U.S. a few years ago, Norwegian writer Per Petterson enchanted an entirely new audience with his moving and spare prose. So, when Graywolf Press presented us with his new novel, I Curse the River of Time, as an Indiespensable title, we were thrilled. Time asserts, "Reading a Petterson novel is like falling into a northern landscape painting — all shafts of light and clear palpable chill." Indeed. Jill, who was particularly struck by the beauty of the language, calls Petterson's latest "an extraordinary exploration of politics, philosophy, the nature of love, and the question of how to live a good life."

We were lucky enough to talk with Per Petterson at some length, via the wonders of the internet, at his home in Norway. Subscribers received the interview, lovingly reproduced in it's entirety, on a set of our collectible author cards. (You can read Gin's interview with Per here.)

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How We Assembled Indiespensable #19

With her deeply affecting and magical style, Aimee Bender is truly an original voice. She has a large and devoted (okay, possibly rabid) following here at Powell's, so, of course, we were thrilled at the prospect of featuring her new novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, as our 19th Indiespensable selection. Entertainment Weekly declares — and we wholeheartedly agree — " To curl up with an Aimee Bender story is to thank heaven you ever learned to read in the first place ."

Jill read Lemon Cake first, calling it "an incredibly poignant and unique coming-of-age story that you won't be able to put down. My favorite book of the year so far." Kim and Megan loved it, as well, and with the kind cooperation of Doubleday, Bender's publisher, we designed our brightest and most eye-catching slipcase ever (primary colors!). Jill's interview with Bender, which you'll find in the included author cards, left us even more enamored, if that was even possible. (Editor's note: Read the interview with Aimee Bender here.)

How We Assembled Indiespensable #18

(Editor's Note: While this installment is sold out, we do have signed first editions available for purchase here.)

Indiespensable Volume 18 features Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist, and we'll admit it: the title grabbed us. It also helped that Dan, our publisher rep at Norton, gushed about the book (and Dan's not known for excessive gushing). Our hunches were further confirmed when Megan came back from Winter Institute, an independent booksellers conference held in January, with the news that Polygamist was one of the most buzzed about there. Heidi and Kim first read and raved about all 500+ pages, and we were sold. We're thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Norton again, since we had such a great experience creating a special edition of David Small's beautiful graphic memoir Stitches for Volume 13. (See that volume here).

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly raved:

A superb performance....Udall's polished storytelling and sterling cast of perfectly realized and flawed characters make this a serious contender for Great American Novel status.

We were so curious about the story behind this remarkable family saga that Jill caught up with ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #17

As eclectic as we'd like to think we are, no one on the Indiespensable team considers themselves an avid reader of war novels. Don't get us wrong, there are incredible books about war — but "war novel" is a loaded term with a certain stigma that sometimes puts off readers. That said, once we read Matterhorn, stereotypes shattered. It's a genre bender and, above all else, an extremely impressive piece of literature.

Karl Marlantes spent 30 years writing Matterhorn, his debut novel, and it seems the critics overwhelmingly agree with us that the final product is nothing short of brilliant.

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly raves:

A decorated Vietnam veteran, [Marlantes] clearly understands his playing field...and by examining both the internal and external struggles of the battalion, he brings a long, torturous war back to life with realistic characters and authentic, thrilling combat sequences....[A] grand, distinctive accomplishment.

How We Assembled Indiespensable #16

At times, we've used Indiespensable to highlight relatively unknown writers we sense we'll be hearing quite a bit about in the future — like David Wroblewski, Paul Harding, and Gil Adamson, to name a few.

We don't have to tell you who Louise Erdrich is. She's had a long, successful career, which has included dozens of award-winning books, including Plague of Doves, a Pulitzer Prize finalist. So why feature her now? Because Shadow Tag is unlike anything she's done; it's a remarkable, deeply personal novel that ranks among her best work and confirms her legacy as one of the greatest living American writers.

Shadow Tag follows the domestic drama surrounding the marriage of Irene, a historian struggling to complete her doctorial thesis, and Gil, an artist who gained notoriety through a series of boundary-pushing portraits of Irene. When Irene discovers that Gil has been reading her diary (a red-covered journal), she uses it to manipulate him and records the truth about her marriage in another journal (one with a blue cover) that she keeps in a safe-deposit box. With unsparing prose, ...

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