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Archive for the 'Indiespensable' Category

How We Assembled Indiespensable #32

When we started Stephen Dau's debut novel, The Book of Jonas, we were impressed. (Kim, Michal, and Jill all raved about the beauty of the language within the first 10 pages.) And by the time we got to the end, we were more than impressed: we were moved to tears by Jonas's story.

Jonas is a 15-year-old boy from an unnamed Muslim country, orphaned by an American military attack on his village. Through a charitable organization, he is sent to the United States to live in Pittsburgh, with a host family, and grows up divided between his present life and his past memories. Jonas's story is interwoven with the stories of Christopher, a missing American soldier who may have saved Jonas's life, and Rose, Christopher's mother, who is trying to make sense of her own life after Christopher's disappearance. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews wrote, "Dau's novel offers deeply resonating truths about war and culture, about family and loss that only art can reveal. A literary tour de force."

How We Assembled Indiespensable #31

Happy 2012! We're looking forward to another year filled with literary wonder. So far, 2012 has found us rekindling our Indiespensable relationship with Algonquin Books. Algonquin, an independent (and Southern!) publisher, is beloved by authors, readers, and booksellers alike for their hand-picked gems that other houses might overlook. We had the perfect opportunity to work with them again when Naomi Benaron's debut novel, Running the Rift, blew us away.

Running the Rift is the story of Jean Patrick Nkuba, a boy growing up in Rwanda before and during the genocide. He plans to become an Olympic runner, hoping that that might secure some measure of safety for his family and people. As Benaron says in her interview: "[T]his isn't a just book about genocide. It's about what human beings can do to each other. But it's also, more importantly, about how humans rise above what is done. It's about the strength of the human spirit. It's not a book of graphic violence; it's a book of beauty. I hope, anyway. " Barbara Kingsolver awarded Running the Rift the Bellwether Prize, which ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #30

Jeffrey Eugenides hit the ground running with his first novel in 1993. Not only did The Virgin Suicides receive rave reviews and go on to be made into a critically acclaimed movie by Sofia Coppola, it also possessed that rare, intangible quality that garners certain particularly visceral novels an enduring cult following. Nine years later, his second book, Middlesex, achieved more traditional markers of success. It received the Pulitzer Prize and was selected by Oprah for her book club, virtually guaranteeing it would become a bestseller (which it did) — and it continues to be a Powell's favorite among staff and customers.

Obviously, Eugenides' next book would have a lot to live up to. And we're here to say, it succeeded. As Publishers Weekly put it, "[The Marriage Plot] so impressively, ambitiously breaks the mold of its predecessor that it calls for the founding of a new prize to recognize its success both as a novel — and as a Jeffrey Eugenides novel."

Very different in scope and scale than Middlesex, The Marriage Plot centers on ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #29

When we first heard about Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus from our head buyer, Gerry, we were skeptical. It sounded a bit fantastical for our sensibilities. But his defense was swift. "I don't usually read books about... well, circuses," he said, "or books that could be described as magical or romantic. But this one is an exception to the rule. Read it. It's amazing." We promptly complied and then thanked Gerry profusely. We were bewitched. At Book Expo America in June, it became apparent that booksellers from across the country felt the same way. And the critics haven't been far behind; in a starred review, Publishers Weekly raved, "Debut author Morgenstern doesn't miss a beat in this smashing tale of greed, fate, and love set in a turn-of-the-20th-century circus....[A] giant, magical story destined for bestsellerdom. This is an electric debut." We're also excited to include Megan's interview with Erin Morgenstern, wherein the author admits, "It's funny, everything anyone ever told me never happened to debut authors is happening to me."

Jill was also charmed by a very early advance reader's copy that seemed to be a good fit with The Night Circus — it has magic, darkness, whimsy, and flat-out great writing. The Vanishers, by acclaimed novelist and Believer editor Heidi Julavits, is the remarkable story of Julia, a student, at an elite institute for psychics, who is attacked (psychically, but with devastating physical effects) by her one-time mentor. At the same time, she's also trying to unravel the mystery of her mother's life. The Vanishers is original, whip-smart, and extremely funny, and not due out until March of next year — so you can enjoy it a full six months before the rest of the world does.

How We Assembled Indiespensable #28

Something has happened. You can always tell. You come to and find wreckage: a smashed lamp, a devastated human face that shivers on the verge of being recognizable. Occasionally someone in uniform: a paramedic, a nurse. A hand extended with a pill. Or poised to insert a needle.

From the first paragraph of Alice LaPlante's debut novel, Turn of Mind, we were hooked (Jill and Heidi both finished it in one evening). It's true that it's a literary mystery, a devastatingly poetic depiction of Alzheimer's, and a family drama, but as the New York Times Book Review says,

[T]o call Turn of Mind a thriller -- or a chronicle of illness, or a saga of friendship for that matter -- would confine it to a genre it transcends. This is a portrait of an unstable mind, an expansive, expertly wrought imagining of memory's failures and potential....[H]aunting and original.

In choosing Turn of Mind, we once again had the pleasure of working with independent publisher Grove/Atlantic (who you may remember published Matterhorn, from volume 17) to ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #27

A mysterious death leads a pharmaceutical scientist deep into the Amazon jungle in search of her enigmatic former mentor, who's there doing research on a tribe in which the women can bear children well into their 70s. This compelling premise in the astonishingly capable hands of Ann Patchett, a master of literary page-turners, made State of Wonder our obvious choice for a summer Indiespensable pick. Jill and Megan devoured it first, and then the rest of the team caught Patchett fever. It's had the critics swooning, too: "Patchett makes the jungle jump off the page....This is Patchett's best effort since The Patron Saint of Liars and, yes, that includes Bel Canto" (Shelf Awareness); "[A] superbly rendered novel....powerful and captivating" (Library Journal, starred review); "[F]luid and remarkably atmospheric prose" (Booklist).

How We Assembled Indiespensable #26

Since Indiespensable's inception, we've wanted to do a box with Portland-based publisher Tin House.

We've been impressed with their amazing literary journals since they began over a decade ago. In 2005 they launched as an independent press, publishing books of stellar quality and with an emphasis on debut authors, which makes them exactly the kind of publisher Indiespensable was designed to highlight.

Plus, well, they're our neighbors! Their offices are only a few blocks away from ours. When we had a graphics question, it was easier to just dash up the street and take a look in person than to email countless files back and forth. You can't get much more local than that.

So, when Jill read Bright before Us (part of Tin House's New Voice series), she said, "This is the one." She was eager for someone else to read it, not just to see if it worked for Indiespensable, but to be able to talk (or even argue) about it — it's that kind of novel. Megan and Kim loved it too, and a happy partnership with Tin House was born.

We can't argue with Amy Hempel, one of our favorite writers, who called ...

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 ...

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