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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).

Old-school Indiespensable subscribers will find a familiar name in this box — way back in volume 5, we featured Miriam Toews's fantastic novel The Flying Troutmans. Now we're pleased to include an advance copy of her forthcoming book, Irma Voth, which describes Irma's life in a Mennonite outpost in Mexico, where she tangles with a documentary film crew, local drug running, and the limits and loyalties of family. Publishers Weekly calls it "an intimate coming-of-age tale with picaresque and extremely effective prose."

And, finally, we were overcome with delight when we found out about Lucky Peach, the new food quarterly from McSweeney's and Momofuku's James Beard Award-winning chef David Chang. We're excited to present you with "Issue One: Ramen." Feast your eyes on recipes from some of our favorite foodies, a ramen taste test with Ruth Reichl, an explanation of MSG headaches from Harold McGee, and much more. We think Indiespensable #27 is packed with great summer reading; let the sunbathing, escaping, and drooling commence.

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A collective of high muckamucks, the Panjandrums largely spend their time in competitive Bananagram duels and negotiations regarding Pie Friday — not to mention painstakingly designing each installment of Powell's subscription club, Indiespensable, with the help of independent publishers and local merchants. From time to time, they find it entertaining to give you a look at the hows and whys behind the what. But, if you're yearning for more, send questions, suggestions, and random anecdotes to (They especially like stories about pets, babies, and pie fillings.)

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Bel Canto: A Novel
    Used Trade Paper $6.95
  2. The Patron Saint of Liars
    Used Trade Paper $6.50
  3. State of Wonder
    Used Hardcover $6.50
  4. The Flying Troutmans
    Used Trade Paper $10.50

6 Responses to "How We Assembled Indiespensable #27"

    cwmiller June 28th, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I love this program, but even more than the Aimee Bender pick, Harper? I expected a book I might not have heard of, or that would have been getting less attention, or that I would have been excited had found your attention. The new Ann Patchett from Harper was underwhelming.

    Gwen Dawson July 10th, 2011 at 5:24 am

    I also love Indiespensable, but I have to agree with cwmiller. I am always hoping Indiespensable will introduce me to new works that aren't getting the attention they deserve rather than blockbuster novels that everyone's heard about. Even so, this is one of my favorite Indiespensable shipments so far because of the inclusion of the Lucky Peach issue. Thanks for introducing me to this quirky, irreverent, and very entertaining food magazine.

    Wireframe Monster July 15th, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Dear indiespensable,
    Every time I get that special little package in the mail my heart lights up with excitement almost more than it does for juice boxes and kiddie combos from the movie theater. I think that the choices made for #27 were great. We got a well know author AND a lesser known unpublished book. I adore those. Its like I'm being let in on a little secret before everyone else, and the magazine was so much fun. I'm a college student and I have to eat ramen quite a bit and now I have all new ways to spice them up. I also really enjoyed reading the interview with Ann Patchett. It buttered me up and made my mouth water for her novel which I am current engrossed in. So thanks Indiespensble. I love you guys.

    cd July 18th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I dearly loved the excellent perks and surprises of Indiespensable, but discontinued my subscription because I just got tired of getting the same tired, uninspired blockbusters from major publishers. Though Powells claims to give special attention to independent publishers, half of the last year's selection came from major publishers, and the independents they showcased displayed depressing homogeneity (all from Grove, McSweeney's, Graywolf or Norton). The first year of Indiespensable showed such an amazingly creative variety, from The Twin to Tinkers--the fact that those books went on to win prizes might have demonstrated that Indiespensable was on to something. But after a year of Franzen, Bender, and Patchett, I'm tired of getting blockbuster junk thrown at me for $40 a shipment.

    DeniseB July 19th, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I love ALL of the selections and goodies that come with your Indie packages!! I really do like getting a signed 1st edition from major and unknown authors. The Indiespensable package is my favorite mail of all!! Keep up the good work you book wizards!!

    DeniseB July 19th, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Plus, I loved receiving the Miriam Toews book in this last package. What a treat, two novels by two great authors!!

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