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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.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.

Finally, all the circus talk had us salivating for caramel corn. So, from Salted Caramel — the Chicago-based company "where sweet meets savory" — we include a bag of their irresistibly tasty Smoked Pecan Bourbon Caramel Corn. We're happy to share the sweet, sticky — and literary — magic.

÷ ÷ ÷

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. The Night Circus
    Used Hardcover $10.50

13 Responses to "How We Assembled Indiespensable #29"

    Juliet October 3rd, 2011 at 8:44 am

    A terrible disappointment. Indiespensable, you gave us Tinkers and Instructions, Stitches and Lemon Cake. And now this, a book even my 10-year-old found flat and lifeless. The most magical thing about it was the cover design. The popcorn included in the package was better crafted. There have been some misses before now, books that didn't appeal to me due to my taste as a reader, but nothing before could be simply categorized as a Very Bad Book.

    Diane Yannick October 4th, 2011 at 6:37 am

    This was my first Indiespensable order and I LOVED it. I was entranced by Night Circus and wouldn't have picked it on my own. I look forward to reading The Vanishers. Your shipment was thoughtful and more than I ever expected. I can't wait for the next one. A treat I'm glad I bought myself.

    Katherine October 4th, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I agree with Juliet. The Night Circus got a lot of hype and it just did not deliver. The circus was an interesting world, but the characters inhabiting it were flat, dull and predictable. Fortunately the ARC included in the package was very interesting - so not all together a bad package.

    Cynthia Towle October 12th, 2011 at 8:42 am

    I agree with Katherine. Beautiful packaging, but the story didn't interest me. I hear that that Audible version by Jim Dale (did all of the Harry Potters) is magical.

    KatherineW October 12th, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    I loved this book. It made me fall in love with circuses again. Katherine Dunn did it with Geek Love and Sara Gruen did it with Water for Elephants. I carried it around for days not wanting to finish it and when I did the characters stayed with me for the next week. I don't often read books again but this one I will.

    Judy Ness October 25th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Had an interesting conversation with a university store book buyer at the PNBA Fall Tradeshow last week. We both loved "The Night Circus." We noted that the published reviews were polarized. Indiespensible reader's opinions, from the posts, seem to be as divergent. I was so into the world created in this novel, it makes me wonder if there is "get it" factor. You either do or you don't. Interesting. The ARC (The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits) that was included was creepy, but so close to Halloween, why not?

    Julie October 31st, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    "it makes me wonder if there is "get it" factor."

    As someone else who didn't like "The Night Circus," this type of comment infuriates me. It implies that those of us who don't like the book are too dumb to "get it." Trust me, I'm smart enough, and well-read enough, to "get" any book. In this case, there's nothing much to get. I though it was an extremely slow-moving book with shallow characters and a flimsy "love story."

    Count me among those who was initially excited about this book but ultimately disappointed. I feel like Powell's allowed the hype to get the better of them this time around.

    Lacenaire November 3rd, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    You should have overrun Gerry's defense. The book is weak. To criticize it in any detail, and I have many complaints, is to give it too much credit. It's just not worth the time. This choice is a blemish on an otherwise winning track record.

    Jenn Young November 29th, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Wow, for all of you who hated it feel free to email me @ I am interested in purchasing your slipcased signed copy of The Night Circus.


    Sara December 6th, 2011 at 7:55 am

    I would also happily buy anyone's unwanted Night Circus slipcase edition. I loved it for all the descriptions and images conjured up by the words. Stitches and Lemon Cake are certainly great books, too. If you're interested in off-loading your Night Circus: Thanks!

    Suzanne December 24th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    The trend continues in our book club. I LOVED the book as did some others in the club...then there were those that HATED it. No one was in between. It definitely is a "get it" book. Doesn't mean your dumb or not well read, just means you get what this book is about. Absolutely a beautifully written and thought out book. I feel bad for those that didn't "get it".

    Clarence January 26th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I certainly "got it". It was plotless, charmless, and about as full of magic as the local ads that appear on our diner's paper placemats. However, my main question is whether or not Ms. Morgenstern had an editor look at the manuscript at any point before before printing. Nearly every page needs a touch of color from a blue pencil.
    'The Vanishers', on the other hand, was a very pleasant surprise. Thanks, Indie folks, for providing an alternate.

    Julie February 10th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    "Absolutely a beautifully written and thought out book. I feel bad for those that didn't "get it".

    The superiority complex of some of the people who liked this book is astounding to me. I did not find it beautifully written, and for the life of me I cannot figure out what is well thought out about it. The plot was a complete afterthought and the author has admitted as much. Don't feel bad for me--I've had plenty of amazing reading experiences in my life. This just wasn't one of them. Or if you like, feel bad for me that I wasted precious time on a book that absolutely wasn't worth it.

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