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Archive for the 'Indiespensable' Category

How We Assembled Indiespensable #40

When we read Matt Bell's debut novel, our first thought was, Wow! Our second thought was, Indiespensable. Books like this are why we created a subscription club in the first place. We wanted a venue to promote those titles we would stake our reputation on but that might need a boost to reach the audience they deserved, hence the focus on independent presses, small print runs, and first-time authors. We'll concede that In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods is not an easy book. It's certainly difficult to describe, though Lauren Groff (Arcadia) came pretty close when she called it "a big, slinking, dangerous fairy tale, the kind with gleaming fangs and blood around the muzzle and a powerful heart you can hear thumping from miles away." But it is well worth the effort. Once you sink your teeth in, we're confident you'll love it as much as we did.

How We Assembled Indiespensable #39

The moment we opened Anthony Marra's brutal, beautiful debut novel about an orphaned Chechnyan girl hiding from the Russians during the country's recent decade of war, we knew that for once our choice would be easy. Maile Meloy perfectly captured our experience: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is "both devastating and transcendent....You'll finish it transformed." One colleague was even more succinct, saying simply, "Gorgeous. Just gorgeous!"

Also included is an advance reader copy of another remarkable debut about a young woman enduring trying circumstances, this time the Scottish juvenile justice system. Written by Jenni Fagan, one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, The Panopticon was first published in Britain last year, and it earned review after review lavish with enthusiasm. Irvine Welsh said: "The term 'stunning debut novel' doesn't even begin to cover The Panopticon. Each page sparkles with the ebullient and sinister magic of great storytelling....An utterly magnificent achievement." The Panopticon won't be available to American readers until July, so you, Indiespensable subscribers, are among the first to get your hands on this extraordinary novel.

Finally, we've included a limited-edition Klean Kanteen stainless steel pint. It's beautiful, sits comfortably in the hand, and is nearly indestructible. You'll never have to read thirsty again!






How We Assembled Indiespensable #38

From the opening pages of Domenica Ruta's memoir about her chaotic childhood with her flamboyant, contradictory mother, her own eventual descent into addiction, and her painful journey back to health, we knew we had to get this book into as many hands as possible. With or Without You may delve into a good deal of anguish, but it is a joy to read.

Ruta looks back on her tumultuous life through shrewd eyes, fiercely unsentimental and unflinchingly honest. Yet throughout, her voice remains wryly playful:

I didn't have many friends growing up; then I hit puberty and things got even worse. Here begins my angry phase, the self-centered, quietly homicidal years, that special hiccup of time between my first bra and my first joint.

Ruta's real triumph, however, is in portraying her raucous, exasperating family members as sympathetic, if flawed, human beings. This takes imagination, unwavering self-examination, and determined honesty. But more importantly, it takes genuine heart, which is what ultimately elevates With or Without You. As Kathryn Harrison observes, "Difficult childhoods are plentiful, the talent to transform adversity into art in short supply." That talent is evident on every page.

How We Assembled Indiespensable #37

We love the Scots. Kate Atkinson, Iain Banks, Alasdair Gray... The country regularly produces writers with a penchant for black humor and a delicious turn of phrase. So we weren't entirely surprised when we were drawn into Lisa O'Donnell's debut novel from its arresting first sentences. The Death of Bees is the macabre — and hilarious — coming-of-age story of two young sisters, Marnie and Nelly, who we first encounter as they're burying their parents in the backyard. The novel contains a sort of murder-mystery, but at heart it's an exploration of family and community — those we're born with and those we choose to create. Alison Espach, author of The Adults, raves, "The Death of Bees is completely addictive. A beautiful and darkly funny story of two sisters building a fantasy within a nightmare." We agree, and we're proud to have chosen The Death of Bees as our Indiespensable Volume #37.

How We Assembled Indiespensable #36

After J. Robert Lennon's last two books, Castle and Pieces for the Left Hand, the New York Times Book Review wrote, "Over the last decade, J. Robert Lennon's literary imagination has grown increasingly morbid, convoluted and peculiar — just as his books have grown commensurately more surprising, rigorous and fun." We agree (especially about that second part). Lennon's new novel, Familiar, is his most remarkable, unusual, and moving to date.

Familiar is an eerie, riveting exploration of identity and meaning. Elisa Brown is driving back from visiting her son's grave when, in an instant, everything changes. She finds herself in a different car, wearing different clothes — in a different life! In this strange parallel world, both her sons are alive and her relationship with her husband has dramatically changed. In lucid, intelligent prose, Lennon chronicles with page-turning urgency Elisa's struggle to understand what has happened, who she is, and what she can do — or wants to do — about this ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #35

We've loved John Brandon for quite a while now. He caught our attention with Arkansas, his debut novel, and when the bleak, haunting Citrus County came out last year, we shivered and marveled in equal measure. So, when we heard from our friends at McSweeney's about his third novel, A Million Heavens, we hoped that maybe this was the time to introduce him to our Indiespensable subscribers. Once we got through our advance copies, we were sure of it.

A Million Heavens showcases Brandon's deadpan, precise, and inventive language with an eerie, semi-magical story and lots of fascinatingly flawed characters — though they're not quite as dark as the characters in Citrus County. As Brandon says in his interview with Jill, "It was obvious to me while I was writing [the new book] that these were better people, people you'd more like to know in real life." The characters in A Million Heavens struggle with loss, music, and the concept of innocence, including ...

How We Assembled Indiespensable #34

From start to finish, The Age of Miracles had us mesmerized.

Faced with the everyday insecurities and turmoil of adolescence, 11-year-old Julia wakes one morning to the mysterious news that the earth's rotation is growing markedly slower each day. Repercussions of the slowing manifest dramatically: people suffer from a multitude of physical and mental disorders, birds die off, and the rays of the sun become more and more intense. As the days lengthen, society tries to adapt. But relationships fracture, especially in the growing divide between people who adhere to the state-mandated "clock time" and those who try to maintain "real time" by staying awake for days and sleeping when darkness arrives again. With grace, intelligence, and startling realism, Karen Thompson Walker, in her haunting debut, creates a snapshot of a world changing beyond recognition.

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly writes,

While the apocalypse looms large — has in fact already arrived — the narrative remains fiercely grounded in the surreal and horrifying day-to-day and the personal decisions that persist even though no one knows what to do. A triumph of vision, language, and terrifying momentum,


How We Assembled Indiespensable #33

Leni Zumas's debut novel, The Listeners, hit us like a bolt of lightning. Arch, witty, intelligent, impressionistic, hypnotic, and above all dazzlingly written, we couldn't put this deeply moving and disquieting book down. Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask, raves, "Just listen to The Listeners. You'll hear the prose of one of our most exciting young writers. Zumas has already proven herself a remarkable maker of short stories. Now she has sustained and heightened the exhilaration of her writing in this striking novel." And Miranda July writes, "Leni Zumas understands your quiet agony and describes it with such wry, unflinching familiarity that even the gory details ring true." So, together with our neighbors, independent publisher Tin House Books, we created an exclusive hardcover edition of The Listeners (with an embossed purple octopus on the cover, which is probably our favorite detail). And Leni (which, by the way, is pronounced laynee), who's a local author, was wonderfully funny and gracious when she came in to sign our books.

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 ...

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