Indiespensable Past Installments
Volume 84: Little Gods by Meng Jin
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of Little Gods by Meng Jin
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Meng Jin
- An advance reader copy of Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
- Woodblock Chocolate bars, in signature double origin and milk
In Meng Jin’s stunning debut novel, characters are able to choose their future and change their past through sheer determination. Little Gods centers on the recently deceased Su Lan, whose story is told from the perspectives of the three people who knew her well: her former neighbor, her estranged husband, and her only child. Through their stories, they reveal an enigmatic woman with a laser-like focus on erasing her past — one who overcame poverty and hardship in the countryside outside Hangzhou to become a brilliant physicist in Beijing; gave birth during the Tiananmen Square massacre; and immigrated to the United States as a single mother. Her daughter Liya’s quest to bring her ashes home reveals the people and relationships forever changed by Su Lan’s presence, and the impact, on all, of the things she chose to hide. We’re excited to feature this enthralling novel as Volume 84 of Indiespensable.
Cherie Dimaline’s forthcoming Empire of Wild follows Joan, who has been searching for her missing husband for a year. When he suddenly reappears as a preacher with a new name and no recognition of Joan or their shared past, Joan must lean on her family and the Métis stories she never believed to be true to extricate her husband from forces both evil and supernatural. Described by Tommy Orange as “tough, funny, beautiful, honest and propulsive — all the while telling a story that needs to be told by a person who needs to be telling it,” we’re so pleased to include an advance reader copy of Empire of Wild — a startling novel about the bonds we create, and the truth in our shared mythology.
The only thing better than curling up with a good book is curling up with a good book and good chocolate. We’re so excited to include local Woodblock Chocolate in this installment! Their signature double origin bar is a dark chocolate dream, and their milk chocolate brings out surprising depth in its sweet notes.
Volume 83: The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Ben Lerner
- An advance reader copy of Eden Mine by S. M. Hulse
- Powell's Chevron Patch
Set in the Topeka, Kansas, of the late nineties, Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School shifts through time and a range of perspectives to tell the coming-of-age story of high school debate champion Adam Gordon, his family, and Darren, a local teen outcast. Adam’s parents work at The Foundation, an insular mental health institute, where his father works with troubled boys like Darren and his mother is frequently targeted for her celebrated career as a feminist scholar. The novel explores the ways American conceptions of masculinity loop through the characters’ life stories, bringing inherited behavioral patterns into sharp relief. Lerner plays with form and language — borrowing questions from the staff at The Foundation, transcripts from home videos and recordings, and the point-scoring rubric for high school debate — highlighting the ways personal patterns, memories, and cultural conditions can make actions feel inevitable instead of chosen. Lerner’s insightful prose shows how horrific truths, like the act of violence hanging over the novel, are built and revealed within communities and individuals. We are excited to present this timely and sophisticated novel as Volume 83 of Indiespensable.
We're also pleased to include an advance reader copy of Eden Mine, the forthcoming novel by S. M. Hulse, author of the award-winning Black River. In lucid, graceful prose, Hulse tells the story of a small town in Montana shaken by an act of domestic terrorism. Hulse's descriptions of the West and love of the land and its inhabitants are reminiscent of Molly Gloss, who praises Eden Mine: "[A] luminous, deeply moving, insightful novel, abiding at the intersection of public politics and the most private of emotions."
We couldn't resist bringing this brightly colored, army-surplus-inspired Powell's patch back for a special Indiespensable run. The luminous colors of the open book design will brighten up even the dullest day.
Volume 82: The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Maaza Mengiste
- An advance reader copy of Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi
- Cloudforest Nest chocolate bar
From the opening pages of Maaza Mengiste’s monumental new novel, we sensed we had come across a remarkable book — one that would dramatically illuminate a place, people, and series of events grievously ignored in history books. The Shadow King takes a sweeping view of the invasion of Ethiopia by Fascist Italy — an atrocity generally known (if at all) as merely a footnote in the lead-up to World War II. The story unfolds through the perspective of a kaleidoscopic array of characters, including Ettore, an Italian Jew tasked with photographing the occupation; Kidane, a powerful Ethiopian fighter; Fucelli, a vengeful colonel in Mussolini’s army; and fierce Hirut and Aster, who step forward to mobilize Ethiopian women in supporting the resistance and, ultimately, take up arms themselves. Through these many viewpoints, The Shadow King weaves together the story of an epic struggle for power, one that, in foreshadowing the events to come in Europe, devolves into shocking brutality. But as difficult as it is to read at times, the operatic beauty of The Shadow King and its valiant warriors will leave you awestruck. We're so grateful to have read this unforgettable work, and we're thrilled to share it with you as our pick for Indiespensable Volume 82.
Poet Tishani Doshi brings us a precise and exquisitely observed novel in Small Days and Nights, about a woman named Grace who returns to India to set things in order after her mother’s death. Once there, Grace learns that not only has she inherited a coastline property, she must assume the role of ward of Lucia, an adult sibling she never knew she had. The two sisters’ deliberate yet haphazard approaches to life perfectly juxtapose the events that spring up from their new familial situation, creating rich territories both within and around them, and making this a book that’s difficult to put down. Because Small Days and Nights and The Shadow King share the same talented editor, Jill Bialosky, we know pairing the novels in this special box will provide a truly complementary reading experience.
We're delighted to share this delicious browned buttermilk chocolate bar from Cloudforest. Blended with warm spices and finished with a sprinkle of Oregon sea salt, the Nest bar has caramel and cookie flavor notes — comforting, cozy, and warm, like a welcoming nest in the woods.
Volume 81: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Colson Whitehead
- A trade paperback copy of The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
With a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award already on his list of achievements, Colson Whitehead gives us another literary groundbreaker with The Nickel Boys, a momentous work of fiction challenging every soul to search out the deep truths of the past. Opening in 1963 in Tallahassee, Florida, The Nickel Boys follows Elwood Curtis as he reflects back on his youth as an ambitious high school student whose bright future is horrifically redirected when an innocent error lands him in Nickel Academy, a reform school for boys. From there, we discover the abuses that await him and the other boys locked inside. Throughout his experiences, Elwood holds onto Martin Luther King Jr.’s words — “Throw us in jail and we will still love you....But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom.” — even as events draw to an inescapable climax. Based on the real Dozier School for Boys, a brutal reformatory that operated for over 100 years, Whitehead brings to life characters, a place, and a time crucial to understanding more fully the violent and criminal injustices of America’s past. We are honored to present The Nickel Boys as our selection for Indiespensable Volume 81.
We are delighted to pair The Nickel Boys with Colson Whitehead's acclaimed debut novel, The Intuitionist. A highly inventive novel, The Intuitionist follows the story of Lila Mae Watson, the first black female elevator inspector in a bustling metropolis, and a character you will absolutely love. Time magazine called The Intuitionist, "The freshest racial allegory since Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye." We were fortunate to hear Colson Whitehead speak at the AWP Conference in Portland this year, reflecting back on how his life in 1999 influenced the writing of The Intuitionist. We hope you enjoy reading The Intuitionist and The Nickel Boys side by side to experience the depth and range of his writing.
Volume 80: Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Kristen Arnett
- An advance reader copy of Divide My By Zero by Lara Vapnyar
- Barnwell Soap Company Basil Lime lip balm
Florida has long been the land of the weird, a place where humidity thickens the blood, strip clubs offer free flu shots, and an alarming number of zoo animals make the news. So it's the perfect setting for Kristen Arnett’s raucous debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, which follows a taxidermist in her late thirties as she tackles the messes left behind by her runaway lover — also her brother’s wife — and her father’s suicide. Faced with a struggling family business, a grieving mom with a penchant for BDSM art, a pseudo-murderous nephew, and a diet of cheap, flat beer, Jessa-Lynn tries to be her family’s source of stability and reason, only to come up time and again against her own emotional demons and the jointly comforting and disturbing eccentricities of her family and home state. Mostly Dead Things is the quintessential Floridian novel, hilariously strange and discomfiting, yet at the same time deeply human. We may not all have a dildo-wielding mom or a nephew with a dead pet habit, but as the mortifying, compassionate Mostly Dead Things makes clear — and every Florida headline attests — even the best of us have a tiny, gator-slinging maniac hidden deep inside, just waiting to stir shit up. We’re excited to present the fantastic Mostly Dead Things as Indiespensable Volume 80.
Lara Vapnyar's Divide Me by Zero is a unique and blackly funny novel. It's the story of Katya Geller, a Russian immigrant who, like her mother, has long seen the world through the lens of mathematics; now that she is processing both intense grief and deep love, her worldview threatens to crumble. Her life story and blunt voice are bizarre, honest, and captivating; Sigrid Nunez calls the novel "superb and poignant," and we think it's a great companion for Mostly Dead Things.
We're delighted to share with you the refreshing Basil Lime lip balm from Barnwell Soap Company. Barnwell is not only local, but helmed by Powell's employee Jared and his wife, Amy.
Volume 79: Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Valeria Luiselli
- Lantern Press Southwestern Wooden Postcards
- Splendid Blue Fountain Pen
In Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli documents an unnamed family's journey from New York to Arizona, to reach Apacheria, the region formerly inhabited by the Apache people. Each parent embarks on the trip with a different purpose: the father is considering permanent residence in the Southwest, and the mother plans to work on a project documenting childhood immigration. With the prospect of divorce hovering in the background, the parents and their two young children set off on a long cross-country drive into an uncertain future. Their winding story is told through introspective, journal-like entries that not only detail the characters’ progress towards Apacheria, and their many stops along the way, but also highlight the complex relationships within the family unit. An unfolding news story about refugee children provides another layer of stress and urgency to their travels. Lost Children Archive features a chorus of extremely rich and satisfying voices, voices that reach a crescendo as the family arrives at its destination. Luiselli’s timely message and original, heartfelt storytelling invite readers to step into the car and join the family’s journey. We are extremely proud to present Lost Children Archive as Indiespensable Volume 79.
In the spirit of "the perfect American road trip novel for right now" (Tommy Orange), we have included two wooden postcards from Lantern Press that depict the novel's Southwestern setting, along with a Splendid fountain pen. We hope they help you share dispatches from your own life and the world we find ourselves in, and connect with faraway friends and loved ones in a more personal way.
Volume 78: Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Tessa Hadley
- An advance reader copy of The Snakes by Sadie Jones
- Spielman Bagels Sea Salt Bagel Chips
Tessa Hadley’s new novel, Late in the Day, is an exquisitely precise portrait of four middle-aged friends and lovers whose fragile alliances are challenged by a premature death. Hadley has a unique talent for finding the right words for inexpressible sentiments, elevating a quiet story about ordinary people into something akin to cut crystal: precious, perfect, and with a clarity that sings. When the joyful Zachary dies suddenly, his widow, Lydia, and their closest friends, a married couple named Alec and Christine, are left to comfort one another and their children, a difficult situation both softened and made worse by the couples’ intimate histories. Late in the Day dips in and out of the characters’ lives beginning with primary school, but its chief preoccupation is examining the mental and emotional spaces of middle age — how marriages shift and settle, how much of our self-identity remains informed by youth — a narrative focus that we found rare and illuminating. With attendant themes of fine art, self-expression, and late-blooming desire, Late in the Day is riveting and beautifully crafted. We’re very happy to share it with you as Indispensable Volume 78.
Sadie Jones is a remarkable writer; her lyrical, precise prose, her sharp-eyed portrayals of class, and her incisive character portraits make her books a true pleasure to read. The Snakes might be Jones's most darkly beautiful novel yet. Dan and Bea, a recently married couple, visit Bea's ex-addict brother Alex, the caretaker of a hotel in France that he inherited from their extremely wealthy parents. Once they get there, however, mysteries and tragedies compound at a breakneck pace until the novel's extraordinary, unpredictable ending. We are proud to include this early edition of The Snakes for our Indiespensable subscribers.
Did you know that Portland has great bagels? Now even faraway subscribers can enjoy them — in chip form! Local favorite Spielman Bagels has teamed up with Portland’s Jacobsen Salt Co. for these truly addictive bagel chips.
Volume 77: A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with John Boyne
- A trade paperback copy of The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
- The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company Burnside Chai Tea Sample
Irish novelist John Boyne has been on our radar for years with such works as the searing young adult bestseller The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006) and, more recently, the masterful epic The Heart’s Invisible Furies (2017), which The Times Sunday Review described as “nothing less than the story of Ireland over the past 70 years.” Known for his ambitious narratives, Boyne shines a spotlight on ambition itself in his new book, A Ladder to the Sky. The suspenseful multi-act novel follows the trajectory of Maurice Swift, a writer whose life mission is to reach the pinnacle of literary glory. Employing a colorful mix of narrators and points of view, Boyne paints a portrait of a dangerous, amoral man who, aided by his striking good looks, quick wit, and knack for manipulation, finds success by exploiting other people’s talents in increasingly despicable ways. A Ladder to the Sky is as much about the characters that Maurice destroys on his way to the top as it is about the villain of the novel, and their tragic stories linger with us long after Maurice himself has abandoned them. With jabs at creative writing programs, the publishing world, and the literary elite, nothing is sacred in Boyne’s darkly humorous tour de force — we found ourselves laughing and gasping in equal measure. We also couldn’t bear to put the book down, and we hope you too find A Ladder to the Sky, our pick for Indiespensable Volume 77, to be an exhilarating read.
Cyril Avery's story starts before his birth, when his unwed mother is banished from her small Irish village, and sweeps through the following decades with epic force. Every character is deftly drawn, and the story is starkly brutal, darkly humorous, and downright heartbreaking. Cyril is adopted by a wealthy Dublin couple so eccentric and removed that they are constantly surprised to find him living in their house. When the beautiful and wayward Julian appears in Cyril’s life, he falls hopelessly in love and begins a lifelong pursuit of a half-realized ideal. A botched attempt at marriage, forays into seedy Amsterdam, and finding true love during the AIDS epidemic in NYC all follow. This is one heck of a big, fabulous book.
In celebration of the season, we are delighted to include a sampling of the limited production holiday blend, Burnside Chai, from our friends over at The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company.
Volume 76: She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Wayétu Moore
- An advance reader copy of The Silk Road by Kathryn Davis
- Albina City Nuts Honey Cardamom Almonds
An intoxicating blend of magical realism and history, She Would Be King reimagines the remarkable foundation story of Liberia. Three strangers, all survivors of colonial violence, use their unique powers to protect the fledgling nation from threats both within and without. Gbessa, Norman Aragon, and June Dey, along with a broad, marvelously written cast of characters drawn from British Jamaica, the American South, Europe, and the west coast of Africa, represent the many voices of and paths leading to the formation of independent Liberia. With a special emphasis on the roles of women in Liberian nationhood, and an unerring instinct for the unique dialects and governing ideologies of the many groups she writes about, Moore’s perceptive and completely riveting debut is an exciting addition to the emerging canon of 21st-century African literature. We are proud to present She Would Be King as Volume 76 of Indiespensable.
Kathryn Davis's newest novel, The Silk Road, is a deeply strange, deeply beautiful work that brings together the Astronomer, the Archivist, the Botanist, the Keeper, the Topologist, the Geographer, the Iceman, and the Cook on an enigmatic journey through an ever-changing landscape of time and space. It is unlike anything we've ever read, and it showcases Davis (a Guggenheim Fellow and Kafka Prize winner) at the height of her powers. Kelly Link raves, "A book so vertiginously strange and yet so lullingly beautiful, it falls upon the reader like the change of day to night. Like all of Kathryn Davis's books, The Silk Road induces a fugue state in the reader from which she emerges with reluctance." And Joy Williams calls it "[a] mysterious and wonderstruck work."
We're delighted to share with you Portland's own Albina City Nuts Honey Cardamom Almonds. Don't be fooled by the name — these tasty nuts are a savory treat with only a hint of sweetness. A perfect snack to pair with cozy fall reading.
Volume 75: The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Laura van den Berg
- An advance reader copy of Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima
- A Robot Candy Monstera coaster
Some books, rare ones, offer a hallucinatory experience, and Laura van den Berg’s stunning The Third Hotel fits squarely into that category. Knocked sideways by grief, 37-year-old Clare decides to travel to Havana for a film festival she had planned to attend with her late husband, Richard. An emotionally aloof traveling saleswoman, Clare is an intriguing mix of mundane predilections (she loves Nebraska and airport hotels) and bizarre impulses (she licks murals and eats paper). She’s an enigma to everyone except the reader, who is plunged immediately and inextricably into Clare’s perspective — a position that grows increasingly surreal. When Clare spots Richard in Havana, they engage in a comic game of cat-and-mouse, as Clare seeks answers to unresolved questions about their strained marriage and the metaphysics of death. Playful, puzzling, and evocative, The Third Hotel wraps the reader in the swirling eddy of Clare’s grief and deposits them downstream, as perplexed and transformed as its heroine. We’ve never read a better evocation of the mind-altering experience of loss. With great excitement, we present The Third Hotel as Volume 75 of Indiespensable.
Territory of Light, a beautiful, mesmerizing novel by Yūko Tsushima, was first published in a Japanese literary magazine over the course of 1978-79, with each of its 12 chapters coinciding with its month in real time. Tsushima tells the story of a young woman starting a new life alone with her two-year-old daughter in a Tokyo apartment that is overwhelmingly filled with light. As the seasons pass, increasingly uncanny events begin to unfold, recounted in graceful, radiant prose. Margaret Drabble called it "wonderfully poetic” with “a Virginia Woolf quality." We are so pleased to include this advanced reader copy of Territory of Light, which will be published in the United States for the first time in February 2019. It’s a lovely, perfectly eerie fit with The Third Hotel.
In keeping with the vibrant Cuban aesthetic portrayed in The Third Hotel, we are happy to include the Monstera Deliciosa tile coaster from Portland’s own Robot Candy. A perfect resting place for your summer libations.
Volume 74: There There by Tommy Orange
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of There There by Tommy Orange
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Tommy Orange
- A salmon tea towel
- A bookmark
There There, Tommy Orange’s powerful debut novel, weaves the voices of 12 fascinating characters traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. An exploration of urban Native identity, There There examines the complex pulls of history, tradition, and assimilation, and grapples with the strains of literal and existential rootlessness. When you hear truth as potent as Orange’s, speaking through generations of suffering and slaughter and consequent addiction and poverty, it surpasses anything as temporary as anger or righteousness or even respect, it takes you to the place of acknowledgement, a recognition of power and knowing. This book changes the story being told about Native Americans — it changes us all — reminding us that no matter how ravaged an identity, place, or a people becomes, it can never be completely annihilated. It will continue finding its way back to joy and recovery. It is a privilege to present There There as our selection for Indispensable Volume 74.
We are proud to include the Salmon Tea Towel designed by Francis Horne Sr. (Coast Salish) and the “Box of Treasures” bookmark designed by Corey W. Moraes (Tsimshian) from Native Northwest. Native Northwest is committed to working exclusively with Indigenous artists and participates in community partnerships that give back to the Native community. Artist Francis Horne Sr. writes, “Our art retells our ancestors’ stories about our connection to the land that we have respectfully lived on for thousands of years.”
Volume 73: The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
With The Mars Room, bestselling author and two-time National Book Award finalist Rachel Kushner brings readers another award-worthy novel. Romy Leslie Hall, prisoner W314159, charmed us from the beginning, riding in a bus for female inmates heading to Stanville Women's Correctional Facility in California, to serve a double life sentence. Romy's life has never been easy, and she reflects on her time before prison, when she worked as a stripper at the Mars Room and cared for her son, Jackson. From prison she offers commentary on the minutiae of institutional life, studded with vivid characters like Conan, an extremely masculine transgender male; Norse, a heavy metal-loving white supremacist; and smiley Laura Lipp, the "baby killer." Entertaining and thoughtful, The Mars Room delves into the racially and economically driven injustices of the American prison system, and the casual violence inflicted upon marginalized children and women in our society. Switching between Romy’s voice and those of her fellow inmates, as well as a dirty cop, a well-intentioned prison employee, and the diaries of Ted Kaczynski, among others, the novel creates a provocative mosaic of those living within and around the prison industrial complex. We’re pleased to present this engaging novel as our selection for Indiespensable Volume 73.
David Naimon's Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing is a gorgeous tribute to the beloved writer, whose passing many are still mourning (she was still going back and forth on final edits of this book at the time of her death). These insightful, blunt, wide-ranging, and often funny interviews cover all facets of Le Guin's writing, including her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her thoughts and commentary about writing and living — or "talking shop," as she refers to what she's doing in her introduction — are as invaluable and enlightening as the rest of her magnificent work.
In celebration of its fifth anniversary since publication, we are including a reprint of Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers, a 2013 National Book Award finalist. The much-revered — and controversial — novel follows Reno, a motorcycle artist, as she dives into the 1970s New York art scene and Italian underground.
Volume 72: Census by Jesse Ball
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of Census by Jesse Ball
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Jesse Ball
- An advance reader copy of Your Duck Is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg
- A set of Powell's Scout notebooks
Not all of us had read Jesse Ball before we considered his latest novel, Census, for Volume 72 of Indiespensable. Those who had were in on the secret: his work is like nothing you’ve ever read before — and Census is his most devastatingly beautiful work to date. Set in an unnamed country composed of towns arranged from A to Z, the novel traces the path of its terminally ill narrator who, for his final act, is traveling as a census taker with his son, who is mentally disabled. As he visits home after home, measuring lives while reexamining his own, we feel the weight of his journey and its inevitable conclusion. Both immersive and wondrous, Census is a meditative book about the modest roles we play in a sprawling world and the strength of human bonds in the face of such enormity. We’re delighted to share this unforgettable book with you as our selection for Indiespensable Volume 72.
Deborah Eisenberg's Your Duck Is My Duck is quintessential Eisenberg — which is to say, if you've never had the pleasure of reading her, acerbic, dark, hilarious, playful, and absolutely incisive (as well as prodigiously well written). Eisenberg has won a Whiting Award, a PEN/Faulkner Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur “genius” grant…the list goes on. In the tradition of fellow short story writers like Lorrie Moore, Amy Hempel, and Grace Paley, Eisenberg's astute portraits of class, race, relationships, and politics — essentially, contemporary life in America — should be required reading.
To round out the installment, we’ve included a set of Powell’s Scout notebooks, just in case you get inspired by Census to conduct a survey of your own. Scout Books are based here in Portland, and all of their notebooks are printed and bound in their local factory using 100 percent recycled paper. These limited-edition notebooks, decorated with a bison grazing atop Powell’s logo, capture the majesty of the Great Northwest in a pocket-sized package.
Volume 71: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Leni Zumas
- A Read Rise Resist tote bag
We rarely feature authors more than once for Indiespensable, but for Volume 71 we’re breaking with tradition to welcome back Leni Zumas (Volume 33) for her latest novel, Red Clocks. Set in a small coastal town in Oregon, Red Clocks follows four women whose lives have been upended by the newly passed Personhood Amendment. This provocative and plausible federal ban on abortion, single parent adoption, and in vitro fertilization influences the women's decisions, including the option of fleeing into nearby Canada. The characters — the Wife, the Mender, the Daughter, and the Biographer — wrestle with American womanhood, independence, reproductive rights, motherhood, parenting, and how to define personhood. Through the Biographer’s subject, Eivør Mínervudottír, a 19th-century female polar explorer, Zumas explores the myriad ways female self-determination has been constrained for centuries by social and personal preoccupations with reproductive freedom. The characters are vividly realized and relatable, and their stories are woven together in a way that highlights the unique yet universal nature of their struggles. We hope you enjoy meeting Ro, Eivør, Susan, Mattie, and Gin as much as we did.
In this box, we have also included a Read Rise Resist tote bag, printed locally in Portland using technician-applied color, giving each bag a slightly unique gradient — the perfect accessory for encouraging mindfulness related to women's issues and, more broadly, all human rights.
Volume 70: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
- An exclusive signed hardcover edition of Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
- An advance reader copy of Tomb Song by Julián Herbert
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Carmen Maria Machado
- A bonbon set from Alma Chocolate
Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado’s sublimely creepy debut, draws on the lexicons of urban legend, the 19th-century British gothic, and American society’s evolving ideas about female corporeality to tell stories about women on the edge. Machado’s characters are subject to the familiar embarrassments, privations, and violence to which women worldwide are accustomed, but they ’re also privy to something else; in very different ways, Machado’s main characters share a consciousness of the enormity of the world’s brutality against women, whether it’s exercised through the condemnation of fat, the frequency of rape, the male gaze, the disavowal of female testimony, or campfire stories about bad girls getting what they deserve. In the liminal worlds of Her Body and Other Parties — positioned somewhere between 21st-century America and a horrorscape of breathing pavement and sentient dresses — an intangible, living darkness reaches out to hurt women, or convince them to hurt themselves. The dread this darkness inspires powers Machado ’s riveting short story collection, which heralds the arrival of a brilliant and incisive writer.
Mexican author Julián Herbert’s Tomb Song (trans. Christina MacSweeney) blends the fictional and the autobiographical to great effect. With the blurred veracity of autofiction, Herbert’s narrator recounts his mother’s life as he sits beside her in the hospital where she's expiring from leukemia — gracefully confronting the role and legacy of memory, in addition to his own work as a writer. The star of Tomb Song is Herbert's enthralling prose, where turns of phrase elegantly and poignantly counter his elegiac story.
In this volume, we included a two-piece bonbon set from our favorite Portland chocolatier, Alma Chocolate. The Rosewater Caramel and Mexican Truffle were handmade and especially selected to pair with Her Body and Other Parties and Tomb Song.
Volume 69: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
- An exclusive signed edition of Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- A paperback edition of The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Jesmyn Ward
- Tom Bumble Peanut Butter Flake candy by Oregon Bark
From Jesmyn Ward, the National Book Award-winning author of Salvage the Bones, comes another timely and stunning addition to the literary canon. With Sing, Unburied, Sing, Ward casts a careful, unsentimental lens on the most disenfranchised Americans. The novel traverses the Gulf Coast on a complex family odyssey, as the characters struggle to find hope and peace in a world that is unsympathetic to them. Leonie, a careworn waitress, finds solace in drugs and Michael, her white boyfriend and the father of their two children. Caught in the middle of Leonie’s quest for the "perfect" family are Jojo, her teenage son, and his toddler sister, Kayla, who prefer the comfort and security of Pop and Mam, the grandparents who raised them. Like Ward’s previous work, Sing, Unburied, Sing is raw and honest in its depiction of the generational poverty, racism, and regret that shadow this family and, more broadly, the rural South. Ward’s signature lyricism lends a visceral quality to her characters and their landscape, without evoking undue sympathy for the most troubled individuals. Sing, Unburied, Sing is an elegantly rendered, brilliant, and necessary reading of the American landscape.
Ward’s riveting anthology of contemporary African American essayists and poets offers an astute assessment of what it means to be black in 21st-century America. Lyrical, insistent, and wise, The Fire This Time is a fresh and necessary contribution to our nation’s conversation about race, and an excellent companion to Sing, Unburied, Sing.
In this volume, we were delighted to share a special 2-pack of Tom Bumble Peanut Butter Flake candy, made here in Portland by Oregon Bark. Think Butterfinger for adults! Tom Bumble comes in both smooth and nutty flavors — both of which are supremely addictive.
Volume 68: The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
- An exclusive signed edition of The Burning Girl by Claire Messud in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Claire Messud
- A Powell’s Northwest Reader mug
Julia and Cassie are the kind of best friends who can read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences, whose intimacy is so old and natural that it seems unquestioningly permanent. When the girls reach middle school and begin to grow apart — bookish Julia in honors classes and the cooler, more aloof Cassie in the party crowd — Julia feels the rift acutely, confused by the opposing inevitabilities of staying friends forever and taking separate paths to adulthood. As Cassie’s home life deteriorates and ugly rumors start flying through school, Julia must decide if and how to help her friend. In Claire Messud’s stunning new novel, The Burning Girl, the ordinary landscapes of youth and small-town life are thick with a suspense and darkness that brilliantly illuminate the liminal headspace of adolescence, caught between the comforts of childhood and the reaching arms of the adult world. Both richly symbolic and frankly written, The Burning Girl cuts to the heart of what it feels like to be a teenage girl, and to lose a friend.
You asked and we delivered! We heard your requests for more gift items, and were thrilled to include the Powell’s Northwest Reader mug in Volume 68 of Indiespensable. Because you don’t have to live in the Northwest to be a Northwest Reader.
Volume 67: Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash
- An exclusive signed edition of Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- An advance reader copy of The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Gabe Habash
The eponymous character in Gabe Habash's debut novel has a unique, extraordinary voice that pulls you in from the first page. Stephen is a wrestler at a small college in North Dakota; he is alone in the world, as his parents died in a car crash when he was younger and his grandmother, who raised him afterwards, died more recently. He is obsessed with winning at wrestling, trying to keep a tight circumference of control in his life so that he doesn't have to think about the future beyond the final match. But his life begins to open up to possibility and chaos over the course of Stephen Florida, as he falls in love, fumbles through a close friendship, and navigates his coaches and teammates. Habash is a fantastic writer, and his first novel is extremely funny, dark, frenetic, and ultimately hopeful. Even if you don't know the first thing about wrestling, you'll fall in love with this book.
Also included with this volume was an advance reader copy of Camilla Grudova’s short story collection, The Doll’s Alphabet. Grudova paints a surreal world where decay, rodents, rationed food, and clothing make up the landscape of a dystopian world. The characters are often deprived of control and left crippled by their own meager circumstances. Grudova is regularly compared to both Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, though her stories also conjure images reminiscent of David Lynch’s film Eraserhead or Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s films Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. The Doll’s Alphabet is a dark and gothic read and yet we couldn’t look away — we were fully absorbed in this voyeuristic collection and hope you find it just as compelling as we did.
Volume 66: Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
- An exclusive signed edition of Borne by Jeff VanderMeer in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- An advance reader copy of The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Jeff VanderMeer
Jeff VanderMeer is well known for his Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance), a series of books that have won science fiction and fantasy awards but are just as often classified as literature. His latest book, Borne — about a world that has fallen to tragedy — crosses the same boundaries, with beautiful prose and lyrical writing. But Borne is no standard post-apocalyptic novel. There is hope in the devastated city in which it takes place, as VanderMeer immerses us in the trusting, graceful relationship between Rachel and the other-worldly creature she named Borne. It's hard to understand the gravity and force that keeps us captivated by Rachel's attachment to Borne (after all, we don't know if Borne is a he, a human, an animal, a weapon), but the lure is irresistible.
We were also thrilled to include Jac Jemc's The Grip of It, an unsettling, addictive, genre-crossing work of literary horror. Julie and James, a young couple from the city, move into a small town for a fresh start. Their house, however, has a rather malevolent mind of its own. Told from each person's perspective in alternating chapters (and in elegantly written prose), The Grip of It documents their slow slips into haunting or hallucination. Our featured author, Jeff VanderMeer, had high praise for it as well: "The Grip of It is a stunning, smart, genuinely creepy page-turner that I couldn't put down. It's got depth, thrills, twists, and great writing. One of the few haunted house stories that sticks the landing."
Volume 65: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
- An exclusive signed edition of Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- A hardcover edition of The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with George Saunders
George Saunders’s writing has always been apropos of the current political and social climate, and though his theatrical debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is set in 1862, the modern-day parallels (and contrasts) are striking. The novel portrays a critical time in the life of Abraham Lincoln, who is deep in grief over the death of his son, Willie Lincoln. Disliked by the populace and presiding over a dramatically shifting country, Lincoln finds himself visiting the bardo — a Tibetan purgatory-like state — each night by returning to his son’s tomb while a gaggle of ghosts (including Willie) look on. Told through this chorus of spirits along with real-life and fictional characters, Lincoln in the Bardo turns our idea of the novel on its head. Yet through the fractured narrative, Saunders has created a deft historical tale that speaks volumes about our current unrest and ill-defined state.
We also included an overlooked treasure from George Saunders. The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, illustrated by Lane Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man), is a modern fable that both children and parents can enjoy. Capable, a young girl living in the town of Frip, is tired of the arduous task of brushing gappers off her goats. Gappers are peculiar baseball-sized creatures that adhere themselves to the bodies of goats and shriek loudly, disturbing the goats and thus affecting their milk supply. To the dismay of her neighbors, and true to her name, Capable enacts a plan to get rid of the gappers for good. This timely tale highlights the power of compassion, community, and kindness. Couldn’t we all use a reminder of these neighborly virtues?
Volume 64: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
- An exclusive signed edition of History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Emily Fridlund
- Mountaineer Maple Trail Butter by Bogg’s Trail Butter
Emily Fridlund makes a monumental debut with History of Wolves. We fell into a trance within the first few pages of this deeply atmospheric and haunting novel. Backdropped by the remote and harsh landscape of northern Minnesota, History of Wolves follows Linda, a teenage outsider who embeds herself in a newly arrived family across the lake from her parents’ former commune and spartan cabin. For once, Linda feels a sense of belonging but ultimately must decide between doing the right thing and giving up her feelings of acceptance. Fridlund’s powerful prose and constant foreboding keep the story moving forward like a freight train, until suddenly it crashes and we are left feeling shock and awe over what just happened. History of Wolves is a deeply powerful novel about guilt, misguided faith, and the need for acceptance.
We were inspired by Linda’s adventures exploring the Minnesota wilderness and immediately wanted to get outside to take in all of the Pacific Northwest’s beauty. We packed our daypacks with none other than Portland’s own Bogg’s Trail Butter to sustain us for the trek. We were excited to partner with Bogg’s to include "Mountaineer Maple," a sweet and salty blend of nuts (peanut free), maple syrup, and Jacobsen sea salt, exclusive for Indiespensable subscribers. Enjoy it as a satiating mid-hike treat or on toast to prepare you for a weekend-long reading frenzy!
Volume 63: Moonglow by Michael Chabon
- An exclusive signed edition of Moonglow by Michael Chabon in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- An advance reader copy of Night of Fire by Colin Thubron
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Michael Chabon
- Drinking Chocolate Three-Pack Sampler by Treehouse Chocolate
Is it a memoir? Is it fiction? One thing is for sure: after reading the genre-bending Moonglow by Michael Chabon, we knew it had to be our next Indiespensable pick. Whether dabbling in fiction, screenwriting, or even songwriting, Chabon commands attention through his vivid storytelling and keen sense for detail. It’s this precise prose that leads the reader into a world wholly realized and engrossing, be it fact, fiction, or somewhere in between. Moonglow is an exploration of the tumultuous life of a man only referred to as "my grandfather" by the narrator Mike, who is visiting his grandfather on his deathbed. From his experience in the army hunting down the Nazi Wernher von Braun (inventor of the V-2 rocket), to his time spent in jail for nearly strangling to death a former business partner, to his deep love for an unstable woman haunted by wartime and a dark secret, the grandfather reveals the hidden stories of his life in startling detail. Moonglow examines how secrets, and even lies, can emerge for the sake of family stability — and ultimately come to define us.
We also included an advance reader copy of Colin Thubron's Night of Fire — a gorgeous, graceful novel that's both meditative and urgent, lyrical and clear-spoken. As an apartment building catches on fire, Thubron tells the stories of its residents, including an ex-priest, a neurosurgeon, and a naturalist, among others. Each tale is its own fully realized world, but as the book progresses, the connections and intersections between the characters slowly emerge. The Times of London raves, "Thubron returns with what might be his masterpiece....Thubron’s prose shines a penetrating light on the nature of memory and being human. Sublime."
We got to share a little extra cheer with this Indiespensable volume — in the form of chocolate! We partnered with Portland-based Treehouse Chocolate to include a three-pack sampler of their superb drinking chocolate, made from premium organic cacao sustainably sourced directly from farmers.
Volume 62: The Mothers by Brit Bennett
- An exclusive signed edition of The Mothers by Brit Bennett in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Brit Bennett
- Orange Chocolate Bar by Theo Chocolate
- Cherry Almond Chocolate Bar by Theo Chocolate
A contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, New Republic, and The Paris Review, Brit Bennett has never shied away from asking and answering the difficult questions when it comes to race. Her debut novel, The Mothers, is just as bold in its depiction of abortion. But the story doesn’t end with this polarizing topic — it begins with it, and each page gradually reveals the tangled lives and fates of three teenagers in a black Southern California community: Nadia Turner, an ambitious and rebellious teen; Luke, the local pastor’s son; and Aubrey, Nadia’s timid friend. Narrated by "the Mothers," a chorus of elder parishioners of Upper Room Chapel, the story follows Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey from age 17 into their mid-20s. Bennett’s unflinching honesty in portraying these all-too-human characters (including the narrators) is something to be treasured. The Mothers is a beautifully reflective work about the decisions we make in our youth and their reverberations in our lives and throughout our community.
We feel lucky to call the Pacific Northwest home to so many makers. One of our favorite artisan chocolatiers is Theo Chocolate, and we were fortunate enough to share their delectable treats with our Indiespensable subscribers. It was nearly impossible to narrow down our favorite chocolate bar, so instead we included two: Cherry Almond and Orange. Based in Seattle, Washington, Theo Chocolate produces organic, Fair Trade chocolate and other confections with a commitment to transparency and making the world better, one bar at a time.
Volume 61: Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
- An exclusive signed edition of Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- An advance reader copy with VHS packaging of Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Jonathan Safran Foer
We promise we’re not trying to weigh down your bookshelves — though you might be led to believe we are, given the size and scope of Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, coming on the heels of another novel of epic proportions, Barkskins, for Volume 60. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to feature Foer’s first novel in over a decade, and Here I Am showcases the unmistakable wit, dark humor, and stark intimacy that have made the author a favorite among Powell’s staff. It is his most ambitious and deeply personal work yet as it examines the Blochs, a Jewish-American family struggling to navigate the challenges of modern family life and questions of Jewish identity against the backdrop of catastrophic disaster in the Middle East. Foer is masterful at capturing the chaos and isolation at home and abroad through spirited exchanges and candid inner speech.
With the release of Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle of the indie rock band the Mountain Goats checked another talent off his list: songwriter, composer, guitarist, vocalist, and now acclaimed novelist. If there was any question about his literary clout, let Universal Harvester put that doubt to rest. It was great fun to share with Indiespensable subscribers an advance reader copy of Universal Harvester (published in February 2017), specially packaged in a VHS rental box inspired by the story. In this eerie novel, Darnielle takes readers to rural Iowa in 2000 where things aren’t quite as bucolic as they seem, as the characters uncover a mystery concerning creepy scenes being spliced into rental tapes shelved at the local Video Hut. Universal Harvester is a haunting novel that will stay with you and prompt ruminations on the shape that grief can take.
Volume 60: Barkskins by Annie Proulx
- An exclusive signed edition of Barkskins by Annie Proulx in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- A hardcover edition of Ninety-Nine Stories of God by Joy Williams
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Annie Proulx
Annie Proulx, already a cult favorite, became part of the American psyche in 1993 when The Shipping News won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Her fantastic story "Brokeback Mountain," from Close Range: Wyoming Stories, ratcheted up her level of fame when the movie adaptation struck a national chord. Through the last two and a half decades, Proulx has been one of our country’s treasures, writing insightful, gorgeous stories and novels that depict the natural world and the landscape of the human heart. Her latest book, Barkskins, is a tremendous achievement, a monumental saga depicting the birth of the modern age in North America through the prism of the timber industry and mankind's relationship with radically changing forest ecosystems. It is her finest work yet.
In addition, we were delighted to include the latest collection, Ninety-Nine Stories of God, from another distinguished author of our time, Joy Williams. True to her name, this slim collection is a joy to read and will leave you puzzling over the absurdity of man and the divinity of God — or even God’s existence. Each story is numbered from 1 to 99 and appended with an "undertitle" that is both apt and bewildering. Some stories are as short as a sentence or two, while others stretch out longer — never more than a few pages, but always well crafted and filled with the hilarity, wit, and thoughtfulness we’ve come to expect from Williams. The slenderness of the collection may inspire you to devour it all in one sitting — don’t! These are tales meant to be savored from bite to bite. Ninety-Nine Stories of God keeps us coming back for more, still.
Volume 59: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- An exclusive signed edition of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- A Scripta blank journal
- A Pentalic Five-Piece Black Illustration Pen Set
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Yaa Gyasi
In her stunning debut novel, Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi illustrates the emotional turmoil individuals face when their fate rests in circumstances beyond their control. Homegoing begins with the tales of Esi and Effia, two estranged half-sisters born apart in Ghana during the 18th century. Traversing three centuries and several continents, Gyasi takes readers on a harrowing journey following the lives of Esi and Effia and their descendants up to the present day. A truly ambitious work with intertwining storylines and chapters so elegantly composed they read almost as short stories, Gyasi’s novel brings forth the painful history of racism and its impact on family, dreams, and self-identity in a striking, vivid way.
At Powell’s, we believe every good story deserves the chance to be told, so we’ve also included a handsome blank journal and Pentalic’s Five-Piece Black Illustration Pen Set for your thoughts, sketches, musings — or even your life story. We hope you are inspired to share yours.
Volume 58: A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
- An exclusive signed edition of A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- A Mathematics Nalgene Bottle
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Ethan Canin
From his first collection of short stories more than 30 years ago, Emperor of the Air, Ethan Canin demonstrated his grace, confidence, and utterly convincing ability to inhabit characters. In the stories and novels that have come since, his talent and craft have continued to grow; in A Doubter's Almanac, Canin is at the height of his powers. Milo Andret is an incredible character, both fascinating and frustrating, a genius who makes the most rudimentary mistakes when it comes to navigating through his life. Andret plays many parts: He is a brilliant mathematician who tries to solve unsolvable problems. He is a son, husband, and father who feels at heart alone in the world. He is a belligerent alcoholic, a gifted craftsman, and a man who would always rather be in the woods. The story of his life is absorbing, poetic, and page-turning, and is some of Canin's most remarkable work.
And in case your thirst for knowledge (or just beverages) is triggered by Canin's thought-provoking tome, we've included our old-school red Mathematics Nalgene bottle, complete with 40% of your daily requirement of logic (though only 10% of geometry — you'll have to make that up elsewhere). Whether names like Pythagoras, Fibonacci, and Ramanujan fill you with dread or curiosity, drink from this bottle and experience a thirst-quenching theorem the ancient Greeks never calculated.
Volume 57: Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
- An exclusive signed edition of Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- An advance reader copy of Fever at Dawn by Péter Gárdos
- Tony's Chocolonely Milk Caramel Sea Salt Chocolate Bar
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Samantha Hunt
Praiseworthy novelist Samantha Hunt has previously tackled unusual and misunderstood subjects, such as a young woman who believes she's a mermaid (The Seas, which won Hunt the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 award) and the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla (The Invention of Everything Else, shortlisted for the Orange Prize and winner of the Bard Fiction Prize). Her newest novel, Mr. Splitfoot, an enigmatic story about a pair of orphans with special "abilities," is even more unorthodox.Bonded by hardship at the Love of Christ! Foster Home in which they reside, Ruth and Nat are inseparable. When they begin channeling the dead loved ones of their fellow foster kids for fun, they set into motion a chain of events that will alter their lives forever. Years later, Ruth's pregnant niece Cora finds herself drawn into this mysterious past when, unexpectedly, a visit from her now-mute aunt Ruth urges Cora toward an unknown destination. Alternating between the past and present, the diverging narrative paths unite in an astonishing conclusion. With original, lyrical prose and a cast of unsettling and captivating characters, Mr. Splitfoot will lead you on a journey you won't want to end.
For Volume 57, we've also included an advanced copy of Fever at Dawn, the debut novel of Hungarian film director Péter Gárdos. Based on the true story of how the author's Hungarian parents met through letters while both convalescing in Sweden as concentration camp survivors, Fever at Dawn is a powerful, joyful tale about overcoming odds and the endurance of love.
Finally, we've teamed up with Tony's Chocolonely to include a Milk Caramel Sea Salt chocolate bar. Tony's mission is to produce delicious chocolate with 100% slave-free, fair-trade ingredients. The result is chocolate that not only tastes good, but you can feel good about eating.
Volume 56: City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
- An exclusive signed edition of City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- Ranger Chocolate Company Tumbes Chocolate Bar
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Garth Risk Hallberg
With the publishing world abuzz in anticipation of Garth Risk Hallberg's first novel, City on Fire, we couldn't wait to get our hands on an advance copy. After reading this scintillating debut, we felt the early excitement was duly justified. A sprawling epic with New York City front and center — characters' lives intersect and entwine through family battles, the punk rock scene, an unfortunate tragedy, and the infamous 1977 blackout — City on Fire examines issues plaguing 1970s New York, such as class disparity and burgeoning crime, in a wholly human and palpable way. Complete with facsimile document artifacts throughout, including letters, pages from notebooks, and a punk "zine," City on Fire provides a window into the lives of the privileged and those in the shadows in a changing city, revealing connections and secrets with prose as brilliant and complex as the city itself.
For Indiespensable 56, we've also included a medium-sized Tumbes 73% chocolate bar from Portland-based Ranger Chocolate Company. This delightful artisanal small-batch dark chocolate is made with ethically sourced cacao beans from the northwest region of Peru. Ranger is passionate about chocolate — which is evident with every delicious bite.
Volume 55: Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
- An exclusive signed edition of Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- An advanced reader copy of Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss
- Trailhead Coffee Roasters Sunbreak Morning Blend Coffee Sample
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Bill Clegg
Bill Clegg is perhaps best known as a literary agent whose memoirs about addiction and recovery captivated readers, but his first novel, Did You Ever Have a Family, is a spectacular debut. The story of a community's tragedy on what was supposed to be a happy occasion — a wedding — is recounted through the voices of multiple characters. As readers piece together the details of what happened, we also witness their intricate web of connections. Did You Ever Have a Family demonstrates how a tragedy can ripple through many lives in unexpected ways, and how healing and redemption can be found within those connections. Elinor Lipman raves, "I marveled my way through Did You Ever Have a Family, at not just the masterful writing and storytelling, but at the emotional authenticities of every persuasion," and we are equally enthralled with this sensitive, emotionally charged work of finely rendered prose.
We've also included an advanced reader copy of Tuesday Nights in 1980 by debut novelist Molly Prentiss. A wildly inventive glimpse into the New York art scene of the '80s, Tuesday Nights follows an art critic with synesthesia and an up-and-coming Argentinian painter, brought together in an unlikely way. Simultaneously lighthearted and intense, this charming tale of misfits, art, and love is invigorating and unforgettable.
And to further enhance your reading enjoyment, we've partnered with Portland-based Trailhead Coffee Roasters to provide you with a sample bag of their Sunbreak Morning Blend. Trailhead impressed us with their commitment to sustainability and fair-trade practices — including the use of cargo bikes for Portland-area transport and a heavy reliance on women-owned coffee-growing cooperatives — and this delicious brew more than won us over. With hints of chocolate, cinnamon, and hazelnut flavors, it's the perfect way to start the day, or perhaps fuel a late-night reading session.
Volume 54: Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
- An exclusive signed edition of Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- A signed paperback reissue of The Boy Who Went Away by Eli Gottlieb
- Powell's "Adventure Awaits" Magnet
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Eli Gottlieb
The Boy Who Went Away, Eli Gottlieb's debut autobiographical novel about a boy growing up with an autistic brother, received much critical acclaim and won the Rome Prize. Now, almost two decades later, Gottlieb revisits the topic from the other side in Best Boy. Told from the point of view of Todd Aaron, a man in his 50s who has resided in various "therapeutic communities" since age 11, Best Boy is a tender, revealing look at an adult living with autism. Though previously content in his routines at Payton Living Center, challenging relationships with his roommate, staff members, residents, and brother — his only living relative — bring about big changes in Todd's life. As gripping as it is moving, Best Boy is an immensely gratifying and unforgettable read.
In this special volume of Indiespensable, we're pleased to also include a signed paperback reissue of Gottlieb's companion novel, The Boy Who Went Away, ahead of the release date. Set in the '60s in the New Jersey suburbs, The Boy Who Went Away is narrated by Denny Graubart, an adolescent boy whose hobby of home surveillance keeps him updated on the latest family happenings, including the fate of his autistic older brother, "Fad." This charming and bittersweet coming-of-age story is an eye-opening counterpart to Best Boy and a powerful work of literature in its own right.
Finally, we've included our "Adventure Awaits" magnet, featuring a gorgeous mountain scene with a literary twist. When you're reading, you can travel to the most enchanting of places. Powell's "Adventure Awaits" magnet brings the metaphor to life.
Volume 53: The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida
- An exclusive signed edition of The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida in a custom slipcase created for Indiespensable
- An advanced reader's copy of Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash
- Fuller Foods Sriracha and Cheddar Serious Cheesy Puffs
- A collectible booklet featuring the Powells.com interview and Indiespensable Q&A with Vendela Vida
Award-winning author Vendela Vida has often written about women in the midst of radical change — those who are questioning their identity and place within the world. As in her previous novels — And Now You Can Go, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, and The Lovers — her latest work, The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty, describes a woman undergoing a transformative experience. The premise of the novel intrigued us from the start. An unnamed woman traveling alone to Morocco is robbed of her passport and wallet shortly after arriving. She now has the opportunity to reinvent herself, which she does in part aided by a chance meeting with a famous American actress. The mysterious circumstances of the narrator's journey are slowly revealed throughout, ramping up the momentum and making this a book that is near-impossible to put down. Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins, gushes, "You will tear through Vendela Vida's The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty, this wry, edgy, philosophical thriller, this love child of Albert Camus and Patricia Highsmith, this sly satire of Hollywood, this entertaining journey through the vast desert of identity and regret." Vida's novel is suspenseful, captivating, and inventive; we hope you enjoy The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty as much as we did.
In Volume 53, we're also presenting an advanced reader's copy of Above the Waterfall, the latest from Ron Rash (a perennial staff favorite). In the gorgeous, poetic prose Rash is known for, Above the Waterfall is the story of a small Southern town whose residents are trying to come to terms with past tragedies in their own ways.
Finally, we've included a bag of Fuller Foods Sriracha and Cheddar Serious Cheesy Puffs, from MadeHere PDX — purveyors of all things Portland. We think you'll find these tasty — and spicy! — puffs seriously addictive.