Powell’s Books Indiespensable Subscription Box Review – Vol. 67


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Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

Powell’s Books Indispensable is a book subscription box by the iconic bookstore in Portland, Oregon.

Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

Every 6-8 weeks, subscribers will receive another box of expertly curated new books with a focus on indie publishers. Note that this subscription raised its prices recently. Here’s what they said:

Dear valued Indiespensable subscriber,

As the curators of Indiespensable, we place the highest importance on offering unique, collectible books along with additional value that exceeds the amount we charge per installment.

Since we launched the program in 2008, we have maintained our commitment to these high standards. Unfortunately, the cost of books, slipcases, and shipping has climbed significantly. We must regrettably recover some of those cost increases in order to continue providing the same value and quality you expect from the Indiespensable program.

Effective with Volume 66, Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, our new volume price will be $44.95.

Thank you for your continued commitment to Indiespensable. We hope to bring you many more wonderful volumes in the future.

Sincerely,

The Indiespensable team

My Subscription Addiction pays for this subscription. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes).

Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

The Subscription Box: Powell’s Books Indiespensable

The Cost: $44.95 a shipment (every 6-8 weeks)

The Products: Thoughtfully curated new books, with an interest in indie authors, plus fun extras

Ships to: Shipping is free in the U.S. and $12.00 per package outside the U.S.

Check out all of our Powell’s Indiespensable reviews and all of our Book Subscription Box reviews!

Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!

Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

Volume 67 box features two books, as usual—a special-edition hardcover by Gabe Habash and a paperback uncorrected galley by Camilla Grudova. Indiespensable includes a thorough booklet of insights about the featured book (Stephen Florida, by Gabe Habash) and its author.

Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

For me, it’s this booklet that sets this subscription apart from other book subscription boxes I’ve seen. The reason I wanted to check out this box was that I trust Powell’s as a curator—this booklet helps explain the thinking behind what Powell’s has curated for me, with thoughtfully written criticism, insights from the author, and more. I feel like each of these booklets imbues my reading experience with the extra bit of context I need to feel even more engaged.

Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash – Value $17.00 on Amazon (Retail price $25.00)

This is an autographed (cool!) hardback edition of the novel that comes tucked inside a hard, canvas-wrapped sleeve. This presentation is typical for the featured book each month. I really love how my collection of these special editions look sitting on my bookshelf—so tidy, crisp, and a bit austere.

Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

Book Summary on Amazon:

“In Stephen Florida, Gabe Habash has created a coming-of-age story with its own, often explosive, rhythm and velocity. Habash has a canny sense of how young men speak and behave, and in Stephen, he’s created a singular character: funny, ambitious, affecting, but also deeply troubled, vulnerable, and compellingly strange. This is a shape-shifter of a book, both a dark ode to the mysteries and landscapes of the American West and a complex and convincing character study.”
—Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life

Foxcatcher meets The Art of Fielding, Stephen Florida follows a college wrestler in his senior season, when every practice, every match, is a step closer to greatness and a step further from sanity. Profane, manic, and tipping into the uncanny, it’s a story of loneliness, obsession, and the drive to leave a mark.

Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

This story is told in first-person by its namesake character—an orphaned North Dakota kid who lucks (and lies) his way into a spot on a college wrestling team. His intentions to win in his final year of wrestling move simultaneous to and seemingly in conflict with his obsessive drive to achieve, to dominate, and to come out on top of life. The voice the author creates for the character is rich and real, while also injected with a healthy dose of poetic language and imagery. If he was real, he’d be the kind of overly intense kid that you don’t really know what to do with—is his sky-high confidence, in spite of his real life circumstances, sort of pathetically endearing, or annoying and frankly, a little unsettling? It’s like watching a reality show and wondering if the characters are consciously being outlandish to cover for insecurities or to play to the camera, or if yes, they really are that unhinged. Regardless, Stephen is fascinating, if at times freaky, and the momentum of his unfolding journey kept me locked into reading this book!

Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

Check out my review of the Powell's Indiespensable Volume 67 edition!

The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova – Value $10.07 on Amazon (Retail price $15.95)

Book Summary on Amazon:

“This doll’s eye view is a total delight and surveys a world awash with shadowy wit and exquisite collisions of beauty and the grotesque.” —Helen Oyeyemi, author of Boy, Snow, Bird

“Down to its most particular details, The Doll’s Alphabet creates an individual world—a landscape I have never encountered before, which now feels like it was been waiting to be captured, and waiting to captivate, all along.” —Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be

“Marvellous. Grudova understands that the best writing has to pull off the hardest aesthetic trick—it has to be both memorable and fleeting.” —Deborah Levy, author of Hot Milk

Dolls, sewing machines, tinned foods, mirrors, malfunctioning bodies—by constantly reinventing ways to engage with her obsessions and motifs, Camilla Grudova has built a universe that’s highly imaginative, incredibly original, and absolutely discomfiting. The stories in The Doll’s Alphabet are by turns child-like and naive, grotesque and very dark: the marriage of Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter.

If you’re looking for a book that will really take you away from the ordinary, this is a great pick. I wouldn’t call it escapist since we’re not heading on any glamorous adventures, but these stories have a tricky way of absorbing you… and then slowly bending bits of reality until you’re unsure of what’s real anymore, be it in the universe Grudova creates or in the minds of her characters. It’s fantastical, dark, downright eerie, poetic, and all in all, deliciously strange. I could see lovers of Twin Peaks and other patiently surreal stories being swept away by this little book.

Verdict: I really enjoyed Volume 67 of the Powell’s Books Indiespensable box! Both picks were a bit out of the ordinary for me—they’re not works I’d assume I’d want to read (a novel about sports, and short stories about creepy dolls and obsession?) but I found myself really engrossed in them. The books together seem to have a value around $27.00, which is significantly below the just-raised cost of the box itself. That’s a bummer. I’ve often mentioned that the curation and the personalization of the box help make up any cost difference to me (the autographed copies, for instance, are awesome), but this is a big gap to fill. I wonder if a third book or perhaps a little bonus item could’ve helped bump the tangible value of this box up a bit more.

What do you think of Volume 67 from Powell’s Books Indiespensable box?


Written by Anna Reilly

Anna Reilly

Anna loves collecting little treasures, be they pop-culture finds, handmade mementos, or new potions to put in her makeup bag. Beauty boxes got her interested in the subscription world, but now she’s swooning for all things kawaii!

Posted in Powell's Indiespensable Reviews, Subscription Box Reviews| Tags: indiespensable | 5 comments

5 Comments

  1. I’m not sure why people are unhappy. Are you buying simply to read the books or to invest?If it’s the latter, tipped in pages are not a drawback. If anything, they are a guarantee of authenticity, which is getting to be a real problem these days with forged signatures. In any event, copies of this book are offered for sale on abe.com starting at around $80.00. If you want to recoup your investment, list it on ebay for $45.00 and keep the ARC. I’ll bet someone snaps it up at that price, and you just made your money back. My only complaint with this subscription is that they have not been emphasizing new author debuts often enough. More chocolate would, of course, also be welcome.

  2. For me they’re really not worth it right now, especially since half the time the author’s signature is on a tipped in page. I have never heard of the Parnassus subscription but I may give it a try if the next indiespensable box is as disappointing value wise as the last few have been.

  3. I hear you on the price difference. I have been subscribing for a year now, but this is the first month that I felt cheated. While I love to support indies, I’m also a Parnassus First Editions and Next member and would subscribe to other indies if available, I am having a difficult time with this one.

    I am excited to get each of these books, BUT both books are on the thin side so the weight shouldn’t have been a reason why they didn’t include something extra (shipping costs and all). A bar of Tony’s chocolate or a packet of hot cocoa or some Powell’s swag would be so nice, and they used to include that kind of add-on.

    So, I just cancelled my sub. I also noticed the subscriptions are currently available, and the last few times I’ve checked out the Powell’s site to see what the new pick was going to be, I noticed the sub was also available at those times. Used to be difficult to snag a spot in the sub, but not anymore. Sad.

    • Oooh, really good point about the weight, Miranda. I wonder if the shipping cost was really the main issue, or if getting these special editions made is proving more and more expensive. I like the thoughtful presentation of having an autographed book inside a custom sleeve, but maybe not enough that I’d want to pay extra JUST for that feature. In other words, some normal copies of highly recommended books for a few dollars less would still be totally worth it for me. Such a bummer that this sub didn’t work out for you, but thanks so much for sharing your take!

      • I subbed from May 2016 until spring 2017. I cut the sub for cost reasons (thought the boxes were great and priced right back then, just not for someone living on a tight budget like me). Seeing this, I am glad I cancelled – when there’s no room in the budget, setbacks like low value are amplified. I had intended to re-sub when my budget had room for it again though.

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