Powell’s Books Indiespensable Subscription Box Review – Vol. 67
Powell’s Books Indispensable is a book subscription box by the iconic bookstore in Portland, Oregon.
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.
The Indiespensable team
My Subscription Addiction pays for this subscription. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes).
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.
Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?