Powell’s Books Indiespensable Subscription Box Review – Vol. 73
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.
My Subscription Addiction pays for this subscription. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes).
About Powell’s Indiespensable Book Subscription
The Subscription Box: Powell’s Books Indiespensable
The Cost: $44.95 a shipment (every 6-8 weeks) + free US shipping
The Products: Thoughtfully curated new books, with an interest in indie authors, plus fun extras
Ships to: Shipping is free in the US and $12.00 per package outside the US
Powell’s Indiespensable Volume 73 featuring The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
Each box comes with a small booklet of information about the author. I appreciate the context and depth this gives the reading experience.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner – Estimated Value $27.00
The typical hardcover version of this novel sells for $27.00 (or $16.20 here), but note that it doesn’t include the hardcover sleeve that the Indiespensable edition comes with. Nor does the typical copy arrive signed! The author’s autograph appears in one of the first inner pages of the book. I’d actually read a little bit about this novel before receiving it in this box, and I was considering buying it for myself, had it not been the featured book. The easiest way to describe the story is a rougher, more real, harder to swallow version of Orange Is The New Black. And yet, to say that only skims the surface.
Book Summary on Amazon:
“Gritty, empathetic, finely rendered, no sugary toppings, and a lot of punches, none of them pulled.” –Margaret Atwood via Twitter
“A page turner… one of those books that enrage you even as they break your heart.” —The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
“Brilliant and devastating… a heartbreaking, true, and nearly flawless novel.” —NPR
From twice National Book Award–nominated Rachel Kushner, whose Flamethrowers was called “the best, most brazen, most interesting book of the year” (Kathryn Schulz, New York magazine), comes a spectacularly compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails in contemporary America.
It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.
Stunning and unsentimental, The Mars Room demonstrates new levels of mastery and depth in Kushner’s work. It is audacious and tragic, propulsive and yet beautifully refined. As James Wood said in The New Yorker, her fiction “succeeds because it is so full of vibrantly different stories and histories, all of them particular, all of them brilliantly alive.”
I love when there are multiple books in this box, and this time around, I got THREE! The second book is author Rachel Kushner’s first great success, which is a coming of age story of sorts. It follows a female motorcyclist on an unexpected path of self-discovery, rebellion, success, and struggle in the multi-faceted culture of the late 1970s. The book earned a ton of acclaim with its release in 2013. I like that they included it alongside Kushner’s latest novel. Once I finish a novel that I like, I’m always curious to read something else by the same voice.
Book Summary on Amazon:
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST * NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW * New York magazine’s #1 Book of the Year * Best Book of 2013 by: The Wall Street Journal; Vogue; O, The Oprah Magazine; Los Angeles Times; The San Francisco Chronicle; The New Yorker; Time; Flavorwire; Salon; Slate; The Daily Beast
“Superb…Scintillatingly alive…A pure explosion of now.”—The New Yorker
Reno, so-called because of the place of her birth, comes to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity—artists colonize a deserted and industrial SoHo, stage actions in the East Village, blur the line between life and art. Reno is submitted to a sentimental education of sorts—by dreamers, poseurs, and raconteurs in New York and by radicals in Italy, where she goes with her lover to meet his estranged and formidable family. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, Reno is a fiercely memorable observer, superbly realized by Rachel Kushner.
Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon – Retail Value $14.95 (found here for $14.08)
Ursula K. Le Guin passed away earlier this year, leaving behind a rich, influential legacy of fantasy and science fiction writing. I love reading what writers have to say about writing, so I’m gobbling up this informative, inspiring book.
Book Summary on Amazon:
Ursula K. Le Guin discusses her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry?both her process and her philosophy?with all the wisdom, profundity, and rigor we expect from one of the great writers of the last century.
When the New York Times referred to Ursula K. Le Guin as America’s greatest writer of science fiction, they just might have undersold her legacy. It’s hard to look at her vast body of work?novels and stories across multiple genres, poems, translations, essays, speeches, and criticism?and see anything but one of our greatest writers, period.
In a series of interviews with David Naimon (Between the Covers), Le Guin discusses craft, aesthetics, and philosophy in her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction respectively. The discussions provide ample advice and guidance for writers of every level, but also give Le Guin a chance to to sound off on some of her favorite subjects: the genre wars, the patriarchy, the natural world, and what, in her opinion, makes for great writing. With excerpts from her own books and those that she looked to for inspiration, this volume is a treat for Le Guin’s longtime readers, a perfect introduction for those first approaching her writing, and a tribute to her incredible life and work.
The Verdict: Since this box is all about books, I get really excited when it arrived filled with, well… books. Past boxes have included little gifts, like Powell’s souvenirs or treats local to Portland. To be honest, the gifts are reliably pretty cool, but I get lots more value out of the experience when it’s all books. I thought the curation of the books this month was awesome, too. Two books by the same author, plus a book about writing by a noted woman author—it all felt super cohesive and just interesting on a personal level, too.
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Yes! Sign up now to get the box!
Value Breakdown: This box cost $44.95, including free shipping. The approximate retail value in the box is $58.95, and the estimated proportional amount you pay to get each item via the box (rather than buying them retail) is:
- The Mars Room – $20.59
- The Flamethrowers – $12.96
- Conversations on Writing – $11.40
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What do you think of Volume 73 from Powell’s Books Indiespensable box?