Good Buys: Powell’s Books’ Indiespensable book club

PowellsBook clubs are a good risk. The greatest risk of receiving regular books in the mail is that you won’t care for the book. As I love a shelf of handsome volumes, it’s a risk I happily accept.

The risks are low with Powell’s extraordinary Indiespensable book club, Every six weeks Powell’s sends a curated hardcover in a custom slipcase autographed by the author.

(That these handsome books are accompanied by extra goodies is delightful: I have received tote bags, tea, bourbon pecans, chocolates, caramels, notepads, postcards, magnets, shortbread, popcorn, advanced copies of new books, and sea salt. It’s pretty awesome.)

Powell’s hits home runs regularly with clear winners like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, and J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus. It feels fairly phenomenal to have Coetzee’s autograph on my bookshelf.

Even when I haven’t previously heard of the book, I’m usually thrilled to bits. Recent Indiespensable volumes that blew my mind include In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell, The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell, and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.

Even when I don’t love the book I appreciate its beauty  or the opportunity to have read it.  I found Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus light and fluffy but its opulent velvet slipcase was beautiful. Andre Dubus II’s memoir Townie made a good gift for my father. I admit I threw Mark Slouka’s Brewster across the room in screaming fury (I have a low tolerance for animal abuse and this book’s horrors will haunt me longer than I’d like) but it was by no means an unworthy novel.

Administratively, Powell’s deserves credit for sharing weeks in advance what book is next and what day it ships. Today I learned that I can expect Donna Tartt’s new novel just after its Nov. 6 ship date. As an ongoing subscriber I can take the book off my shopping list, and new subscribers have a chance to jump on board for this particular shipment or an ongoing subscription.

Powell’s Indiespensable is the right way to run a book club: organized, reliable, one-of-a-kind editions, extra goodies, and well stocked with quality books.  The Shared Universe recommends it unreservedly.


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