I know I've said this before, and I'll probably say it again, but --at this moment, subject to change-- I have found my favorite subscription.
Quarterly is, as its name indicates, a quarterly subscription service -- with a twist. Quarterly itself doesn't put together the subscription boxes available on its site; rather, it works with celebrities and individuals influential in their respective fields who themselves curate a package and offer it for subscription on the Quarterly site. Curators range from Project Runway judge Nina Garcia to design lovers Poketo to hip hop legend Q-Tip to Oakland Raiders cornerback D. J. Hayden to Bill Nye the Science Guy (!).
Each subscription, which ships out every three months, is either $50 or $100 per quarter depending on the curator, though most are $50.
So far, I've subscribed to two Quarterly boxes: Q-Tip (shipping on this one keeps getting delayed, and I think it's because the subscription slots aren't filling up -- which is inconceivable to me, but hey, people are strange) and Book Riot, and this is my first-ever Quarterly unboxing.
Book Riot is, essentially, a website built by book lovers for book lovers of all stripes and walks of life and reading habits. Its contributors, a mix of professional writers and not, adhere to the following mission statement (per the website):
That's a manifesto I can totally get behind. And so I subscribed.
AMAZING first look.
Everything about this package was fantastic, from the contents all the way down to the bookish packing tape.
Inside this beautifully designed blue sleeve were four looseleaf pages detailing the contents of the box. The other several typed loose sheets you see to the right of the sleeve are bonus portions of Lauren Leto's Judging A Book By Its Lover, available exclusively to Book Riot Quarterly subscribers (more on Lauren Leto below).
We couldn't resist taking a close-up of the gorgeous Quarterly logo embossed into the info sleeve. Packaging nerddom strikes again.
Box contents, part one. Clockwise from top:
Book Darts: Read Harder. $6.69 for a pack of 30 (though my tin has 32 -- I counted). So much less intrusive than a bookmark, and excellent to point directly to memorable lines and passages.
YAY! LiFE! Yay! Books! magnet. $3.50 each. The first item I saw on unboxing, which mirrored my feelings exactly as I went through the contents of the package.
The Unemployed Philosphers Guild Banned Books mug. $12.95 each. I love this mug, which features the titles of several notoriously banned books, from George Orwell's Animal Farm to William Burroughs' Naked Lunch. I don't think you can really tell in these pictures, but the word BANNED is embossed across the front of the mug. Badass. (By the way, to the left of the mug is the box in which it was packaged, not another item. I just thought the box was cool and deserved its moment in the spotlight, too.)
More mugshots (har).
Box contents, part two: the books! Top to bottom:
Parnassus On Wheels by Christopher Morley. Paperback, $10.00. This novella, written in 1917, is "about a couple who travel the countryside selling books." See, to me, that's a totally appealing read, not to mention lifestyle/career change. I'm sold. About its decision to include this in its mailing, Book Riot writes that "it's a beautiful and timely reminder that, although we live in a time when readers have oodles of options and everything seems new, some of the very best things about the reading life are constant."
Judging A Book By Its Lover by Lauren Leto. Paperback, $7.50. In the spirit of Book Riot's all-inclusive, totally egalitarian approach to reading, Lauren Leto's book contains essays and musings on the idea that "[t]here are no right books or wrong books to read, and no right or wrong way to read them." In the book, Leto includes "guides for faking like you've read books," and the bonus loose sheets I mentioned above are extra guides for faking your way through Karen Russell, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Donna Tartt. I haven't started the book yet (still working my way through the to-reads stacked on my nightstand), but I read through the extra and it's mostly witty fun (but what does she mean she's never read The Little Friend?!).
Gemini: A Novel by Carol Cassella. $25.99 for a hardcover edition. My copy is a paperback, but only because it's an advance reading copy. This is a new release, so it probably won't be available in paperback for a few months. Gemini, by the way, was a #BKR02 bonus: according to the info leaflets, only "[l]ucky randomly selected subscribers" received an advance reading copy of one of four yet-unpublished books, including this one. I was, of course, chuffed to find out I'd been one of the lucky bookworms -- although another of the advance copies was Molly Wizenberg's Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage, which I also would have loved to receive. If you're not familiar with Ms. Wizenberg, she writes (beautifully) a blog over at Orangette that I've been following for years, mostly about food and cooking, but also about life in the Pacific Northwest, and about starting a restaurant with her husband (whom she met through the blog), and about marriage and (very cool) motherhood, and about writing. It's fantastic, and I can't recommend it enough. Sorry, Carol Casella: this section was supposed to be about you!
Finally, to the right, leaning against the book stacklet:
Custom USB drive: Short Story Thursdays Digital Dispatch. Writer Jacob Tomsky wants to bring literature into your everyday life. At least every Thursday. Once signed up for the Short Story Thursdays mailing list, you'll receive a "classic" short story in your inbox every week. Into this particular USB drive, Jacob loaded a selection of short stories as well as a video of himself giving some background on SST and speaking about the included stories. I'd never heard of SST until #BKR02, but I think it's a brilliant idea, a provisional bridge between analog and digital (which Book Riot also builds so well), and I promptly signed up for the weekly mailings.
Box contents, part three. Last words.
Vintage bookworms-in-a-bookmobile poster, courtesy of Brooklyn-based independent publisher Melville House. This will be framed and hung proudly next to my living-room bookshelves.
Box value: This one is difficult to calculate. How do you put a price on the USB drive, which is so much more than a storage device, filled as it is with Short Story Thursdays content? Or the Melville House poster? Or the privilege of getting to read an advance copy of a yet-unpunished novel? This sub is an excellent value, but the value is derived more from the thoughtfully-curated experience and exclusively sourced items than from a tally of its worth in dollars.
Box verdict: I absolutely loved this package. It gave me not only new reading material, but stuff with which to enhance the reading experience (coffee mug and book darts, both reading essentials), a way to proclaim and show off my love for books (a magnet, an awesome poster), and a tool to bring the Internet (crack) and literature together. #BKR02 far far exceeded my expectations for this sub. I think I'll be keeping this one in perpetuity.