Local PDX: For The Love of Books

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

So, if you didn't know Portland pretty much has the best book store on the planet. It is one thing that tethers me here to my homeland. I literally can't imagine a world where there is no Powell's books close to my house. Where else do people buy books?! Having always had Powells since I was a knee high to a grasshopper I scoff at chain bookstores. I know not the experience of buying books from a place that isn't a city unto itself and independently owned and operated, a place that is the crowing jewel of a city.

In fact think it might be the number one tourist destination for Portland. Powell's is the city of books after all. There are a few locations, I prefer the smaller one that is close to my house, and by smaller I mean the average size of a barnes and nobel, but without all that superflous stuff they fill their space with. But the one downtown is the big one, the one people come from around the world to visit and it's the one we went to this weekend. It's four stories and, I don't know, like 70,000 sqft. As you can see the bookcases are tall and each giant room is a designated a color to help categorize it: the gold room, the rose room, the pearl room, et al.. The store has its own map and you can spot newbies and tourists as they find a corner to look at it to navigate their way to the next destination. It's magical, it's kind of like something, well, out of a book.

One of our nicest shopping districts was built around Powell's. It used to be this very industrial and forgotten part of town. There were several breweries down there and it smelled pretty terrible. It was the place to find books, scary pop-up nightclubs and lots of parking spaces. Now its neighbors are Jonathan Adler, West Elm, Anthropologie and several high end furniture design shops. This part of town is almost unrecognizable from when I was younger, until I step through the bookstore doors and it's all exactly as it was. It is one of those places that just feels like home. Even if you have never been there, if you love books, Powell's will feel like home.

As a little girl I remember going there (when it was never nearly as crowded as it is now!), it was quiet and I would imagine being locked inside the store and having to live there forever. When I go now, I still get that feeling of being in a place that is almost mythical and fully encompasses the feeling of being cosy and that good kind of feeling of being lost. I single-handedly both credit Powell's for giving me a love of reading and blame them for turning me into such a book hoarder.

Well, I guess this post has turned into a love letter to Powell's, maybe a love letter to Portland in general. Because for me they are one in the same and I just couldn't have one without the other. I ended up getting The Snow Child on this trip. Has anyone read it yet? I am kind of regretting not getting State of Wonder . . . but I might just have to make another trip for it here soon.

Do you have a hands-down favorite spot in your city?


  1. When I come and visit you :), will you take me to Powell's (I've always wanted to go) so I don't look like a newbie in the corner? Norfolk isn't there yet with places like this. We move at a slow, southern crawl, but Neel and I look around and marvel at how much our little city has changed in the 10 years we've been here. We're getting there, in the cool factor. Slowly.

  2. Christine, is it weird to say that that's one of the only reasons why I want to visit Portland? I'm a bookstore FIEND - I'm also a big fan of Tattered Cover in Denver and Book People in Austin.

  3. What a store!! Be still my book-loving heart. I grew up going to smaller bookshops, too. Whodunnit is a great one; it's tiny, secondhand, but still magical in the way all bookstores are. There's also Joseph Fox, which is all new books but an independent seller, too, like Whodunnit. I am an absolute book hoarder, and I've moved once a year for the past 8 years (with the exception of last year) and though those boxes of books were heavy, I never once thought about jettisoning any of them. No sir! When I come to visit Portland, this will be my second stop; first will be to tackle-hug my twinsy. xoxo

  4. Aww, I want bookshelves like that in my house. Actually my dream would be a dedicated library with a ladder to reach the highest shelves. I can totally relate to your childhood self and would have loved to be locked into a bookstore like that. Always envied a friend from elementary school who's mother owned a bookstore. xx PS. If I ever come to Portland, you'd have to be my guide.

  5. my oh my, I will be dreaming of this bookstore. It is now on my bucket list of places to visit.
    thanks for sharing.

  6. Sigh...We only have a Barnes and Noble near to us, which I visit weekly. We do have a charming library just a few miles from our house. We go there on a regular basis too. However, alas, we have nothing near to us like Powell's. That store makes my heart sing. I could spend hours and hours there. You would have to drag me out. Lucky duck!
    PS~Can you start working on a blogger meetup in PDX? ;)

  7. This post makes me sad for the fact that several book stores have closed in our area recently. And big ones like Borders and Barnes & Nobles too. But I'm glad you have such a place that you love so much.

  8. That book shop looks heavenly... I used to love Borders when they were in the UK but they went too soon and all the independent book shops I used to go to have closed now :(

    The Snow Child is a wonderful book - and I have a copy of State of Wonder just waiting to be read (I did a sneaky read of the first chapter and it was astonishingly good).

  9. I can't imagine myself living in a city without a bookstore as well. I haven't been to store that has a very large bookshelf though. I would love to be in your favorite bookshop! I think I'd stay in there twice the time I usually stay in these small but awesome bookstores in my city. ;)

    The three books you have are on my list. :)


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