Portland’s Powell’s Books- The Largest & Best Bookstore Ever!

best bookstore

So happy to find the largest & best bookstore ever…

Ever since I read Harriet the Spy in the fourth grade I have been a reader. In some years way more than others, but I almost always have had a book or two on the nightstand. In the last few years since becoming an Empty Nester, my quest for a great book has become more prominent.

When I am not traveling with Craig, I am at home and he is away on business, and this makes the evenings very quiet. I don’t watch much television, (except Chip and Joanna on Fixer Upper) and I would much rather read a book or catch up on my food and travel magazines.

Now during these last six months since moving (although temporary) to Seattle where I have very few friends living here,(except for the companionship of my fabulous daughter) when Craig travels, reading is my passion and is a wonderful source of entertainment.

A person can only write/research so many blog posts and communicate on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, so ultimately reading is clearly what fuels and satisfies my need for knowledge and for learning.

Our quick trip to Oregon and our visit to Powell’s Books, the best bookstore ever!

Powells Books

 

Just a couple of months ago, we took a 24 hour trip to Portland Oregon. We drove the 175 miles from Seattle so I could attend a baby shower for a dear friend who was having her first baby. It was our first ever trip to Portland and since we were there for such a short time, we needed to be laser focused on what activities we had time for!

My daughter Alex had recommended a trip to Powell’s and she described it as a gigantic bookstore that I would love. I thought, “How great could it be? Is it really the best bookstore ever?” I really do much prefer a quaint independent bookstore. Enormous stores like Barnes and Noble are fine, but they aren’t personal like a neighborhood store.

Powell's Books

 

As a side note: Supporting my passion for a neighborhood bookstore, Parnassus Books is a very successful independent bookstore located in Nashville, Tennessee which is co-owned by bestselling author Ann Patchett and publishing veteran Karen Hayes.

They wanted to create a special neighborhood bookstore where they could recommend books and enhance the local community of book lovers. To learn more of this inspiring story click here: “Ann Patchett: Owning a bookstore means you always get to tell people what to read.

Another reason why there are fewer small bookstores is that the “big bad Amazon” has swallowed up most of the book business and the rest is downloaded to the Kindles, Paperwhites and iPads. I am guilty of this, as I often download titles to my mini iPad for travel. I can carry a phenomenal personal library instead of bulky, heavy books while on the road.

However, that being said, there is nothing like the feel of a real book in your hands. Talking with passionate booksellers, learning about what is newly published from a person instead of a list in the newspaper is much more appealing. As I walked into Powell’s, it felt like bells must have been ringing and angels singing because it was almost an out of body experience.

It wasn’t just a huge bookstore. It was categorically the greatest, best bookstore of all time. Teeming with subjects, titles, colorful book jackets and throngs of readers in every direction.

Powell's Books
The stairs climbing up to the purple section.

 

Powell’s is the Disneyland of books and I never wanted to leave. The store was divided by color sections with each corresponding to a different subject. There were stairs going up and stairs going down. Within each section there was a helpful display where the booksellers shared their picks of their most recent recommendations.

best bookstore
The end cap with the suggestions of the staff.

 

Craig and I split up and met again a while later. The tremendous quantity and variety of titles was staggering. I spent most of my time in the food writing section. One of my goals for this year is to focus more on the subjects that mean the most to me and delve deeper into each subject, like the food world.

best bookstore
Best Food Writing 2015 by Holly Hughes

 

I am embarrassed to admit that I had never read anything from MFK Fisher, arguably the greatest food writer of our time. They offered so many of her books that it was difficult to choose, but I started with Gastronomical Me, an autobiographical journey of the author’s introduction to the culinary world. I also purchased A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table and Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage  by Molly Wizenberg, a food writer who is actually from Seattle (which I did not realize at the time of purchase).

In our new renovated kitchen, we are building a seating banquette with a towering bookshelf above it where I plan to make a grand library for my cookbooks, wine reference guides, health books and other inspirational food writing. I know I am such a geek, but this is our Empty Nest, and we have room now to indulge our passions and create spaces that suit our current needs and activities.

I would recommend visiting Portland just to sit among the stacks in Powells. Make sure you bring a snack, you will be there for a while.

In our quick trip, I found Portland to be like the quirky younger sister of Seattle. I wasn’t immediately enamored, but will return again to give it a little more time. For all of the Portland lovers, don’t get frustrated with me, I promise to go back soon.

best bookstore
This was a sticker at the register. See.. It’s a little quirky there.

 

best bookstore
The booksellers of Powell’s created their own word to describe the store. “litmosphere:1. the vast domain of the world’s readers and writers 2. a lively literary mood permeating the air”- So Clever!

 

What have you read lately? Do yo have a favorite best bookstore ever?

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Portland’s Powell’s Books- The Largest & Best Bookstore Ever!”

  1. Just love a good bookstore. We had a tiny, hole in the wall store in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis which specializes in mysteries – Big Sleep Bookstore. So unique and so sad it is gone. There is also a really great used book/new book store in University City – Subterranean Books – the original owner had a bird who would greet visitors. You never know what you will find there. I could spend hours there. But I think my very favorite independent is Hammond’s Books on Cherokee Street. It is cramped and musty and at Christmas time the owner greets visitors with an old ornament and a cookie.
    And don’t forget the good old library! My first memories of really reading were forged in the school and public libraries. The responsibility of having a book in your keep was so special.I haven’t been inside a library since our children reached high school – shame on me. I keep thinking about starting back, getting my card renewed. Maybe it’s time.
    It is such a shame that these treasures are disappearing. As you stated – there is nothing quite like the feel of a book in your hands. The smell of the pages, the sound as you gently turn them. So much better than a computer screen.

    Reply
    • Laura, thank you for the great descriptions of your local bookstores! In our new neighborhood we have a quaint and tiny little public library. I plan to be a regular customer!

      Reply
  2. NYC’s The Strand and Powell Books are two favorites of mine. I am so sad that printed books seem to be going the way of the dinosaur.

    Reply
    • I have heard of The Strand, but never been. I do think that books will never go away and by talking about it, may bring more readers out of the shadows!

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    • Thank you so much for the review! I can’t wait to read The Little Paris Bookshop. I am currently reading The Invention of Wings – have you read it already?

      Reply
  3. I loved this blog post about bookstores. I totally agree with you about holding a book in ones hands and feeling the actual pages.

    The neighborhood we live in right now in Chicago, called Wicker Park has one of those unique second hand bookstores that has three floors of books at reduced prices. You can spend as long as you like sitting in a comfy chair and browse or even read a whole book. No one bothers you! I also love the fact that the books are recycled and being reused.

    I used to have a huge collection of cookbooks too as I love reading cookbooks, but now that we are living an empty nester nomadic life on the road, I rarely own more than one or two books at most at any one time. Then I pass them along and find a new one. But seeing as we have no permanent home now, we try very hard not to accumulate possessions, even books. The less we have, the more free we are to move around. Its hard at first, but eventually it becomes like a game. Buy something and then you make yourself trade or get rid of something. Applies to clothes as well as books.

    Thanks for a really enjoyable read.

    And I also love libraries by the way, I think because of my fond memories of going to a local library as a child and loving the feeling of being a kid in a “candy store” full of so many options of good reads.

    Reply
    • Peta: I loved hearing about your collections and your suggestions for unique bookstores. I appreciate you reading my post and for your thoughtful comments.

      Reply

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