Bookstore Envy

On vacation it is just about impossible to see everything a city has to offer.  You check with friends and look at travel guides both online and in print as you make your plans.  You make a list.  But when it comes down to it there are only so many hours in each day.

In this case I’m talking about my visit to Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR.  Those of you who’ve been to Powell’s are probably smiling in recognition.

Even before you get through the door you know you are at a special place because of the  giant books carved into the column outside the entrance.   Now I wish I’d taken a few more moments to look at them but I had to get inside.

This place is ginormous. It is arranged in this a of layered stack of shelf-stuffed spaces. Stairs go up half a flight here, a full flight there, signs point in different directions to color-named rooms.  The arrangement is a bit baffling but also kind of magical.

In the photo above  I was in the Blue Room which led to the Gold Room.  From there  I could also go the the Coffee Shop or to the Orange Room. Got that? I could have been happily lost for hours or even days.  But I had a limited amount of time.  Luckily there are information desks all over the place and staff were very helpful. As I stumbled about, wide eyed, they pointed me in the right direction.

First I wanted to see my friend Tom’s cookbook on the shelf.

I was told to look (and I found two copies) in the giant cookbook section in the regional area under California and then alphabetical under author. Check.  By the way, that’s a giant section, not one for cookbooks that are super-sized, although this one would would qualify on both counts.

Then I backtracked to zigzag through several aisles that had caught my eye. In most bookstores the craft section isn’t very big. But I was at Powell’s which is a city block of books. The Crafts & Collectibles section is five full aisles.  FIVE.

Tall shelves on both sides of the aisles from 500 to 510.

Sewing and Felt is one whole side of an aisle.

These are the books on felting.  I can’t even find one book on felting in many bookstores.

I was determined to complete a quick tour of the whole place before leaving. I went up the main stairs to the top or Pearl Room – here is the view down.

I found this helpful sign:

Too bad I hadn’t studied the map and done more research. Instead I was doing a kind of power-browsing as I tried to taste enough of Powell’s that I could go away satisfied if not satiated.

I found a small Moleskine notebook on sale that has a beautiful blue cover.  I picked up an Anne Fadiman book, Ex Libris,  that I’d read and enjoyed to give to my friend Lisa. I found another one, Rereadings, edited by Ms. Fadiman, and decided to get one for my self and one for Lisa.  I also picked up Wild by Cheryl Strayed which I’ve been wanting to read.

Limited both by time and the size of my luggage I really only had a taste of Powell’s.

In the checkout line I picked up one more item: a bag with Powell’s written across an outline of the state of Oregon and a picture of the state bird, the Western Meadowlark. It had only been a nibble of this amazing place but I left happy.

I’m also very happy to be on vacation and finishing a post.  Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Life

8 responses to “Bookstore Envy

  1. Hi Dianne…great post. I love Powells. It was fun seeing your photos and Tom’s book on the shelf! I saw Cheryl Strayed on Oprah, and her book looks awesome. Glad you are having fun. I have been thinking of you, and smiling, knowing you are out on your adventures.

    • The only downside was not enough time! We went to a small Powell’s today that was just home and garden stuff. Cookbooks, gardening books, some crafts, some home remodeling and decoration plus loads of cute gifts, cards, totes, utensils, gardening tools, etc. Another pretty day. Loving being on vacation!

  2. Ohhhh….it looks wonderful. I mean, Book shops are always wonderful but this one looks amazing. Lucky you for getting to visit! 🙂

  3. Leah

    OH MAN. I miss Powells – isn’t it FANTASTIC!? Can I read “Wild” when you’re done with it? I love her work and have been wanting to read this new book, but the line at the library is pretty long!

    • Of course you can read “Wild” when I finish it. That is a place I could have easily spent every day of my vacation but I wanted to see other things. I would miss it too i I’d had it and had to leave it behind. Best for me (and our small apartment and limited bookshelf space) to just visit. It really is an incredible place.

      • Leah

        Thanks so much! Powells is such a magical adventure. In college, I used to spend whole saturdays there, reading and wandering and being happy and cozy with my books out of the rain. The coffee shop is a nice place in hang out and they’re usually pretty ok with you bringing in books to read. I have to admit, I may have “libraried” a couple of novels without actually buying them!

      • I can imagine a pajama party at Powells. It would be a perfect place to spend a rainy day. I brought my Powells bookbag to work with me today. A little tiny bit of vacation and of Portland. It makes me happy.

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