Powell’s City of Books is a bookstore lover’s dream come true
I traveled to Portland, Oregon, last week with about a dozen women — members of a book club that has morphed over the years into a food, wine and travel club. We still read books now and then. In advance of this trip, we read “My Abandonment,” a novel by Peter Rock that is set in Portland and tells the story of a father and daughter who live on the fringes of society in the aptly named Forest Park outside the city.
But I’m not going to review that novel here today. What I want to talk about is another reading-related activity we accomplished during our trip. Because as you might know, Portland is known as the City of Bridges, the City of Roses, and perhaps most gloriously, the City of Books.
Powell’s City of Books in Portland is the largest new and used bookstore in the world, occupying an entire city block and housing more than a million titles. For years now, this Pearl District landmark has been at the top of my bookstore bucket list, and I finally went there.
I literally skipped across the Burnside Street crosswalk toward the entrance, and then spent hours browsing Powell’s nine color-coded rooms — shelf after shelf of novels, biographies, essay collections and poetry. I scoured the staff picks. I peeked inside the Rare Book Room. I climbed the stairs and smelled the coffee and just marveled at the bookish magnificence of it all. The weather outside was gray and drizzly — it was Portland, after all — but I was in heaven.
Whenever I travel, I put a local independent bookstore on my itinerary, and I try to buy a book that reflects that community. At Powell’s I picked up “Loaners: The Making of a Street Library,” about a mobile library that serves people without homes. The woman who launched it believes the right book can change a person forever. So can the right bookstore.