"Who says the traditional bookshop is dead? In this age of chain superstores and online selling, it often seems that the days of the old-style independent dealer are numbered. But one American bookseller, at least, refuses to believe that." The Independent (London)
I discovered it when I was in 8th grade – a bookstore so large you need a map to navigate it.
Powell’s Books, an independent bookstore that fills a whole city block with over a million books, is one of my absolute favorite Portland fixtures. It’s something I did not fully take advantage of while I lived here, either. I had been to the suburban branch across from Washington Square mall before, sure, but it didn’t give the whole vision of its grander flagship location.
The first time I entered Powell’s downtown was actually while I was on an eighth grade field trip. It was Valentines Day 2003, and our teachers had decided to treat us to possibly the best field trip of all time – an all-day scavenger hunt downtown. We were split up into small groups and given the freedom to go wherever we wanted in the city in a quest to find the answers to a list of questions scattered throughout the city. Some groups decided to just go shopping instead, but my group was dedicated to the challenge, largely because of the promise of a small cash prize (I really have no idea how a public school pulled this whole thing off). I don’t remember what the question was that led us to Powell’s, and our stop there was brief, but I as soon as we walked in I knew it was love. I knew I could search the stacks there forever and be perfectly content, that there were thousands of treasures just waiting to be discovered.
Seriously, you need to go to this place before you die. Preferably several million times.
Snippet of the map as a preview of what you will enjoy when you go:
And, as a bonus, a picture from my eighth grade field trip! Kathleen is even holding the Powell’s map.
If you can’t get to Portland right now… you can always buy beautiful books online! Support the magic.
"The point is Powell's probably is the world's greatest bookstore. It is a place of staggering ambition, hidden in the very humble wrapper of a worn-out warehouse. Any library we seek tax money to build ought to measure up to Powell's or it isn't worth it." The Seattle Times
(Ok, I’m done now)