City of Books

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Now that’s the sort of city I’d like to live in. But “City of Books” isn’t a real city, just the motto of Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore.

I spent four days in Portland last week and probably six hours (over four visits) at Powell’s, self-described as the world’s largest independent bookstore. One million books over nine rooms, four floors and 68,000 square feet that covers an entire city block. They hand out maps to help you navigate.

I limited myself to seven books. Just browsing was enlightening. My boy Mark Twain filled 11 shelves. Dickens filled nine. Powell’s stocks used and new books together, a consumer-friendly touch. Powell’s doesn’t have everything, but if you can’t find something to interest you, you’re not looking very hard.

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  • Bob House

    Here’s a nice little stop-motion animation of a real city of books. Coincidentally, it’s from “4th Estate,” i.e., the Press.

    [Cute video, Bob. A city made of paper, eh? The Fire Department must keep busy. — DA]

  • Doug Evans

    My sister lives in Hilsboro, just twenty minutes south of Portland… I love that bookstore. Sadly, I haven’t been up to visit my sister since before my daughter was born… seven years ago (though Wendy comes down twice a year, so it’s not like we don’t talk or anything!). Happily, we’re going up to see her over Thanksgiving. Powell’s, here we come!

    Nine shelves of Dickens?? You didn’t happen to pick up a copy of Great Expectations while you were up there, did you?

    [Actually, that’s the only Dickens I own, so no. Let me work through my Twain obsession first, then I’ll tackle Charlie (maybe). — DA]

  • Dean

    Once I read that first paragraph, I thought for sure you would have had to buy an extra suitcase for your return trip, but you showed great restraint.

    [I did, didn’t I? It helped that not only do I have an awful lot of unread books already, but that four of them originated in my earlier Powell’s trip (when I bought 13). — DA]