The City Of Books


One of the best bookstores that I have ever visited is Powell’s Books in downtown Portland, Or. The place, the headquarters of the local chain, bills itself as a city of books, really is and is the world’s largest independent bookstore. You can get a map of the place, which is helpful because it is a multistory building, and while it would be incorrect to say it is a maze, it is easy to get a bit confused.

There are huge sections of books, on a breathtaking array of topics. There are computer terminals located all over the building to help you see if a specific title is available or orderable. You can also check online for books and get them moved from one facility to another so you can look at the book or simply purchase it over the internet. Trying to remember your Latin or Greek? It has the Loeb Classical Library in all of its glory. Books on polar explores? Check. It goes on and on, as well as shelves of current best sellers and lots of quality books at a good discount. However it offers much more. On the chalk board in its coffee shop is a list of events for the month that covers both site specific as well as interesting events, literary as well as others, which are happening in the city. There are regular book clubs and author signings almost daily as well as children story time.

One thing I like is that they buy back books. Aside from my own books relatives and friends often unload books on me as well and there are only so many bookshelves you can have in your house. I do no one friend that cannot use his fireplace because they have three stacks of books in front of it. There are books that I know I will never read again, although sometimes I am mistaken. One funny thing that happened to me a couple of years ago was that I bought a book that looked interesting on the US Cavalry at Gettysburg, only to find that not only had I read it years ago, this was the actual book that I had owned and had sold to the store.

They issue a pseudo credit card with the amount you receive from your sales and you can use that card not just at the huge downtown store but at the other branches including happily the airport. If you want, or need, they also will pay cash, but it’s at a lower return rate. Also don’t be disappointed if they do not buy all of your books, there are only so many copies of Twilight that they need.

There have been other stores that bring back fond memories. The first that I can recall regularly going to was a Books Inc. in San Jose, I will always remember buying a book and then losing it while playing in a nearby orchard. I don’t remember the book but the loss always irks me. Since then I have left books on planes, trains and (intentionally) in bed and breakfasts in Europe. San Francisco’s Green Apple Books has long been a favorite. It has many of the say characteristics of Powell’s, only usually harder to park near. Friends once took me to a store in New York, maybe 30 years ago, and I remember loving it but have no idea what its name was. I recall that it had lots of first editions.


Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise

The most famous bookstore, probably in the word, is the second edition of Shakespeare and Company on Pairs’ Left Bank. I visited but did not run into any aspiring writers, at least none that declared themselves as such. I purchased a used copy of Zorba The Greek and after I had finished the book I put a note in the cover asking people to drop me an email about where they picked it up and where they left it. I then left it at a train station in Dublin. I later received two notes as it made its way to the south of France.

One thought on “The City Of Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s