Portland, Oregon- recently named the #1 City in the US for Book Lovers, and for those of us lucky enough to live here, this should really come as no surprise.
In many parts of the world, books made of paper, glue, and cardboard may be unwell. They may be residing in the ICU—maybe even on life support; but they are not dead which means there is always hope they will pull through, survive, and live long, healthy lives.
Powell’s City of Books, located in the Pearl District of downtown Portland, Oregon, is helping to keep these books alive. This independent bookstore, the largest of its kind on the planet, houses over a half a million books. It also offers free parking to patrons, inexpensive coffee and tasty treats, and readings and book signings from authors all over the world.
Getting to Powell’s from from most parts of Portland would be a breeze. Coming from Cedar Mill, I could take a Tri-Met bus and be there in less than a half hour, or I could drive through the glorious West Hills, past Wildwood Trail, Hoyt Arboretum, and the Pittock Mansion. The Nob Hill neighborhood would greet me as I descended the hill and drove the remaining twelve blocks east on Burnside to Powell’s.
Once I entered the store, a modest looking warehouse occupying an entire city block on Burnside between 10th and 11th, just blocks from Portland State University, I would enter into a world of wonder and merriment. The smell of glue fastened to leather, cardboard, and paper of all colors, shapes, sizes, and finishes would greet my nose and release my inner book worm.
Carl Sagan, world famous author, astronomer, and astrophysicist, once said: “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
Entering this haven of beards, books, baristas, and bundled up book lovers, which is Powell’s Bookstore, I wouldn’t be able to help but feel the magic Sagan spoke of.
I wouldn’t plan to stay the whole day, but I inevitably would. I would likely start in the history section, then move to literature and grab a book of poetry before heading into the coffee shop where a super sweet barista would make me the best cup of cheap coffee I ever had. I would sit by a large window looking out towards West Burnside and gaze at the amazing architecture of the downtown skyline, the Pearl, Nob Hill. I’d read some Dickinson, finish my coffee, and return to scouring books. I’d stop off in religion, look at some graphic novels, and grab a classic just to say I read it. I’d huff it upstairs and check out the art exhibit, which is forever being updated with works from local artists. I would flip through a picture book about the bridges of Portland and study a book on the history of Oregon. I’d try to locate books on my favorite Portland neighborhoods: Nob Hill, Alameda, the Pearl District, Kenton, Hawthorne, Belmont, Sellwood, Woodstock. My face would swell with pride as I read about my fair city and looked out the window and witnessed it firsthand.
One should be so lucky.
So…if I went to Powell’s…I’d make a day of it. I’d read books, I’d drink good coffee, I’d spend a little money, and I’d be home in time for dinner.
Maybe I should go to Powell’s.
For more information on Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon visit www.powells.com