Powell’s books is a Portland (Oregon) institution. There are many reasons why you should go to Portland, if you’ve not been. But, really, Powell’s alone is reason enough. We went to Portland yesterday and met up with my brother, sister-in-law and niece. Us girls had tickets to Disney’s Frozen on Ice, the boys were along for the ride. I’ll tell you about Frozen later. For now, I’ll tell you about Powell’s.
I love books. That’s all there is to it. And, thus, a trip to Portland is not complete without a trip to Powell’s books. Actually, we’ve only started going to Powell’s the last couple of years or so. So, I’m a new addict, not a lifelong one.
I can’t go to Powell’s books without thinking of the following quote from You’ve Got Mail:
Joe Fox: [on the new Fox Books superstore] Hey, you know what? We should announce ourselves to the neighborhood. Just let them know, here we come.
Kevin: Oh, no, this is the Upper West Side, man. We might as well tell ’em we’re opening up a crack house. They’re gonna hate us. Soon as they hear, they’re gonna be lining up…
Joe Fox: to picket the big bad chain store…
Kevin: that’s out to destroy…
Joe Fox: everything they hold dear.
Joe Fox: Do you know what? We are going to seduce them. We’re going to seduce them with our square footage, and our discounts, and our deep armchairs, and…
Joe Fox, Kevin: Our cappuccino.
Joe Fox: That’s right. They’re going hate us at the beginning, but…
Joe Fox, Kevin: But we’ll get ’em in the end.
Joe Fox: Do you know why?
Joe Fox: Because we’re going to sell them cheap books and legal addictive stimulants. In the meantime, we’ll just put up a big sign: “Coming soon: a FoxBooks superstore and the end of civilization as you know it.”
First of all, what happened to the good old days of Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movies? Sigh. I feel a movie marathon coming on.
Second, Powell’s is not a superstore, but they do sell cheap books and legal addictive stimulants. Powell’s claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but I don’t really care. Why would I argue with a bookstore that occupies an entire city block? 68,000 square feet. 1.6 acres. A bibliophile’s paradise.
My obsession with books started at a young age. I don’t know when my Mom first took me to the public library because, in my memory, it’s always been there. When I was old enough, Dad and Mom would drop me off at the library on their way back to work after lunch. I would stay at the library until the public pool across the parking lot opened at which point I would go swim. Every single summer I participated in the summer reading program at the library. Mrs. Jorgenson was the friendly librarian. Dr. Suess gave way to Beverly Cleary gave way to Laura Ingalls gave way Nancy Drew, or some similar permutation. In my teens I spent a number of years rotting my brain on slutty romance novels. These days it’s an eclectic mix of mostly fluff with some not-so-fluff tossed in to keep me on my toes. I’ve talked a bit about my reading habits in an earlier post. You can read it here.
Reading is my escape, reading is the way I wind down, reading is my comfort. I get a little panicky if I’m approaching the end of one book and don’t have another to start. I am a regular at my local library. I have a long list of favorite authors and I often reserve books while they’re still on order. The only disadvantage is that many of them seem to come in all at once, which means that it is not uncommon, a couple of times a year, to be faced with the challenge of reading five or so books within the 3 week lending period. This would not be a problem if I didn’t have a full time job. And, heaven forbid that I should have to return a book without reading it and move to the end of the reserve line. I had to do that a few weeks ago. I may have shed a tear when I dropped the unread book into the book drop.
Powell’s is particularly fun because I actually get to buy a few books when there. You see, I can’t afford my reading habit. Well, I could, but why spend that much money on a book that I’ll likely finish in a week or less? And, the bigger issue would be space. Last year I read approximately 50 books. This year it looks as if I’ll top that. Storage would be an issue as I don’t have a Powell’s to sell my books to. I guess I could sell to Half Price Books, but, again, why pay new book prices?
The husband always gets to buy his books brand new. He is a slow but thorough reader. That’s the other thing about me: I don’t retain what I read. It’s pure enjoyment, often fluff, and I read so fast that I don’t retain. That was a problem for me when I majored in History in college.
The husband has been looking for a new book for a few weeks now (he leans towards historical fiction…Vikings and Crusaders and the like). Last Sunday afternoon he announced he was going to Barnes and noble to find a new book. Off he went. A couple of hours later he returned….empty handed. Sacrilege! I cannot conceive of going to a bookstore and not being able to find a book read.
So, going to Powell’s was another opportunity for him to find a book. I mean, how can you go into a store the size of a city block and not find one single book to read?! But, the husband and I approach Powell’s in two very different ways. When I enter Powell’s it’s like coming home. I feel so incredibly comfortable around books. The only thing that would improve a trip to Powell’s would be if I could a) where my jammies and some fuzzy slippers and b) I was allowed to privately shop when the store was closed so people wouldn’t clutter my experience. The husband, on the other hand, is overwhelmed by Powell’s.
He walked out empty handed.
I limited myself to four books, but also took note of half a dozen other titles that I will request from the library. My two favorite sections are cooking and travel. Big surprise, yes? Today I also perused the photography section. We spent around an hour and a half there. Not enough time. Never enough time. Some time I would like to get to Powell’s right when it opens and spend at least three hours there. Or, even better, spend three hours, go get lunch, come back, spend another three hours. Talk about a perfect day.
Powell’s is also fun because they don’t just have books. They have…stuff. Mugs-n-socks-journals-n-gadgets-n-bags-n-t-shirts-n-water bottles. I could spend a lot of money just on the cool stuff they sell. Today I found myself drawn to an end-cap filled with adult coloring books. Something like this and this. I almost bought one, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I was drawn to the idea of coloring, or to the idea of purchasing a brand new box of colored pens or pencils (I have a soft spot for school supplies). I’ll have to think about it.
Now we’re home (the cat was happy to see us and, I’m happy report, destroyed nothing on his first solo over nighter. He was allowed full access to the house for over 24 hours. He sleeps in the garage when we’re here) and I still have my fuzzy Powell’s feeling. Which is why I thought I would share. So that you can share the fuzzy feeling vicariously.
Oh, and we stopped at our favorite local coffee shop yesterday morning and I was delighted to discover that the eggnog has arrived (I talked about my pumpkin/eggnog obsession here). I will now sip eggnog chai from now through Christmas. Bliss!