Powell's Books

I loved Portland. I know that's not very descriptive, but that's the best way to say it. Portland was our next destination after Seattle, and we decided to spend two nights there because I'd only driven through Oregon before this trip and J had never been there. We'd both heard good things about the city.

We arrived there Saturday night, and because it was pretty late we got a room and went to bed right away. J looked through the guidebooks and plotted out a rough itinerary for us for the next day and when we woke up we got going.

We had one of those rare days when you do a million different things and just when you're feeling tired you stop for a break (Chai at Coffee Time on 21st street) and it's back on.

We had breakfast at a popular breakfast spot, Cup and Saucer, in the Hawthorne District where we observed the local hipsters and made note of at all the vegan options on the menu.

We went shopping in the many boutiques in the Nob Hill area, or, to put it more aptly, I dragged J from store to store while trying to convince myself that rainboots would not be a totally useless purchase.

We saw Chuck Close prints at the Portland art museum.

We experienced a ton of Portland, basically, and I couldn't get enough. And while I loved it all, there was one place that impressed me the most. One place that truly lived up to it's reputation. Powell's Books.

To say Powell's is a big bookstore is to put it mildly. It's huge. Multi-storied, with color-coded rooms featuring every genre you can think of, a coffee shop and baskets for customers to tote around the many books they inevitably want to buy. I'd heard from others who had visited the store that you can easily spend an entire afternoon there, an entire day, even, and I'd been saving up for it, passing other bookstores in other cities by, waiting for my trip to Portland.

One of my favorite things about Powell's is that the used books and new books are placed together on the shelves, meaning you just might score a great deal on that novel you'd been meaning to pick up. It also means that you're more likely to buy a ton of stuff while you're there, because, you know, you're getting a bargain, but whatever. It's books. It's ok to buy too many books. Books equal knowledge.

J and I separated when we got there. We figured it was pointless to try to stay together and that even though the store spans an entire block we'd somehow find each other when we needed to.

I wandered around aimlessly taking it all in before finally settling down and spending some serious time in the philosophy and literature sections and then, like a moth drawn to a flame, heading over to the mystery room.

I've been reading mysteries nonstop for about two years, which is sort of weird because I never liked the genre before. My mom got me into reading mysteries, turning over all the ones she's read to me, particularly Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri mysteries. Leon writes about an inspector who works in Venice and Camilleri writes about one who works in Sicily. I'd read these things and nothing else, honestly, except for the fact that I recently told myself I can't go through life reading nothing but Italian murder mysteries. I just can't. Maybe when I retire.

I wasn't going to refuse myself when I was in the biggest bookstore in the world, though, so I headed into the mystery room ready to pick out a few new titles.

Naturally I gravitated towards my favorites, and while looking for a Camilleri mystery I hadn't yet read, I noticed a post-it tacked up underneath the shelf where some dutiful employee had written "other authors who write mysteries set in Italy," followed by a number of names, and I swear to you, it was like someone had looked directly into my soul, seen my heart's true desire and decided to grant that wish. I guess that's what the best bookstore ever is all about.