My fiance and I were just in Oregon for a long weekend, and since we flew into Portland, couldn't help but pay a visit to the Mecca of all bookstores - Powell's. The place is enormous - covering several floors, with large rooms coded by color to let you know what's in them. My two favorites were the "Orange Room" where you could find such things as cooking, gardening and interior design... the Blue Room, home to literature, poetry and the classics... and the Pearl Room, where you can find art and architecture. Brian went off to hunt for an out-of-print book on trains in America, while I indulged my newfound interest in permaculture gardening.
Portland gets big points in my mind for being such a book-loving city. The place was filled (on a Thursday afternoon) with lots of folks climbing ladders to get to their book of choice, or browsing graphic novels while sipping on their espresso in the "World Cup Coffee and Tea" shop. Not long after I started browsing the permaculture gardening books, a young man pointed to one in particular that he recommended. "I worked for this gardener for a few years, and he really knows what he's talking about." Impressive!
My only complaint with Powell's is the lack of really comfortable seating and ambience. Because it is so large, it feels more like a Sam's Club or Costco than your neighborhood independent bookstore. And while it might be heaven for somebody on a quest for a particular out-of-print or used book, it doesn't encourage one to stay and meander at leisure.
Still we both left satisfied customers. I ended up with Wendell Berry's "The unsettling of America" about the industrial farming industry and what it's done to our family farm culture.
Anybody else been to Powell's? What's your favorite independent bookstore? I'd love to hear from you!