Powell’s City of Books
Portland, Oregon
Guest blogger Tom Seymour
Some photos courtesy of Tom Seymour

My first visit to Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon put scrape marks on my chin as it repeatedly hit the floor each time I turned a corner and discovered a new area of the store.

Powell’s Books, The City of Books (as it calls itself), started in 1979 and has grown to 1.6 acres of retail floor space. CNN rates it one of the ten “coolest” bookstores in the world.

When we first entered the store it looked large, but not spectacular. Then as you walk through one area, another opens up to you, then another. There are many steps and half levels with twists and turns. The store is broken up into areas designated by color, or name. For example you might be directed to the Purple Room, or the Pearl Room. The store is in the Pearl District of downtown Portland.


The collections mix new and used books on the same shelves. I like that since I had only to look in one place for a title, and not go to a separate “new” area or “used area.

Help was everywhere. Staff was always close at hand, and very willing to go above and beyond to track down what you were looking to find.

On the third floor was a Rare Book Room with amazing Items for sale. I became interested in the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and found an original volume of color prints and text that covered many parts of the fair. It was a good addition to my collection.


Also on the third floor is an area that looks like an art gallery. An open space with benches, and items displayed on the wall. In this case though, the items were sets of books. With a wide range of ages and topics, I did find the set of books that we grew up with. The My Book House set was read to us daily as we were growing up. I think volume 2 was the most used and contained all the traditional fairy tales that children of our era knew well.


I also had to look up “Letters from Skye” by Jessica Brockmole, a former student of mine. Picture proof that her volume is well displayed at Powell’s Books.

We didn’t get to fully explore all of the areas of the store, but look forward to returning to continue the fun.

Note from Paulette:
Who remembers My Book House? This place looks like a book lover’s paradise. Thanks Tom, for bringing it to our attention.

The size of the store is hard to imagine. It takes up a city block and is three stories high. The flagship store contains a million books and is located at 1005 West Burnside Street. Books are sold online and you can read and see pictures of the recent renovation.

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