One bookstore to End them all! (With some spilled beans on the side)

So I’m cooling my heels in Oregon at Lori L. Lake’s Autumn Writing Retreat, Minions Edition! Today authors Judy Kerr, MB Panichi and I descended on Lori Lake’s house for a week of brainstorming and writing. And, of course, a visit to Powell’s.

Once everyone was gathered from PDX, we headed directly to the bookstore of all bookstores, Powell’s City of Books. The behemoth is only the largest (and coolest) indie in the world. Maybe even in the whole entire universe. 
The very best part about taking a trip to Powell’s on this trip was the fact MB had never been to the store! It’s beyond delightful to watch the reaction of a poor, uninitiated book lover to this place of literary sin, and MB was no exception. You should’ve seen her mouth hit the floor when we first came through the main door. And then again when we found the incredibly massive Sci Fi section.

After our visit—which, of course, ended far too soon—on the way back to the car, I asked each of these troublemakers why they loved Powell’s.

Mary’s eyes were glazed, and the biggest permagrin was frozen on her face. “Oh, man,” she mumbled, “it smelled like books. Quite overwhelming. Like four floors jam packed full of Christmas!”

Lori, the lucky dachshund, lives in Portland, and and the little shite can visit Powell’s anytime she wants. With a smirk she jabbed me with her elbow and told the three of us, “That’s right, suckers. This is one place a book lover can have 365 days of Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Or the Solstice. Whatever. I’ve been going to Powell’s for forty-two years. It’s comfy and homey and monstrous. It took me five or six years to figure out where everything was stashed.” Then she  pulled the spoiled brat, “Nah nuh nana nah nuh!” and followed that with, “Too bad you guys don’t live here.”

Some people’s children.

In the elevator, as we descended into the bowels of the parking ramp, I shoved my imaginary microphone into Judy’s face. “And what do you think?”

She dramatically threw her forearm to her forehead and pretended to swoon. “Powell’s is a happy place. My happy place. I love happy places. So many books, so little time.”

Off we toddled, books clenched in our grubby little mitts, back to Lori’s.

Supper was a joint, jolly affair, and afterward the Minnesota minions pitched in to clean up. The picture below is evidence the Powell’s Effect is irresistible and long lasting. Three hours later MB was still literarily stoned by the incredible high of living the City of Books experience.

She cleaned that up and wandered away, probably to investigate the treasures she’d scored. So what bookstore is is your favorite drug? What is it about the place that brings words to life and you coming back over and over again?



  1. Ok wait, y’all got to hang out with Lori AND hang out at Powell’s? Cool…that’s memory making stuff there. We don’t have a Powell’s up here in Ontario, but we do have a Chapters. Okay, a few of them. They’re a pretty big chain. I could get happily lost in a Chapters. Probably not as big as Powell’s, but no matter how much I love my e-reader and mobi files, I still have a love affair with dead-tree books. *eyes stack on a table nearby* And libraries….ohhh, I love a good library too. Now I want to go organize my bookshelves by subject matter…

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    • If it was possible, I would upload you a pic of The Tattered Cover, long the 2nd largest Indie Bookstore in the US. I worked here nearly 30 years ago and gave my first author reading this summer. It is heaven on earth. One can literally get lost there for hours! I’m so happy you got to spend time at Powells and thanks for giving us a visual reference point for it! Ona

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    • Hey Carolyn, Yeah, I’m a lucky dog to be able to spend time with Lori and Judy and MB and my laptop. It’s time to get back to writing! I was in a Chapters when I was at Bouchercon in Toronto a couple of years ago. It was really cool. I’d love to see more. Libraries, too! wonderful places. Hope the book organizing goes swimmingly!

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  2. Spokane has an independent bookstore that I adore. Aunties is a much smaller version of Powell’s Books but equally warm and inviting. I’m fortunate to have family in the Portland area so a visit to the best bookstore around is often part of my travels. I’ve shared my passion for reading with my 2 young granddaughters and they love going to Powells..

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  3. I’ve never gotten to Portland so I’ve not been to the vaunted Powell’s, but I’ve ordered many a book from there. I’ve been to some great bookstores all over Boston, Baltimore, D.C. during my military years, and in Columbus, Ohio – The Book Loft – which is the closest major city to where I live now. I also visited a cool old one in Frankfurt, Kentucky one time, Poor Richard’s. It’s right downtown, near the statehouse. Downstairs – all new books. Upstairs? A packed to the rafters treasury of used books I could have sifted through for days.

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    • Anne, I’ve hit a most amazing indie bookstore on Dupont Circle, but for the life of me I can’t think of the name. Poor Richard’s reminds me of Once Upon a Crime Mystery Bookstore in Minneapolis. They, too, are in the basement. The main store is new mysteries, while down a squat, tunnel-like hallway is another set of rooms comprising The Annex, shelf after shelf of pulp fiction, antique hardcovers, and signed first edition books. Now I have to add both The Book Loft and Poor Richard’s to my must see list.


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