There’s no better place to while away a rainy afternoon than in one of Portland’s many locally owned bookstores. The essential and most obvious stop is at Powell’s City of Books, which, with more than 1 million new and used volumes, is the largest independent bookstore in the world. But don’t stop there! Venture a little further afield and you’ll find an abundance of literary riches at these Portland bookstores.
Longfellows Books & Periodicals
With an ambiance somewhere between an antique shop and the Hogwarts library, stepping into this decades-old, family-owned store at the edge of Southeast Portland’s Ladd’s Addition neighborhood is like going back in time. Books are crammed into every available nook, filling shelves that reach the ceiling and spill into boxes, countertops and floors. To call the collection at Longfellows “eclectic” is an understatement. Worn copies of Tortilla Flats and Treasure Island rub spines with first-edition volumes, back copies of a huge selection of magazines, and turn-of-the-century Encyclopædia Britannica sets. A friendly gray cat watches over the shop, which also houses a selection of vintage photographs, posters and magazine covers.
Green Bean Books
The impossibly cozy Green Bean has the distinction of being the premier kids’ shop among Portland bookstores. Inside a little red house on Northeast Alberta Avenue, you’ll find shelf after shelf of new and used picture books, graphic novels, nonfiction for all ages and a small but eclectic foreign language section that includes books in Vietnamese, Spanish, Chinese and more. In addition to literary treasures for the whole family, Green Bean stocks a selection of whimsical toys. Shop for finger puppets, hand-painted dolls and fake facial hair (some of which are sold from vintage, coin-operated vending machines). Settle into a couch or armchair for story time or an author event; check their site for an up-to-date calendar.
The petite Monograph isn’t a shop to get lost in, but it’s full of rare, unexpected finds. This tidy, stylish shop just off Northeast Alberta specializes in art books, retro posters and ephemera. The owners display $1 vintage postcards with the same care as antique opera posters and catalogs from Marcel Duchamp exhibits.
As the name implies, Mother Foucault’s is a haven for lovers of philosophy, but they also stock fiction, poetry, nonfiction and foreign-language titles. This relatively young shop feels like it’s been at its Central Eastside location for decades. Revel in the well-trodden rugs, worn wooden shelves and piles of dusty, leather-bound tomes. Their event calendar features readings and performances by bands from Portland and around the globe.
This female-owned shop on Northeast Broadway has drawn in shoppers since 1992 with a wide array of new fiction and nonfiction titles. Brightly lit and welcoming, Broadway Books attracts families with its exceptional customer service and a vast selection, including sizeable travel and kids’ sections. The shop also hosts author events that have featured the likes of Floyd Skloot, Cheryl Strayed and Diana Abu-Jaber.