Portland is a famously literary city that has been home to innumerable influential authors — we’ve outlined some must-read books below. Pick up a copy from among the 1.5 million volumes at Powell’s City of Books, or add to your library at one of Portland’s other beloved bookstores.
Cheryl Strayed’s raw, affecting account of hiking 1,100 miles (1,770 km) on the Pacific Crest Trail won praise — and loyal fans — for its emotional honesty and fierce humor. It became a New York Times bestseller and was adapted into an Academy-Award-nominated motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon.
Fugitives and Refugees
Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk pulls back the drapes on Portland’s (and his own) oddball history with tales of Santa mobs, swingers’ clubs and Shanghai tunnels, among other sordid dealings.
In Katherine Dunn’s 1989 novel, a carny couple tries to breed their own freak show, and their troubled children vie for power. (That’s an admittedly extreme case, though most local parents do hope their kids will help “Keep Portland Weird.”) The book was a finalist for the National Book Award, and remains beloved to this day, having sold more than half a million copies.
Adapted into the 2018 film Leave No Trace, this novel by Reed College professor Peter Rock was inspired by the remarkable true story of a man and his young daughter who lived off the grid in Portland’s Forest Park for four years.
The Lathe of Heaven
Portland’s dystopian future, complete with an erupting Mount Hood, is portrayed in this 1971 novel by sci-fi and fantasy legend Ursula K. Le Guin. Over the course of her 60-year career, Le Guin won a National Book Award, a National Book Foundation Medal, eight Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards, among other accolades.
The Ramona Books
Throughout Portland, you can find many names and landmarks from the adventures of Ramona Quimby and her cohorts (like Northeast Klickitat Street, where Ramona and Beezus live), detailed in more than two dozen children’s books written by Beverly Cleary from 1950 to 2000. For more fun, visit the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park, near Cleary’s childhood stomping grounds.
The first mystery thriller in Portland author Chelsea Cain’s bestselling Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell series introduces readers to the creepiest serial killer you’ve ever encountered.
The Wildwood Chronicles
The Decemberists’ singer Colin Meloy is known for his epic storytelling in song lyrics, so it comes as no surprise that he wrote a fantasy adventure series about Prue McKeel’s quest to find her brother in the Impassable Wilderness locals call Wildwood (or Forest Park in Northwest Portland). The books are beautifully illustrated by Meloy’s wife, Carson Ellis, who has also provided cover art for the Decemberists.
Powell’s City of Books
Covering an entire city block, Powell’s has grown into a Portland landmark and the world's largest new and used bookstore — and its location is at the heart of the city, bridging the Pearl District, downtown and the West End.
The Portland Book Festival
Portland Book Festival (formerly “Wordstock”) returns every November with an impressive (and extensive) lineup of local and national authors.
A Booklover’s Guide to Portland
From coffee houses with community libraries to writing workshops and a book festival, bookworms rejoice; this is for you.
Portland Bookstores, Beyond Powell’s
Don't stop with the largest independent bookstore in the world; these seven other shops offer an abundance of literary riches.
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