GIVEN THAT PORTLAND is home to one of the greatest bookstores in the world, it's easy to forget that our city is full of bookstores that aren't named Powell's. This puts us in a pretty great spot—especially considering that, across the country, booksellers are grudgingly closing their doors, cursing Amazon and Apple. Even Powell's isn't immune to the ebook revolution, with decreasing sales leading to rising prices and conflict between management and employees. While that local juggernaut might be the automatic go-to for locals and tourists, visiting—and supporting—Portland's other bookstores is a fantastic way to spend a few hours. Or a day. Or a week.
We checked out as many of Portland's independent booksellers as we could, plus a few just past city limits. We flipped through a whole lot of pages at a whole lot of stores, but no doubt we missed a few. If we didn't hit your favorite bookstore, jump into the comments section to let us—and everybody else—know what other bookstores in Portland are worth a visit.
Annie Bloom's Books
Annie Bloom's feels larger than it is—while none of its sections are huge, they're all remarkably well curated, containing the must- and/or should-reads of just about every genre and subject, with a particular emphasis on local authors. Employee reviews are tucked inside books' front covers, and! Bonus points for their store cat! She's a bit uppity! Her name is Molly!
7834 SW Capitol Highway, 246-0053, Mon-Fri 9 am-10 pm, Sat-Sun 9 am-9 pm, annieblooms.com
Bingo Used Books
Easily one of Portland's better used bookstores, Bingo Used Books boasts upward of 75,000 books onsite (with that many again available online). The store's a browser's paradise—it has everything, including cool old hardcovers and great nonfiction and reference sections—but it's less ideal if you're looking for anything specific, since the shelves are organized by section but not necessarily by author. Bonus points for having one of the best sections ever: "Religion, Philosophy, Metaphysics, and Horses."
3366 SE Powell, 231-4091, Mon-Fri noon-8 pm, Sat 1-7 pm, Sun 1-5 pm, bingousedbooks.com
Broadway Books largely caters to the Irvington-dwelling, card-carrying members of Oprah's Book Club—which means you might bump into your mom, but also means if you're looking for contemporary literary fiction, Broadway has you covered. They've also got passable genre sections, and they devote plenty of space to local authors—if you need a signed copy of Cheryl Strayed's new book, Broadway's got it.
1714 NE Broadway, 284-1726, Mon-Sat 10 am-7 pm, Sun noon-5 pm, broadwaybooks.net
Cameron's Books and Magazines
Ah, SW 3rd: Strip clubs! Street kids! Food carts! Voodoo tourists! Cameron's! Entering the labyrinthine Cameron's feels like descending into a hoarder's basement—in a good way, though! A good way! Decorated with old-timey posters and cranky signage ("PLEASE DO NOT SHOVE BOOKS ANY WHICH WAY," "NO CELL PHONE CACOPHONY ALLOWED"), Cameron's has a ton of used books, from battered pulps on spinner racks—35 cents!—to literary fiction and nonfiction, along with rows of old, yellowing magazines, piled in teetering stacks.
336 SW 3rd, 228-2391, Mon-Sat 10 am-6 pm, Sun 11 am-4 pm, cameronsbooks.com
A Children's Place
The first thing you'll notice when entering the airy A Children's Place is their big, diverse, and up-to-date young adult section. (Related: Did you know that even John Grisham has a YA series now? Allow us to introduce you to Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.) Once you head further in, you'll find books for younger readers, along with games and an entire section devoted to dinosaurs. Yes, there's a "Fairy Princesses" section too, but the dinosaurs one is way cooler.
4807 NE Fremont, 284-8294, Mon-Sat 10 am-6 pm, Sun noon-5 pm, achildrensplacebookstore.com
UPDATE: CLOSED :( Annnd now for the exact opposite of a children's bookstore! CounterMedia offers all sorts of counter-culture and art books, along with comics and erotica—the front room is relatively all-ages friendly, but go behind the counter to find the good stuff. The vintage comics are particularly fun to flip through—if you're looking for back issues of Dan Clowes' Eightball, this is the store for you. Bonus points for having a store dog.
927 SW Oak, 226-8141, Mon-Sat 11 am-7 pm, Sun noon-6 pm
Dollar Book Fair
An accidental discovery on a routine trip to the suburbs, the gigantic, weirdly named "Dollar Book Fair" is a treasure trove of used $1 and $2 hardbacks and paperbacks, stacked on shelves that may have been obtained at a Blockbuster going-out-of-business sale. Book donations are accepted in exchange for store credit (a little goes a long way!) and its location next to the Tigard Flea Market makes for a pretty compelling suburban shopping expedition. Plus: We found a 1975 copy of Nora Ephron's Crazy Salad FOR A DOLLAR! That's going on eBay.
14285 SW Pacific Hwy, Tigard, 968-2665, Mon-Fri 11 am-4 pm, Sat-Sun 10 am-5 pm, dollarbookfair.com
Green Bean Books
Entirely delightful, the cozy Green Bean Books carries a wide swath of kids' lit—everything from sturdy picture books to the latest YA series—and a small but well-stocked "Grown-Up Fiction" shelf for those who couldn't care less about Katniss. They also have weekly story times, a shaded patio with kid-sized chairs for outdoor reading, and, oh, hey, warning: Even if you don't think you want kids, you will after being in Green Bean for about five seconds.
1600 NE Alberta, 954-2354, Mon-Sat 11 am-6 pm, Sun 10 am-5 pm, greenbeanbookspdx.com
Hawthorne Boulevard Books
Its nondescript exterior is all but invisible, but Hawthorne Boulevard Books is 100 percent amazing on the inside: tight floor-to-ceiling shelves are packed with gorgeous and rare hardcovers, with a good assortment of surprising, affordable paperbacks to boot. Here's the spot to go if you want fancy-pants leather-bound sets to class up your dump of a house, but you'll likely leave with a few weird oddities too.
3129 SE Hawthorne, 236-3211, Wed-Sat 11 am-5 pm
In Other Words
UPDATE: CLOSED :( It's almost a stretch to characterize In Other Words as a bookstore—it feels more like a community space that happens to have a few shelves of books. Said shelves are full of feminist theory, history, fiction, and genre titles, most—but not all, hello Stephen King—written by women. There's also a lending library and a magazine rack, plus plenty of space for workshops and readings and Portlandia shoots.
14 NE Killingsworth, 232-6003, Tues-Sat noon-7 pm, inotherwords.org
Turns out Nerdvana is in a Vancouver strip mall, hidden behind a Shell station and next to the offices of the Clark County Republicans. Interstellar Overdrive boasts an astounding array of sci-fi and fantasy, from Isaac Asimov to George R.R. Martin to Star Trek novelizations, along with bowed shelves full of pulp anthologies, books on nerdy baby names, and—at least when we visited—several tables of dollar-priced hardcovers. Labeled clocks next to the cash register display the current times on Arrakis, Barsoom, Earth, Perelandra, and Trantor—in other words, genre geeks will find a ton of cheap stuff to geek out over; everybody else will get a kick out of seeing this much goofy, lurid cover art in one place.
7732 NE Hazel Dell, Vancouver, 360-771-7761, Mon-Fri 11 am-7 pm, Sat 10 am-5 pm, Sun 2-5 pm
UPDATE: CLOSED, BUT LOCATION NOW OCCUPIED BY BOOKS WITH PICTURES Everyone says the same thing about the little blue bookstore on SE Division: "I've always wondered about it, but I've never been in." Here's a tip: Go in. A family-run shop that's been in the neighborhood for over 20 years, Longfellows Books is crammed with towering stacks of old books and magazines in any category you can imagine. The shop does much of its business online, but the shelves are full of embossed hardbacks, sheet music, Modern Classics, and first-edition paperbacks. The clutter can be overwhelming, but a friendly counter-dude is happy to answer questions.
1401 SE Division, 239-5222, Mon-Sat 1-5 pm, longfellowspdx.com
Small, neat, and focused, Monograph Bookwerks is a one-stop shop for the sort of handsome coffee table books you'll want to leave out to trick people that you want to have sex with into thinking you're cultured and intelligent. Along with a diverse range of glossy art books, you'll find books on design and architecture, plus classy knickknacks like wooden letterpress blocks.
5005 NE 27th, 284-5005, Wed-Sun 11 am-7 pm, monographbookwerks.com
Mother Foucault's Bookshop
Mother Foucault's is a pretentious bookstore in the fine tradition of pretentious bookstores—one of the used books we pulled off the shelf bore a Shakespeare and Company stamp. The shop is tiny and relatively new, but somehow seems ancient, like a toddler wearing glasses. The shelves go so high there's an actual slidey ladder, just like in Beauty and the Beast, and they're well stocked in Important Books, with an emphasis on fiction and criticism. It is, in short, the kind of bookstore every undergrad intellectual dreams of owning. Pretentious? Sure, but also great. Plus, bonus points for any bookstore this classy that has a name that sounds suspiciously like "Motherfucker's."
523 SE Morrison, 236-2665, Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm, Sun noon-5 pm
Murder by the Book
UPDATE: 5/7/2014—CLOSED :( The charming Murder by the Book is a store by and for mystery and thriller fans—which perhaps explains why their sections aren't great for accuracy, but work perfectly for browsing. (Their "On the Homefront" shelves contain books by regional authors and books set in the Northwest, "Shot on Location" boasts mysteries reliant on "exotic cultures and settings," and the sci-fi and fantasy offerings are in "Illegal Aliens.") Make sure to pick up one of their mystery bundles—each costs a few bucks, and consists of a bundle of paperbacks wrapped in brown paper. But what books are inside, you ask? It's a mystery! So much mystery!
3210 SE Hawthorne, 232-9995, Mon-Sat 10 am-6:30 pm, Sun 11 am-5 pm, mbtb.com
UPDATE: CLOSED :( Portland's zine and small-press Mecca. The tough, beloved, and passionate Reading Frenzy's been around since 1994, and is well worth a stop whenever you're nearby, thanks to regular releases from local and national writers, zinesters, and cartoonists, along with a solid selection of art books, nonfiction, magazines, and literary fiction. In terms of square footage, it's one-billionth the size of Powell's; in terms of its content, it's just as emblematic of Portland.
3628 N Mississippi, Portland, OR 97227 (503) 274-1449, 274-1449, Mon-Sat 11 am-7 pm, Sun noon-6 pm, readingfrenzy.com
Second Glance Books
UPDATE: 7/2013—CLOSED :( An unassuming storefront on busy NE Sandy makes Second Glance Books easy to drive right past—but once you're inside, you'll find a deep, broad selection of contemporary and classic fiction... and a disconcertingly large romance section. (So. Many. Pink. Covers.) Bonus points for their store dog! She's incredibly sweet! Her name is Maggie!
4500 NE Sandy, 249-0344, Mon-Sat 10 am-6 pm, Sun 11 am-5 pm, secondglancebooks.com
St. Johns Booksellers
UPDATE: CLOSED :( Scruffy and low-fi, St. Johns Booksellers feels like the books section of a thrift store that's been plunked down into a full-size bookstore. Rather than looking for anything in particular, it's best to wander and see what you find—if you have time, chances are you'll stumble across some good stuff. Bonus! Out of all the independent bookstores we visited, only St. Johns Booksellers had QR codes next to a few books—an easy way to snag a digital edition of that title, and to do so via a local storefront.
8622 N Lombard, 283-0032, Tues 10 am- 6 pm, Wed-Sat 10 am-8 pm, Sun noon-5 pm, stjohnsbooks.com
The Title Wave Used Bookstore
Insanely cheap copies of books that, for whatever reason, no longer warrant a spot on the Multnomah County Library system's shelves. Title Wave basically feels like a library, except you won't experience years of crushing guilt if you don't return a book. The sections are small but ever changing, and most of the books are in great condition, once you peel off the library protective wrap.
216 NE Knott, 988-5021, Mon-Tues 10 am-4 pm, Wed-Thurs 10 am-6 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-4 pm, multcolib.org/titlewave
Out of these 20 bookstores, Wallace Books might be our favorite: Take a drive or a bike ride out to this old, book-crammed Sellwood house. Once you get past the new titles near the entrance, head into the cluttered, twisting hallways and side rooms, where every square foot is books: books heaped on the floors, books jammed onto teetering shelves, books stacked in bins and balanced on windowsills and jumbled into milk crates. An excellent children's and YA section, old pulps and comics, a whole lot of fiction, a bunch of stuff you never knew existed, and just about anything else you can think of—provided you've got an hour or two to hunt it down. Also, if you pull the wrong book out of Wallace Books' Jenga-like stacks, the whole place will probably come down around you. There are worse ways to die.
7241 SE Milwaukie, 235-7350, Mon-Sat 10 am-7 pm, Sun 10 am-6 pm