PORTLAND — If Portland ever needed another nickname, “Booktown” would be the perfect fit.
In honor of Independent Bookstore Day, which takes place this year on Saturday, Aug. 29, we decided to create a guide to Portland’s bookstores – and discovered just how rich this city is in books. It’s safe to say that Portland bookstores have more than enough titles to keep the whole city reading through the end of the pandemic.
And what variation there is among the bookstores. As Myles Haselhorst, owner of Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books, put it, “They’re always a reflection of their owners.”
A few caveats: We limited the guide to brick-and-mortar stores within Portland city limits whose primary purpose is bookselling. We did include two local nonprofits whose book inventories reflect the educational aspects of their missions.
We didn’t include stores that primarily sell comic books, but you can find a list of those stores here. Also not included are Multnomah County Library’s bookstores: The Friends Library Store at the Central Library is completely shuttered and the Title Wave Used Bookstore is in limbo, with its Northeast Portland location now home to the Albina Library.
Independent Bookstore Day was originally planned for April, and then a certain virus showed up. This guide doesn’t list bookstores’ hours because some stores are allowing customers inside only by appointment or at limited times; others have pivoted to only curbside pickup and/or delivery. It’s best to call a store to check its current status.
A CHILDREN’S PLACE
Niche: A Northeast Portland destination for books for newborns through teens.
Owner: Pam Lewis, since 2003. She was working part time at the store in 2002 when the then-owner decided to sell. “It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t believe that time has gone so quickly,” Lewis said.
Cover blurb: “I don’t want this book to end.”
Contents: Lewis credited her buyers with creating an appealing inventory by reading widely, talking with publishers’ sales representatives, and looking at past sales. A Children’s Place has promoted local children’s authors such as Eric Kimmel, Allen Say, Bart King, Deborah Hopkinson and Rosanne Parry. As for customers, the store has third-generation shoppers. “All our customers become our friends,” Lewis said.
Store pet: Elsie, a black Labrador retriever.
Address: 1423 N.E. Fremont St.
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AMPERSAND GALLERY & FINE BOOKS
Niche: A bookstore specializing in visual culture that’s also an art gallery.
Owner: Myles Haselhorst. “I’ve always had this parallel interest in reading books but also collecting books as objects and had a deep fascination with bookstores.”
Contents: The selection revolves around visual arts, graphic design, photography and typography. Haselhorst also looks for books that are well made or uniquely made. His customers are typically book collectors, designers, artists and those coming in to look at the art on the walls. “The books here are definitely very much considered in relationship to the exhibitions,” Haselhorst said.
Address: 2916 N.E. Alberta St.
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ANNIE BLOOM’S BOOKS
Niche: A neighborhood bookstore whose staff prioritizes book knowledge and customer service.
Owner: Founder Bobby Tichenor is in the process of transferring ownership to Will Peters, the store’s longtime manager.
Cover blurb: “A good place to hang out,” suggested Tichenor. “The best bookstore per square foot that we can be,” said Peters.
Contents: Peters called the children’s section the backbone of the carefully curated store. Current events and contemporary fiction also are a strong suit. As for customers, “people have grown up in this store,” Peters said. The staffers stick around, too – a number of the roughly 20 employees have been around for 10, 15, 20 or 25 years.
Store pet: Molly Bloom, a black cat.
Address: 7834 S.W. Capitol Highway.
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AUDUBON SOCIETY OF PORTLAND NATURE STORE
Niche: The store has about 200 nature and conservation titles, including children’s books, with a focus on birding.
Established: The Portland chapter of the Audubon Society was founded in 1902; the store got its first official manager in 1985.
Manager: Janet Drake, previously the store’s buyer.
Cover blurb: “Connecting to nature”; “for the love of birds.”
Contents: The store offers a mix of classic and new titles and will place special book orders for customers. “If it has a conservation focus, that’s up our alley,” Drake said.
Store pets: OK, they’re not pets. But the Audubon Society is home to four “education birds,” which sometimes visit the store: Ruby the turkey vulture, Aristophanes the raven, Xena the American kestrel and Julio the great horned owl. All were brought to the society’s care center and can no longer live in the wild.
Address: 5151 N.W. Cornell Road.
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BACKSTORY BOOKS & YARN
Niche: Secondhand books and secondhand yarn.
Owner: Amanda Doimas. Trained as an academic librarian, Doimas found herself facing a dearth of job openings after earning her master’s degree and thought, “What else can I do to work with books?”
Cover blurb: “Interesting and unusual.”
Contents: Doimas said she puts a lot of thought into not only where books go on her shelves but whether they go onto the shelves at all. She is particularly interested in African American, nautical, and craft and textile books. Her customers come from all over the metro area, she said.
Address: 3219 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
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BEARLY READ BOOKS
Niche: Used paperback fiction.
Owner: Shellie Collison. A customer since 1981, she bought the store in 2010 to save it from closing.
Cover blurb: “Come and explore my pages because you never know what you’re going to find.”
Contents: Between 30,000 and 50,000 books, most of them genre fiction – Christian, crime, fantasy, mystery, romance (“you wouldn’t believe how many men read historical romances”), science fiction, western and more. Much of the inventory is supplied by customers who trade books for store credit. Collison buys some new titles and will place special orders.
Store pets: Two cats, Shadow and Fluffy.
Address: 16441 S.E. Powell Blvd.
Website: None. Email the store at email@example.com or find it on Facebook.
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Niche: A general secondhand bookstore.
Owner: Joseph Witt.
Cover blurb: “Books that you either always wanted to read or should want to read.”
Contents: “I don’t have any specific focus,” Witt told The Oregonian/OregonLive when he opened the store. Topics range from art to philosophy to fiction to Pacific Northwest history to “the obscure, the unusual, the entertaining.”
Address: 3415 S.E. Belmont St.
Website: None. Email the store at firstname.lastname@example.org; find it on Facebook, too.
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BINGO USED BOOKS
Niche: Inexpensive used books.
Owners: A father-son team, Sam (Dad) and Rob Briggs. Rob Briggs called Bingo “the largest all-used bookstore in Portland.”
Cover blurb: “Cheapest books in town.”
Contents: The store has about 300,000 books, along with comic books and movies, in its 5,500-square-foot building. “It’s like a treasure hunt,” Briggs said. “We try to do everything.” Prices go as low as $1. “We really cut deals, too,” Briggs said. “People can bargain with us.” The store has sales every holiday, including a Labor Day sale Sept. 2-9, with discounts starting at 25% and then going to half-price.
Address: 3366 S.E. Powell Blvd.
Website: Find them on Facebook.
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BLACK HAT BOOKS
Niche: The literature of dissent.
Owner: Fred Nemo.
Cover blurb: “We represent people who’ve been branded the bad guys.”
Contents: The store’s 8,000 to 10,000 volumes include African American literature and history, fiction by women, poetry, poetry and fiction in translation, Latino literature, Spanish-language literature, crime, and science fiction, including African American science fiction. “They’re all top of the line,” Nemo said.
Store pet: None, but the store is dog friendly.
Address: 2831 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
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BOOKS WITH PICTURES
Niche: Graphic novels, with a focus on titles by people of color and LGBTQ creators and that include diverse characters.
Owner: Katie Proctor, a longtime lover of comics who wanted a space “that felt from the ground up like it was intended for a more diverse audience.”
Cover blurb: “An unexpected delight!”
Contents: In addition to graphic novels and graphic adaptations of novels, Books With Pictures carries mainstream comic books, independent genre releases such as science fiction and fantasy, antiracism and social justice books, titles for kids, and graphic nonfiction such as biography, memoir and history.
Address: 1401 S.E. Division St.
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Niche: A community-oriented curation of contemporary literature.
Owners: Kim Bissell and Sally McPherson, who took over from founders Roberta Dyer and Gloria Borg Olds.
Cover blurb: “Serious service with a delicious dash of whimsy.”
Contents: Literary fiction, memoir/biography (the store hosted a private event with Michelle Obama when she was promoting her memoir), and history/current events, along with a variety of genres for all ages. The inventory is predominantly new, many by local authors and publishers; there’s also a small selection of used books. “Nothing is by accident,” McPherson once said of the store’s inventory.
Address: 1714 N.E. Broadway.
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CAMERON’S BOOKS & MAGAZINES
Niche: Periodicals. The store says it has the largest publicly held periodical collection in the nation outside the Library of Congress.
Owner: Crystal Zingsheim.
Cover blurb: “We’re the place you call when you can’t find what you’re looking for or when you’re not entirely certain what you need.”
Contents: In addition to the periodicals, classics and rare and obscure nonfiction.
Address: 336 S.W. Third Ave.
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Niche: As the name suggests – chaparral is a Southwestern bush – the store focuses on books about the western U.S., many of them rare, out-of-print or secondhand.
Owner: John Thomas. A retiree, he originally opened Chaparral as a “hobby bookstore.”
Cover blurb: “History at its finest”; “The best West in the Northwest.”
Contents: Chaparral has two locations, the main store and an annex several doors down, with 7,000 books on the shelves and more in storage. Both locations reflect Thomas’ interests: Western Americana; Native American and African American literature and history; Northwest history; Western women; water, forestry, fur trading, maritime and railroads; and poetry (much of it from the inventory of the now-closed Serendipity Books in Berkeley, California).
Address: 1975 S.W. First Ave., Suite L.
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CROOKED HOUSE BOOKS & PAPER
Niche: Vintage, collectible and older books and paper ephemera.
Owner: Rachelle Markley. She previously owned a general used bookstore in Northeast Portland but was looking for a store she could really make her own.
Cover blurb: “Beautiful and unusual.”
Contents: Mostly books by, for and about women: old cookbooks, “domestica,” images of women, history of women’s autonomy. Markley also carries children’s books and books she selects for their bindings.
Store pets: Two Siamese-tabby cats, Bruno and Sylvie.
Address: 1602 N.E. 40th Ave.
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Niche: Used and new books in the humanities.
Owner: Jeremy Breedlove.
Cover blurb: “All books have their fates.”
Contents: Daedalus has specialties in art, literary studies, philosophy and, as its name suggests, ancient Greek and Roman history. It also has a large graphic novel section.
Address: 2074 N.W. Flanders St.
Website: Find Daedalus Books on Facebook or Instagram, or visit its page at abebooks.com.
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DAVID MORRISON BOOKS
Niche: Out-of-print and rare books.
Established: 1991. Morrison, a collector, got interested in books while working for the Salvation Army in Los Angeles and going through the books there.
Cover blurb: “Books they don’t want you to read.”
Contents: A lot of art, design and architecture books along with conspiracy and apocalyptic themes.
Address: 1420 S.E. 37th Ave.
Website: Visit David Morrison Books’ page at abebooks.com.
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DOWNTOWN BROWN BOOKS
Niche: Collectible books in all fields.
Owner: Scott Brown. Previously a bookseller in California, Brown decided to open a smaller version of his store after moving to Portland.
Cover blurb: “A secret basement bookstore filled with first editions, signed books, and historical artifacts.”
Contents: Why collectibles? “I like older books, classic material, ephemera, unusual things that you don’t see anywhere, can’t get everywhere,” Brown said. In early August, his inventory included books from Cuba, science fiction, science, and books from evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould’s library, including books reflecting Gould’s passion for baseball.
Address: 1507A N.W. 23rd Ave. (below Montgomery Rare Books).
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GREEN BEAN BOOKS
Niche: Children’s books for ages 14 and younger.
Owner: Jennifer Green. A former teacher, she wanted to create a community space that was creative and encouraged reading and literacy.
Cover blurb: “A fun, creative, welcoming and inclusive meeting place for families.”
Contents: Books share space with comfortable seating, a window diorama, whimsical vending machines and more. Books are classified not only by age group but also by topic, a holdover from Green’s classroom days. “Whenever I decide where to put a book, I just think, if I were a kid, where would I look for it,” she said. In choosing books, she looks at aesthetics and quality: “I don’t have room for bad books.”
Address: 1600 N.E. Alberta St.
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Niche: A general secondhand bookstore with a focus on classics.
Owner: Mitch Melville. A former book scout and online bookseller, he’d long wanted to open a bookstore and spent several years looking for a space. “I was always amazed that there wasn’t really a used bookstore up here” in the Alberta neighborhood.
Cover blurb: “A really strong selection in really good condition.”
Contents: Melville visits library and estate sales as well as other bookstores for his inventory of about 4,000 books, some of which he keeps on carts that he rolls into the adjacent courtyard. He also buys books from customers. His goal is to create a place where “you see enough things on the shelf that you’ve read and loved or you know you should read.”
Address: 2827 N.E. Alberta St.
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Niche: “A space to experience and envision the potential of art, design and architecture.”
Owner: John Brodie. He and the store’s co-founder, artist Blair Saxon-Hill, wanted to have an art bookstore “to provide a resource for information and discovery, including a connection to artists and movements in contemporary art, design and architecture beyond the city, even internationally.”
Cover blurb: “An explosion of avant-garde and visual material packed into a tidy gem of a bookshop!”
Contents: “I strive to offer material that is uncommon, unusual and not widely available at other bookstores,” Brodie said by email. “We import a lot of titles from Europe and Asia and travel to book fairs and other places to gather rare and unique material. About half of our books are vintage or out-of-print, and the ephemera even more esoteric.” The ephemera includes punk rock posters, 1960s counterculture and radical political material, vintage art exhibition flyers and posters, and art prints – “often the weirder, the better.”
Address: 5005 N.E. 27th Ave.
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MONTGOMERY RARE BOOKS & MANUSCRIPTS
Niche: Uh, rare books and manuscripts.
Owner: Ed Markiewicz.
Cover blurb: “Just like walking through a museum, only you can buy the paintings on the wall.”
Contents: The store is rooted in Markiewicz’s decades of collecting books and manuscripts related to U.S. presidents and politicians, Americana and history. “About five years ago I decided that the collection didn’t have the thrill that it once did, so I decided to turn my collection into a retirement business,” he said. Most of his business is online, and he sees mostly out-of-towners in the store.
Store pet: Tony the orange tabby.
Address: 1507 N.W. 23rd Ave., Unit B
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MOTHER FOUCAULT’S BOOKSHOP
Niche: A polyglot collection of mostly secondhand fiction, poetry and philosophy.
Owner: Craig Florence, whose bookselling experience includes a stint at Paris’ famed Shakespeare and Company bookshop. He named his store after French philosopher Michel Foucault, adding “Mother” in the progressive spirit of Mother Jones.
Cover blurb: “The reader determines the fate of the book.”
Contents: The store carries thousands of titles in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian, as well as classics in the original Latin and Greek. There are Japanese and Korean titles, too.
Address: 523 S.E. Morrison St.
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OREGON HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM STORE
Niche: Oregon history.
Established: The historical society was founded in 1898. The museum store was originally opened to sell titles published by the OHS Press, which shut down in 2008.
Buyer: Andrew VanDerZanden, the store’s manager of merchandise operations, has been its book buyer for at least five years.
Cover blurb: “Everything you wanted to know about Oregon history and some things you probably didn’t.”
Contents: The store carries more than 1,200 wide-ranging titles. You can find Stephen Ambrose’s “Undaunted Courage,” a sweeping narrative of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, “and then you can find a book on, say, the food experiences of the Lewis and Clark Expedition,” VanDerZanden said. He noted that 28% of the store’s books are children’s titles.
Address: 1200 S.W. Park Ave.
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PAPER MOON BOOKS
Niche: General secondhand bookstore.
Owner: Andrea Drinard.
Cover blurb: “Come in here and find something that you never expected.”
Contents: Drinard listed categories including academic books, classics, philosophy, psychology, music and Native American literature. She also buys books and will make house calls.
Address: 4712 S.E. Belmont St.
Website: Visit Paper Moon Books’ page at abebooks.com.
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PASSAGES BOOKSHOP & GALLERY
Niche: Modern literature and art.
Owner: David Abel, for whom Passages is the latest in a series of bookstores. He ran his first in New York in the late 1980s. Then he opened what he calls “Passages’ first incarnation,” a bookstore and gallery, in Albuquerque in the mid-1990s.
Cover blurb: “I had no idea.”
Contents: Abel said the store focuses on artists’ books, handmade books, poetry and avant-garde art. “It’s hard to characterize – I would say that it’s definitely a place that local writers and artists find useful.”
Address: 1223 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
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Niche: Internationally known bucket-list destination for readers and authors on tour.
Owner: Emily Powell, the third generation of her family to run the store.
Cover blurb: “Something for everyone. Literally.”
Contents: Powell’s operates three stores within Portland city limits, as well as a fourth in Beaverton (the company recently closed its Portland International Airport store and kiosk). The best-known location, Powell’s City of Books, boasts a million new and used books in a building that occupies a full city block (the store is partly open as of Aug. 18). Powell’s on Hawthorne and Powell’s Books for Home and Garden (both currently closed) are neighbors on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard.
Addresses: Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St.; Powell’s on Hawthorne, 3723 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.; Powell’s Books for Home and Garden, 3747 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
Phone: 503-228-4651 or 800-878-7323.
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Niche: A mostly secondhand, “very curated” store.
Owners: Peggy and Brian Manning, St. Johns residents who wanted another bookstore in their neighborhood. She’s a former punk rocker; he’s a former academic, bookseller and librarian.
Cover blurb: “Academia meets punk rock.”
Contents: With the store’s small size – it’s about 650 square feet – “we try to pack a punch,” Brian Manning said. Top categories include “working-class blues” (social justice, employee-employer relations), anarchist philosophy, poetry, literature and the occult. The store also has a small selection of vinyl records.
Store pets: The Mannings’ dogs visit occasionally: Teddy the Shih Tzu-poodle and Hasil the “weenie hound,” who’s named after rockabilly musician Hasil Adkins.
Address: 8713 N. Lombard St.
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TWO RIVERS BOOKSTORE AND WEIRD SISTERS
Niche: A destination for people who love to both read and craft.
Owners: Christine Longmuir (Two Rivers Bookstore) and Fuchsia Troutman (Weird Sisters).
Cover blurb: “A unique collaboration of literary, fiber and local arts.”
Contents: On the book side, Longmuir carries fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks (Two Rivers has a cookbook club), nature books and hiking guides, books by local authors, and books on antiracism and by authors of color. On the craft side, Troutman carries yarn supplies for knitters and crocheters, embroidery supplies, and knitting and craft books.
Store pet: None, but the store is dog friendly.
Address: 8836 N. Lombard St.
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Niche: A general neighborhood bookstore that sells new and used books.
Owner: Julie Wallace, who opened a bookstore to combine her love of books with her love of people.
Cover blurb: “Everything you want from a book and a little bit more.”
Contents: The bookstore focuses on children’s books, Pacific Northwest interest, graphic novels and literary fiction. But “we try to do a little of everything,” Wallace said. The exceptions: No Harlequin romances or computer books.
Address: 7241 S.E. Milwaukie Ave.
Website: Find the store on Facebook.
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Niche: Secondhand scholarly books in the humanities.
Owner: Jon Stock, who has Windows Booksellers stores in Portland and Eugene; Adam McInturf operates the Portland store.
Cover blurb: “Books for the mind, the soul and the pure pleasure of reading.”
Contents: While Windows prides itself on its selection of religion and theology, philosophy and history, it’s also a neighborhood store, with literature, poetry, children’s books, science fiction and more. The staff will special-order new titles.
Address: 8900 N. Wall Ave.