Book Store Review

I’ve talked before about how much I love Powell’s, a book store most famous for its giant downtown location. Since I don’t live in downtown Portland, however, the Beaverton location is more convenient for most of my book browsing. The Cedar Hills location is half the size of the downtown location, but I’ve never had a problem finding a book.

Powell's at Cedar Hills Crossing

Powell’s at Cedar Hills Crossing

After getting our tax return we decided to spend a rainy Saturday at Powell’s with only three goals: a cookbook for our new wok (a wedding present), some books off the NPR list, and a few classics. One hour and $99 later we had three cookbooks, five sci-fi books, and five classics. One of the best things about Powell’s is the quality of used books for the price–every one of the classics we bought, along with one of the cookbooks, were used and except for the covers being slightly battered on the corners they look good as new for half the price. Even the new books at Powell’s are wonderfully priced though, since no book on this shopping trip cost more than $10.

Just like the downtown location, the staff at Powell’s at Cedar Hills Crossing are incredibly helpful and always excited to help you find a book. They also host some great events at this location–I’ve seen Brandon Sanderson speak here twice. So if you’re looking for a great bookstore without driving all the way into Portland, I highly recommend the Cedar Hills Crossing location.

With how backed up my posting became during the holiday season, I figure it only makes sense to review a bookstore from my last vacation while I’m currently on a different vacation! So I might be writing this from a lounge chair in Maui (still cannot believe I’m actually on vacation in Hawaii–best present ever!), we can all pretend we’re in rainy Seattle in October right?

When we told people that we were planning a long weekend trip to Seattle (a pretty quick train ride from Portland), there were several places that were highly recommended–food, sights, ect. But this bookstore was the one I was most excited about, since the fiance’s aunt had lived in Seattle for a while in the 80s and still raves about Left Bank Books. And after forgetting to look up directions, we’re pretty lucky we managed to run into it while getting lost in Seattle.

Left Bank Books in Seattle, WA

Left Bank Books in Seattle, WA

Left Bank Books is a tiny store, three stories stuffed with over 10,000 books. According to their website they specialize in “anti-authoritarian, anarchist, independent, radical and small-press titles.” The store is divided into many (tiny) sections, and I could have spent hours looking at everything (as it was, I never even made it upstairs since the store was busy and I’d already found two books). Their food section was especially interesting, since I’m starting to research a more natural/whole/healthy way to eat (we love sourdough bread a little too much…). They also had a section for local authors, which was where I picked up my first book: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, a great look at Nazi Germany and how so many people could delude themselves into ignoring the atrocities of Nazi control (review pending).

The second book I picked up, from their feminist section, was Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio and Betty Dodson. I had actually been looking for this book in Portland for several months, but no one seemed to have it in stock. While I didn’t plan on buying anything at Left Bank Books (this trip was my first time traveling with the Kindle), when I saw they had a copy I just couldn’t pass it up!

Has anyone else been to Left Bank Books? I found the staff to be extremely friendly, the store was small but well organized, and I’m planning on stopping by every time I’m in Seattle now. I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences though, so share your thoughts in the comments!



On Friday I had the chance to visit a new-to-me bookstore in Albany, Oregon: Browsers’ Bookstore. Although I only stopped by between errands with a friend to drop off some used books she wanted to get store credit for, I had enough time to wander the overflowing store and the huge variety of books the store offers. They also have a location in Corvallis, OR, which I may check out when I’ll be visiting a friend at Oregon State University in April.

Browsers’ Bookstore had a great location, right off the interstate–and most important, it shares the parking lot with a coffee shop! The store appears very small from outside, with a low roof and small windows, but the outside appearance could not be more wrong. Inside the store it is floor to ceiling shelves, with additional boxes of overflow books on the floor (I only tripped over half a dozen of these boxes, but it was great to see a used bookstore with more books than they had room for). The variety of books available looked good, with many different genres seemingly shoved randomly into the shelves and piles on the floor. I spent most of my time in the Classic Lit section; there were three copies of each Jane Austin book, and really cheap paperback and beautiful leather-bound copies of many great classics. My favorite part was a section called “Old Children’s” that featured antique and vintage children’s books. If I ever have children, I know where I’m going to shop for their books!

There was also a fun and unique feature in the store: on the end of several isles they had letters from authors listing their favorite books. There was also the traditional “if you liked XX author you would also like YY author.” But the letters added personality to the store, and made it much more personal. They had letters from a wide variety of authors in several authors, and really helped to show the stores dedication to quality.

The prices really seemed to embody the store’s position: Where low prices meet great quality. One paperback cope of An American Tragedy was $3, a worn copy of a Sherlock Holmes book was $.80 and a leather bound copy of The Man in the Iron Mask was $6. My friend got $25 in store credit for around 15 books, and bough three books that looked almost brand new for $8.50.

The only complaint I have about the store was the customer service. There seemed to be only one woman working that morning, and a long line of people wanting to buy books or sell their used books. She was understandable busy and slightly flustered, but we did have to wait in line around ten minutes. Normally this would not be a problem, but we were in a bit of a hurry and had other errands to run that day. Once we did get to the front of the line, however, she was extremely friendly.

If you’re ever in the Albany area, I would recommend stopping by Browsers’ Bookstore. The book selection is constantly changing, and the prices are perfect. I wish I’d had more time for browsing (or money for buying), and plan on visiting again soon. If you’ve ever been to Browsers’ Bookstore, either location, share your experience in the comments!

In leu of a book review today, I’m going to highlight two of my favorite places in Boston: Brattle Book Shop, and the Boston Public Library (I took all of the pictures).

Brattle Book Shop is located on West Street only a few blocks from my school, making it a great for random browsing when I’ve got a few spare minutes. It is one of the oldest antique book stores, and was established in 1825. They do have some beautiful old books (leather and gold leaf), but my absolute favorite part of the shop is the bargain books in the alley next to the store. On nice days, they have books in the shelves that line the alley, along with carts of $3 and $5 books.

The Boston Public Library is located in Copley Square, which is 5 blocks up from my school. Although a bit of a walk when it’s raining or snowing, it’s the perfect location to study. The BPL was the nation’s first large free library, and even today is one of the largest in the country. It was over 6 million books, 1.2 historical documents and rare books, and several million A/V items. The current location was built in the 1890s, and looks more like a museum than a library. The new additions to the library in the 1970s now contain the majority of circulating items, although my favorite room, the social sciences, is still in the old half of the building.