• Sarah Leonard

5 Reasons to go to Powell's City of Books

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

When people say City of Books, they aren’t kidding. And when I say it’s the happiest place on Earth (sorry Disney), neither am I. Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest new and used independent bookstore, was established in 1971 in Portland, Oregon and is now one of my favorite places in the whole world. So, if you’re ever in Portland, GO TO POWELL’S. For readers and writers alike, it has everything: addictive merchandise, approximately one million books that are bound to break your wallet, a coffee shop to enjoy those wallet-breaking books once you’ve bought them, and more. Whether you're cracking out that novel or looking for a new binge-worthy book, Powell’s is the perfect place for you. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. The Books

Of course, I’m making the first reason the books. It’s called Powell’s City of Books. Do you know what that means? They have a lot of books. A LOT. So many that just walking down the endless aisles will take hours and hours. Even better, they have used and new books (I recommend used if you want a discount. Most are in pretty good shape.). They even sell signed books. I found a copy of Fault in Our Stars signed by John Green just sitting on a shelf. No big deal. Just a book signed by a famous author sitting here.

They also have every genre of book you could dream of. As a whole, the store is broken up by colors: red, orange, pearl, purple, rose, coffee, gold, and blue. Within those colors, there’s a total of 106 sections, including young adult, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, horror, literature, education, etc. (can you tell I prefer fiction yet?). Even their coffee shop has books in it. That brings me to the second reason to visit Powell’s…

2. World Cup Coffee and Tea

Powell’s doesn’t only have novels. It also has a place to read them. Along with the many sections, Powell’s has the coffee section (they probably planned that irony). Here they have more books (romance, erotica, and graphic novels) as well as the coffee shop: World Cup Coffee and Tea. Here (I say “here” because I’m sitting in the café right now) are shelves filled with beautiful beautiful novels, tables and desks, and a counter to order food and drinks. You can either have it to-go or for here. I recommend you get it for here if you’re staying, because they give you a pretty cup for your drink and a plate for your food.

It’s almost like a social study area. People flock there to get their caffeine and to do their work, to read, or to just relax. If you want to write and need an inspiring place to do it, this place is where you should go. Or if you want to read, this place is just as great. Surround yourself with your favorite drugs: books and coffee.

Although it’s noisy and there are quieter places to work, being around so many kin readers and writers as well as the beautiful beautiful books really sets an atmosphere. Also, I brought my Bose noise-cancelling headphones, so the noise doesn’t bother me one bit, saying that I can’t hear any.

Many people at the café are also very social, so if you want to meet someone new and just talk, join them at their table. They’ll happily have a conversation with you. I had a conversation with about four people in the café already, and I’ve only been in here twice during my trip.

3. Events

Powell’s has over 500 author events every year, children’s story times, writing workshops, game demonstrations, and book clubs. Although it’s at the Powell’s in Beaverton, my second favorite author, Morgan Rhodes, is going to be reading The Darkest Magic (the second book in the spin-off series for Falling Kingdoms) there. Unfortunately, my flight leaves tonight. Isn’t life funny, sometimes? I wish it wasn’t… However, I was able to preorder a signed copy online! Yes, Powell’s does that for author readings. Isn’t that amazing? For the rest of this month alone, there’s ten author readings.

Powell’s offers so many opportunities for readers and writers in the community to engage and get involved in what they love. These events are a great opportunity to do so for any age. I definitely plan to attend one next time I visit Portland.

4. Rare Books Section

This room is basically the restricted section of the library from Harry Potter. If you go to the pearl section, you’ll see a separate room filled with books. Ask for a pass from the staff member, and you can go inside and see them. In fact, you can touch the books. It’s free too! The collection is definitely something to talk about. They have first editions, signed books, unique books, old books, new books, etc.

Their oldest book is a De Bello Judaica published in 1480 in Verona. Their most expensive is History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark to the Sources of the Missouri, costing $350,000. They have about 9,000 volumes total in the room and they all cost a total of $1,800,000, an average of about $200 per book. It’s fun seeing all these valuable novels, even if you don’t know them all.

5. Merchandise

Although this is one of the less important reasons to visit Powell’s, it’s still notable. Respectfully scattered throughout the store are different types of merchandise: mugs, shirts, posters, journals, bookmarks, socks, etc. My friend bought me llama socks from Powell’s before I visited myself, and I cherish them deeply. The merchandise doesn’t distract from the books and they don’t clutter any of the rooms. In fact, they look right where they’re placed, and after the amazing trip you’ll have to Powell’s, you’ll want to get something to remember it by.

For example, they have a mug that says, “I Like Big Books and I cannot lie,” and another that says, “Go away. I’m reading.” There are t-shirts with the logo on them and others with little sayings, such as “Book Blend.” My favorite thing I spotted was a quote by Ernest Hemingway on a poster: “Write drunk; edit sober.” So true, though (I’d add a preach emoji here if I could).

So, if you ever feel like you need an escape from the world or if you just want a place to write and read, visit Powell’s. Lose yourself in some books, write your novels, drink that coffee so you can binge-read for the rest of your life, attend those readings, fawn at those rare beauties, and break your wallet. I know I already have. I’ll include those purchases below as well as a break down of the different sections in the colors of the store. Now, excuse me while I drink my coffee and post my article about Powell’s while sitting in Powell’s. ‘Till next time, Nooksters!


Red: african am. studies, Americana, animals, anthropology, archaeology, atlases, audiobooks, automotive, aviation, birds, botany, economics, environmental, ethnic studies, feminist studies, gay + lesbian, gender studies, geology, hiking, history, languages, maps, military, native am. studies, nature, nautical, outdoors, pacific northwest, politics, railroads, reference, fiction, sociology, transportation, travel

Orange: agriculture, cooking, film + tv, gardening, humor, music

Pearl: art, astronomy, atlases, biology, chemistry, computing, construction, crafts, graphic design, home construction, interior design, math, photography, physics, rare book room, science, weddings, woodworking

Purple: business, careers, child psychology, dance, health, investing, law, management, martial arts, metaphysics, mythology, philosophy-eastern, philosophy-western, psychology, recovery, religions, self-help, sports, test guides, yoga

Rose: child care, children’s, education, games, parenting, pets, trivia, young adult

Coffee: erotica, graphic novels, romance

Gold: fantasy, fiction, horror, large print, manga, mystery, nautical fiction, role playing games, science fiction, true crime, westerns

Blue: classics, drama, journalism, literature, memoir, poetry, small press


1. World After by Susan EE (second book in Angelfall trilogy) (YA Fantasy)

2. End of Days by Susan EE (third book in Angelfall trilogy) (YA Fantasy)

3. Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines (YA Romance)

4. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (New Adult/Adult Romance)

5. Once and For All by Sarah Dessen (YA Romance)

6. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (YA Fantasy)

7. A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes (first book of A Book of Spirits and Thieves series) (YA Fantasy)

8. The Darkest Magic by Morgan Rhodes (second book of A Book of Spirits and Thieves series) (YA Fantasy)

9. Yellow Powell's mug as pictured in photo with reason #5.

#books #Powells #5reaons #bookstore #writers #readers

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