Portland's best bookstores
Portland, Oregon is a book town. While it may be known nationally as the home of Powell’s and zines, and of course, Women & Women First Bookstore from the TV show Portlandia, it is also the home of two of my favorite bookstores: Passages and Division Leap. Both are run by artists and specialize in poetry, artists’ books, little magazines, rare, and signed copies. Both have a relatively small, but carefully curated inventory. While most bookstores have a handful of things that are of interest to me, at Passages and Division Leap, everything on the shelf is either already in my personal collection, or something that I would like to add, or something that I want to read on the spot. Another commonality is that their standards of quality apply to the condition of the books themselves: you won’t find anything in ‘good’ (meaning ‘bad’) condition here, and their descriptions are always thorough and accurate. One would expect that this level of expertise comes at a pretty penny, but I’ve always found their prices at or below their online competitors. The culture of online book sales has changed the way we discover, acquire, and talk about books. The days of grand country road bookstores full of surprises are largely a thing of the past. Dealers that have been able to maintain storefronts price their products relative to what to what other dealers are asking internationally, and while there are certain advantages to living in a world where everything is always available everywhere, it’s nice to know that David Abel (Passages) and Adam Davis and Kate Schaefer (Division Leap) bring the classic integrity, curiosity, knowledge, and zeal for books to their businesses. They know their customers’ interests, and have a genuine desire to help people find the books they need. Oh, and both are open by appointment only, so next time you’re planning a trip to Portland, call ahead.