I spent the weekend in Portland and got the opportunity to introduce some friends to Powell's Bookstore. We joked ahead of time that we only had an hour to browse. If any of you have been to Powell’s with their multileveled color coded rooms, you know that an hour is only enough time to look in the front window.

My route was planned with a trip to the bathroom, then to check on the availability of Sand in My Bra, and finally an iced mocha with whippo in the coffee room.

The shelving system, quite similar to the end scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, had me asking this question…

If you were to carefully choose as many books as you truly wanted to read, how long would it take to read them?

Sally Caton, an account manager at web design company called gotomedia guesstimated ten years. Linda Emery, who just finished getting MS in school psychology, answered that in real life real working time it would take 17 years. But if she could sit down and read and read and read as if on a lifelong vacation, maybe six months.

I’m pretty confident that even if I only chose books I wanted to read, I still wouldn’t get to all of them. The travel books I would treat as part of a treasured collection, hopefully to get signed by the authors themselves throughout my lifetime. I love that and have already added Marry Morris, Bill Bryson, Tim Cahill, Pico Iyer, Jan Morris, Peter Matthiessen, and Joseph O’Connor to my collection. There’s probably more that have slipped my mind. The second thing I would do is put a shelving system in the bathroom. That is my best chance at getting to atleast thumb through most of them. And now you see I didn’t even answer my own question properly.

Hey, have you been to the downtown Powell’s? How many do you think you’d buy in a one day shopping spree?

Crap, I haven’t even reported about Sand yet! They had four copies upstairs in the general travel writing section which I turned face out. Like a geek I wanted pictures taken. Sally stepped over a man sitting in the aisles to commence the photo shoot. Downstairs, Sand also had four more face out copies in the travel section of new releases on the main floor. Interestingly enough, they had zero in the humor section under anthologies.

I’ll put the pictures up later this week when I get them back. Stay tuned.


  1. I have yet to make it to Powell’s when I’ve been in Portland. I really have to make a point of it next time I’m passing through there. As to books I’d like to read, I’m certain it’s an unending string. Even without adding any, there are probably several hundred on my wish-list right now. What was that old saying? You can never be too thin, too rich…or have too many books? 😉

  2. Once you’ve read everything in the normal Powell’s, you can start a tech career and then spend another lifetime in Powell’s tech store. Although, I haven’t been down there for a bit, maybe the proprietors blew up the tech one.

  3. Powell’s has a great online store too. if you need to purchase books from something other than a brick and mortar store and want something a little more indie than amazon, give powells a try!

    There’s a Powells in Chicago too, not nearly so large, but still too giant to browse in an hour.

    How about the Strand here in NYC? Their staff tends to run kind of mean, but when they say 10,000 miles of books i believe it.

    You know another great bookstore right in spittin distance of Powells in Portland? Reading Frenzy, the zine store. Did you hit it, Jen?

  4. Nope, haven’t discovered Reading Frenzy yet. But I did have lots of fun at Pizza Schmizza on Broadway.


    I had a slice of the Popeye & Olive Oil: fresh spinach leaves on a bed of creamy alfredo sauce with feta cheese, roma tomatoes, and parsley.

    Next time I’m going to have the Alligator. Just to see if they really make it with alligator meet, and also to see what it’s like to have noodles on a pizza.

    I’ll be back up to PDX on Thursday. Maybe I’ll have time to check out Reading Frenzy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *