Powell’s Pilgrimage 2011

Powell's City of Books I just got back from a week in Portland. It was awesome. (You know you wanna see my vacation pix.)

As usual, it involved multiple trips to Powell’s. Also, my first ever purchases from the Rare Book Room and the locked case in the Gold Room (which is Fantasy/Horror/Sci-Fi/Mystery)! SO exciting.

I simply cannot articulate my adoration for Powell’s City of Books (there are several satellite stores, but the CoB is the main one, and the one most folks, including me, mean when they refer to Powell’s). It’s enormous. It has used and new books shelved together so you can see what your options are. It has all kinds of weird and rare books, and a really nifty cafe where you can take books you’re thinking about buying and look them over while you sip an Italian soda or nibble a pannini. Bliss.

Here’s my haul for this year:

And a shot of my lovely first editions’ covers:

This trip is why I saved my spare change (and a few bucks here and there) all year long. Getting $100 in a raffly thing at work didn’t hurt, either. 🙂

Now comes the fun part: reading them all.


Powell's City of Books. Photo by lwy, under cc.

Every so often, I get to visit Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. When I was little, I always asked my parents to buy me issues of Asterix the Gaul that I didn’t already own. Now, I buy my own books, and endeavor not to bankrupt myself in the process.

The last time I was there, I got so many books that I could barely fit them all into the generously-sized baskets they provide their shoppers. The clerk said, as she rang me up, “you’re not from around here, are you?” When I said no, she said that she could always tell — it was the visitors who bought heaps of books, not the locals. “It’s almost like it’s a pilgrimage,” she said.

In a lot of ways, it is. For a gatherer, Powell’s City of Books is a sort of Mecca. Check out this map (pdf) and you’ll see why – over a million books are on the shelves. The place takes up an entire city block! What makes it particularly exciting to browse there is that used books are shelved right alongside new ones. You never know what treasures you’re going to find. I’ve snapped up reasonably-priced, good-condition copies of out-of-print books I never thought I’d get my hands on, sitting quietly next to the latest trade paperback. Plus, there’s the Rare Book Room, which is the sort of collection that inspires hushed reverence from book collectors. I’ve seen some amazing things up there — not that I could afford any of them, but man. Getting to see them was almost as awesome.

I’m going to be going there again next month, and I can’t wait!

This is probably a symptom of my bibliomania — after all, I haven’t finished reading the books I bought last year! But even so, it’s hard not to feel a thrill at the thought of tracking down rare books I don’t have yet. I’ve started making a little list of things to look for when I’m there, and looking eagerly at the money I’ve been saving the last few months. I’ve even got a count-down widget on my smartphone (34 days!).