Book lovers rejoice! Portland has regularly appeared on lists of the best places for book lovers due to its impressive literary landmarks, renowned bookstores and other bookish qualities. It is an absolute haven for readers, who can tap into a lively network of fellow book lovers and literary junkies.
If you’re a book lover, read on! Use our guide to explore the many miles of Portland’s bookshelves, plus its various book-loving businesses, literary events and programs.
No list of Portland bookstores would be complete without mention of this renowned literary institution. It is in fact the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world! This book empire in the Pearl District occupies an entire city block and houses over one million books. Peruse their massive collection throughout nine color-coded rooms with over 3,500 different sections varying in topic.
Since 1992, Broadway Books has been an active member of the community in Northeast Portland. Several years ago, this locally owned bookstore received media attention when the son of the founder and co-owner’s son tweeted an offer to buy anyone who spent over $50 (before Christmas) at Broadway Books a burrito. The community has rallied behind this beloved bookstore ever since! You’ll find an excellent selection of reads, regular literary events, and friendly faces at this neighborhood favorite.
Photo Courtesy of Annie Bloom’s Books
This small independent bookshop tucked away in Multnomah offers a wide range of options for book lovers of all kinds. You’ll find new books across many genres, including fiction, children’s/young adult, travel, current events, cooking and more. Plus, pick up a gift for yourself or someone else — and don’t forget to say hi to the store cat, Molly!
A Children’s Place is Portland’s oldest independent children’s bookstore for a reason. Since 1974, A Children’s Place has worked tirelessly to support local authors and teachers, offering live children’s music and other programs and events for little readers! They are celebrating over 40 years of “raising readers,” from newborns to young adults, and the bookstore even caters to parents with a corner for mom or dad, filled with fiction and non-fiction options.
Situated in the heart of Boise, Another Read Through is a large, modern bookstore with a variety of secondhand titles and new books alike. They specialize in fiction for adults and kids, with a large section of local and LGBTQ authors, plus sections for mystery, nonfiction, bio/memoir, science fiction and fantasy, true crime, poetry, and more. Another Read Through regularly hosts events, including monthly readings from local authors, book group discussions and more.
Stop by Green Bean Books along Alberta Street for a wonderful selection of children’s books and educational toys. This cute red house hosts a wide variety of options for readers of all ages, including new and used books, board books, picture books, chapter books for young adults, and even some books for adults. At Green Bean Books, you’ll find classics and brand new reads, plus a variety of fun toys and knick-knacks!
Mother Foucault’s Bookshop is definitely for the more serious bibliophiles. This cozy shop on the border of Portland’s inner southeast industrial district specializes in used, rare and vintage books. This is a place to revel in high-brow literature and appreciate the beauty of Not Going On the Internet, as they like to call it.
You can’t miss this next one — especially because it is tucked inside a bright yellow house with striking blue trim. The walls of Wallace Books are packed from floor to ceiling with a variety of reads, from new to used books, and the hottest best seller to those hard-to-find, out-of-print treasures. Wallace Books is known for their fair prices and wide selection of unique books!
Photo by Heidi Hoffman, Courtesy of Portland Central Library
With locations all throughout the Portland Metro, Multnomah County Library serves county residents with an extensive catalog of books, endless events and programs, and other resources. Their main branch, Central Library hosts more than 17 miles of bookshelves and artwork in a beautiful building with ornate stairs and a 14-foot bronze tree in the children’s area. Built in 1913, this historic library is the oldest public library on the West Coast!
Clackamas County residents may access the 13 Clackamas County Library locations, extending from Welches all the way to Wilsonville. The Lake Oswego branch is a community resource for books of all genres and events for all ages.
The Washington County Library system offers literary resources for residents living west of Portland, from Beaverton all the way to Cornelius. Founded in 1938, the Beaverton City Library is one of the busiest public libraries in the state, and is packed with over 340,000 items for check-out, from books to magazines and DVDs to CDs.
Crumpacker Family Library at Portland Art Museum
Video Courtesy of the Portland Art Museum
This hidden gem inside the Portland Art Museum is the region’s most comprehensive visual art resource. The Crumpacker Family Library’s collection of more than 35,000 volumes is open to students, researchers, docents, staff and the public. It includes historic volumes dating back to 1895 all the way to current periodicals, and everything in between. Relax in the library’s comfortable reading room to skim through selections from this irreplaceable collection!
The Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) maintains an extensive Zine Library, including over 9,000 self-published and independently produced materials. Access these items that are not otherwise represented in public libraries, including comics, chapbooks, novels, catalogs, zines, artists’ books and more.
Photo Courtesy of Literary Arts
Perhaps the most prominent literary organization in the city, Literary Arts is a community-based nonprofit literary center in downtown Portland with a 34-year history of serving Oregon’s readers and writers. They host a variety of programs, including lecture series like the Portland Arts & Lectures, the Oregon Book Awards & Fellowships, a variety of Youth Programs, and the famous Portland Book Festival.
Hosted by Literary Arts, Portland Arts & Lectures is one of the country’s largest lecture series, bringing together the world’s most celebrated writers, artists and thinkers to Portland. Attendees enjoy live lectures that are later broadcast statewide on The Archive Project on OPB radio, plus classroom visits and workshops with renowned authors. All events for the 2019/2020 season take place at the beautiful Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
Delve is designed to engage readers in exploring challenging books through lively discussion-based seminars led by an experienced scholar. Each seminar is limited to 16 participants who complete designated reading in advance and come together to discuss the text in an informal, friendly atmosphere. They typically run weekly for a period of six weeks, and many seminars fill up quickly so be sure to enroll well in advance!
Literary Arts also hosts a variety of writing classes throughout the year. These classes are centered on a variety of topics related to writing, from short stories to novels, and bio writing to finding an agent. Enroll in a more intensive course meeting several times or a one-time class for a quicker lesson.
The Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) is a nonprofit dedicated to providing access to tools and resources for creating independently published media and artwork. The center plays a central role in the literary arts community of Portland by offering a space to gather and exchange information and ideas, plus produce work. The IPRC attracts a diverse group of writers, printmakers, comic artists, zinesters, and more.
Formerly called Wordstock, the Portland Book Festival features over 100 author presentations, pop-up readings and writing workshops. This massive literary event at the Portland Art Museum and surrounding venues is a must-do for all bibliophiles in Portland — and beyond. The weekend-long festival in the fall offers a variety of bookish activities and non-bookish activities, including vendors, local food trucks and partner events.
Mortified Live is a series of events that take place in multiple cities throughout the U.S. (and beyond!) — including Portland. It includes adults telling stories about their lives by sharing their most mortifying childhood artifacts, including diaries, letters, lyrics, poems and home movies, in front of total strangers. Mortified comes to Portland several times a year — typically to the Alberta Rose Theatre.
Back Fence PDX offers a unique storytelling experience called Russian Roulette. This evening features storytellers who spin a giant wheel of prompts with only five minutes to come up with a true five-minute story based on that prompt. The audience votes for a winner at the end of the night who will receive prizes from their sponsors and partners — plus an invitation to the next show. It’s like Back Fence invented a new game called Truth AND Dare! All Back Fence shows are ASL interpreted and 10% of ticket proceeds go to the Oregon Food Bank.
Although Tin House recently published its 80th and final magazine issue after 20 years in print, this renowned publisher is continuing to publish books and host their renowned workshops. They host a variety of writing workshops throughout the year, including a Summer Workshop, Winter Workshop, Craft Intensives, and more, bringing together writers of all skill levels on a variety of subjects.
The Loggernaut Reading series brings together local and national writers across varying genres to share their work in a comfortable, encouraging environment. They typically happen in an intimate setting like a cozy coffee shop or bar. The Loggernaut Reading Series only takes place a few times a year — so follow along on Facebook to keep up with upcoming events!
If you’ve been in the Heathman Hotel library, you know exactly why this one’s on the list. Nestled in the former Tea Court Lounge, this soaring two-story library in the heart of the hotel features more than 3,000 volumes signed by authors who have stayed there over the years. The impressive collection includes signed editions from Salman Rushdie and former president Jimmy Carter.
Quotes on Bricks Downtown
While you’re in downtown Portland, make sure you don’t miss the subtle nod to literature in an unexpected place — underneath your feet! At the intersection of Southwest 4th and Madison, look for bricks inscribed with a variety of quotes from Shakespeare, e.e. Cummings, Ursula K. LeGuin, Chief Joseph, and William Stafford.
Book Spines at PSU
And it’s hard to miss the larger-than-life book spines lining the PSU parking garage along Southwest 5th! This is an excellent place to grab an Instagram shot.
Take your literary tour outside with a stroll through Grant Park, home to the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden, honoring children’s and young adult fiction author Beverly Cleary. The now-103-year-old (!) was born in McMinnville in 1913 and spent most of her life in Portland. Many of her books are set in the Grant Park neighborhood, where she was raised, so it’s only right that this is now the setting where three of her most memorable characters, Ramona Quimby, and Henry Huggins and his dog, Ribsy, now reside. Visit these life-sized statues at the park and use the map in the garden to explore the rest of the neighborhood where events in her books “actually happened.”
Whether you’re learning at a writer’s workshop or reading in a quiet corner at the library, keep writing and reading! What bookish places or organizations would you suggest? Let us know in the comments below.