City Slicker: Rummaging Through Bookstores in Portland, Oregon with My Holga 120 and Pinhole Cameras


With E-readers replacing paper, I went in search of paper bound books in Portland.

I am a bookaholic. I admit it. I am not in recovery. I can’t help but cruise the aisles of bookstores, both new and used for the next volume to put on my shelves. I don’t want an E-reader, I want to see the book before I buy it, I want to feel the paper, and I want to smell it. Whenever I read, outside or indoors, I want a book, a real book. A lot of Portlanders agree with me because readers dot our city in the most unusual places.

Living in Portland with the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi, I am never far from my next acquisition, but Powells is a huge store sitting on a large city block in NW Portland and today my quest is to find the small independent shops. So I set out, dividing the city into NE, SE, and SW, and hit the road.

I found several shops in NE Portland and my favorite has to be The Green Bean. It’s a children’s bookstore and caters to them beautifully that I didn’t want to leave. There are soft cushy chairs in reading corners and there’s a mustache machine where kids can choose a design and then have their photo taken and put on the wall. Best of all, there is a leafy green reading fort. What kid wouldn’t love this place? Other bookshops in NE Portland include: St Johns Booksellers, In Other Words, A Children’s Place, Second Glance, and Broadway Books.

Unfortunately in SE Portland, I discovered some of the shops closed or maybe they just shortened their work week. SE Hawthorne is home to the majority of shops in this part of the city. Once again there is a Powells store specializing in cookbooks, craft books, and a general collection smaller than the NW store. My favorite on Hawthorne has to be Murder by the Book. Mysteries, mayhem and murder, it’s all here. There are more stores to visit here like: Hawthorne Blvd. Books, Longfellow’s and Wallace Books.

One of the oldest bookstores in Portland is located on 3rd St not far from VooDoo Donuts. Camerons has been on this corner for more than 60 years, and you get a sense of that when you walk through the doors. You can smell it, a bit of dust and old paper. You will find bargain books here and used magazines, lots of magazines. If you want a new magazine, then one of the best selections is just up the street at Rich’s Cigar and Magazine shop. Here you won’t smell paper when you pass over the threshold, but the fragrant aroma of tobacco. I go here when I want one of my favorite British photography magazines. Annie Blooms is a little further out from downtown but still in SW and a ‘must’ on your bookstore list.

I enjoyed this assignment because I love reading. As a kid I’d get my weekly allowance, jump on my bike and head to the local bookstore. My house is a treasure trove of old and new books. Shelves line every available wall. I don’t discriminate, I love fiction and non-fiction. Now I just have to find room for the books I bought while on this assignment.

I don’t know about you, but losing oneself in a story isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon and you never know what might jump out from those pages.

written by yankeemiss on 2012-09-18 in #lifestyle #film #city-slicker #fuji-400 #bookstores #portland #reading #shopping #cities #holga #120-film #oregon #stores


  1. buckshot
    buckshot ·

    A very worthy assignment and a great write-up! And I'm with you 100% on eReaders: screw 'em - gimme ANALOGUE books any day...! ;-)

  2. 110isnotdead
    110isnotdead ·

    Speaking as a small-town librarian, thank you so much for writing this article. I see the effect that e-books has on print material every day and its a shame. That's progress i guess...
    Keep up the good work :)

  3. wuxiong
    wuxiong ·

    Good writing and got some really amazing shots of wonderful book-reading places...<:) Missing paper reading...<:)

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