The Lucky Tour: Powell’s

LuckyIntrepid former Algonquin intern David Bradley and his trusty sidekick, Lucky the Leprechaun, hit the road for a tour of (almost all) the coolest, hippest, greatest indie bookstores in the United States. Join us for the journey…

PORTLAND, Oregon — I’ve always considered myself an East Coast boy. I was born in Alaska, but moved to North Carolina when I was two and—Powells8except for a couple jaunts back to the last frontier—I’ve been swinging around the East Coast ever since. With beaches nearby and a time zone that sets the standard, it’s hard not to love the Atlantic side of things. But, in my time in California, I’d grown fond of our nation’s other half. The water is colder, but the beaches are just as captivating. I’d been following the coast from San Diego, and I wanted to part with the beaches in style. So I decided to camp a night at Gold Bluff’s Beach in the Redwood National Parks and on my last morning I woke to a herd of elk laying out in the sand, working on getting that perfect tan.

It seemed like a good omen as I began moving with an Eastern tilt for the first time in weeks. And, in fact, it was the perfect start to my Powells6inevitable pilgrimage to Powell’s City of Books. Housed on an entire block of Portland’s downtown area, Powell’s is a bookstore like no other. Four stories, a color coded map, and more books than I could count in a week set Powell’s on a level all its own. If you ever lose your vigor for reading, Powell’s will give it back to you. You will find a book you want to read within this city block. Really the more pressing concern is that you convince yourself to keep enough money in your wallet to get back home. This store is that kind of tempting.

Gerry Donaghy, New Book Purchasing Supervisor, sat down to answer the Algonquin Questionnnaire.

What was in this location before Powell’s?

This was actually a car repair shop. You can tell by the narrow lanes in our parking lot where they used to bring cars Powells3up to work on.

What is the oddest non-book item you sell here?

At some point we had these coffee mugs that had a carved octopus in the bottom, so as you drank from it the octopus would appear from seemingly nowhere. I thought those were hilarious.

What is your favorite Algonquin book?

Oh, I was hoping I’d get this question! I have so many shout-outs to give. Both of Jonathan Evison’s books, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving and West of Here, are extraordinary, and we have a great relationship with him. Rebecca Lee’s new book of short stories, Bobcat is amazing and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I see. And an older title that I loved was Mudbound from Hillary Jordan. A really strong book there.

Powells4And what’s your favorite book to recommend for the summer?

I love China Mieville’s book Perdido Street Station. It’s sci-fi for people who don’t normally read sci-fi and it’s a great genre to get introduced to in the summer. Or, if you’re looking for a really quick book to read on the beach I’d go with Richard Stark’s Parker novels. They’re quick and you can finish them in about an hour, but they’re a great ride.

What is the most visited area of the store?

Well everybody sees the New Arrivals section right when they come in the door, so that’s a big attraction. I think our Kid’s section gets a lot of attention as well, especially during story time. And then the local authors section for the Powells7Pacific Northwest is right up there as well.

Is there a staff cocktail of choice?

Actually there is. A local microbrewery named a beer after our store. It’s from Rogue Ales and Spirits and it’s called Powell’s White Whale. It’s got a little nod to Moby Dick in there.

What is the strangest thing that’s ever happened at Powell’s?

I haven’t personally experienced this, but I’ve heard stories of employees and customers seeing the ghost of Walter Powell, our founder, walking the halls. If that’s true it’s definitely the strangest thing that’s happened here.

A whole city block was too much book for Lucky. He had to sit down and catch his breath.

A whole city block was too much book for Lucky. He had to sit down and catch his breath.

Next stop: The King’s English in Salt Lake City.

*Note: The Lucky Tour posts are not in real time. David and Lucky have returned from their travels with great tales and many, many books. Stay tuned for more road stories…

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