One of my favorite things about living in the City of Roses is having access to a plethora of the best bookstores in Portland. Locals are no strangers to cozy evenings at home while the rain (there’s like 9 months of rain per year!) takes its toll.
You can either suffer through the rainy months or you can make the most of them. As someone that has lived in Portland for 30+ years, I’ve embraced the gloomy gray months largely thanks to the charming Portland bookstores that have kept me sane.
Over the last few years I’ve decided to branch outside of Powell’s in an effort to find more local bookstores in Portland to support. This adventure has taken me all over my beloved city and allowed me to discover some hidden gems.
I’m not one for secrets (local businesses deserve the love!) so I’d like to share my personal list of the best bookstores in Portland, Oregon. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Best Bookstores in Portland, Oregon
There’s a soothing predictability to Wallace Books that I’ve come to enjoy (dare I say, crave?) over the years. Opened by Julie Wallace in 1997, this beloved Portland bookstore has been serving locals for more than 25 years.
Every nook and cranny is stuffed with new and used books. Imagine books spilling off the shelves, stacks of titles on the floor that tower over toddlers and corners filled with boxes devoted to popular authors. Wandering this popular bookstore in Portland is nothing short of a joy.
The credit goes to Wallace, who wanted to merge her love of books with her love of people. Her warmth makes you feel like a regular and her knowledge will convince you to turn into one. She’s eager to share recommendations or point you in the right direction if you’re seeking a specific title.
Local’s Tip: The Pacific Northwest section at this Portland bookstore is quite impressive. I suggest giving it a proper perusal, you never know what you’re going to find!
Opened in 2018, Belmont Books is one of the newest bookstores in Portland but you wouldn’t be able to tell by the looks of it. A charming little shop (less than 400-square-feet) filled to the brim with new and used books, the store looks like it’s been around forever.
The passion and care put into this local Portland bookstore is obvious. Owner Joseph Witt works the front most days and lets it be known that having a bookstore is a lifelong dream fulfilled. A dream he doesn’t take for granted.
This Portland bookstore is organized by categories but you may not find the exact title you’re after. The reason is simple, you’re supposed to find something new to discover. Witt makes sure his store is stocked with books folks want to read, even if they don’t know it yet. It’s all about surprise and delight.
Witt is known for beating to the sound of his own drum. He doesn’t play by any rules and chooses to keep the topics ranging from Pacific Northwest history to unusual (and entertaining) titles most of us haven’t even heard of.
Mother Foucault’s Bookshop
It’s hard to explain what walking into Mother Foucault’s Bookshop in Portland feels like to those that have never been. The first time I stumbled upon this gem I felt ill-prepared and the bookworm in me wanted a redo so that I could enjoy the moment properly.
Opened in 2011, Mother Foucault’s specializes in used, rare and vintage books, this is the place to go if charming bookstores make you nostalgic and, consequently, weak in the knees. You’ll find plenty of poetry books, fiction, philosophy, foreign language titles and literacy criticism.
Edit: Some readers have reached out and asked for clarification regarding the unusual name of this popular Portland bookstore. Well, I did some digging.
Mother Foucault’s Bookshop is named after French philosopher Michel Foucault. But where does “mother” come from, you might ask? Well the owner, Craig Florence, wanted to give the store a cheeky twist by merging the philosopher’s name with a nod to progressive American magazine, Mother Jones.
Local’s Tip: This independent Portland bookstore hosts numerous weekly events. Everything from reader’s panels to poetry readings and literary talks. Check out the website for the most current lineup.
Annie Bloom’s Books
Established in 1978, Annie Bloom’s Books is one of the oldest bookstores in Portland. But wait, it gets better. This charming Portland bookstore is located in one of the most endearing areas in town, Multnomah Village. So if you’re looking for an easy-going afternoon, make a beeline for Annie Bloom’s Books and prepare for the hours to slip by.
Considered by many locals to be one of the best bookstores in Portland, the selection is carefully curated. You’ll find classics, new titles and a never-ending list of recommendations from the helpful staff (some of which have been around between 10-25 years!).
The children’s section is worth calling out and a great place to start if you need to find a books for a birthday party. Bring the kiddos with you and let them enjoy the play area or pet the store cat (Molly), while you peruse.
Indeed, the success of this independent bookstore in Portland speaks for itself. With 44 years behind them, Annie Bloom’s doesn’t show signs of slowing anytime soon. Grab a cup of complimentary coffee and meander around the aisles aimlessly, this popular Portland bookstore seems to have something for everyone.
Daedalus is best known for its online presence but overlooking this well-stocked Portland bookstore would be nothing short of a crime, especially if you’re in the area. Specializing in art, philosophy, theology, history, poetry and literature tomes, Daedalus Books may seem unassuming to the untrained eye.
Located in Northwest Portland, tucked in a corner right off 21st Avenue, you can easily walk by without noticing but it would be a mistake to skip, especially for those in search of the best bookstores in Portland.
Once inside, you’ll find both new, used and rare books but if you need some guidance don’t hesitate to ask for unique recommendations from the well-read staff.
My father-in-law is a retired history teacher and never misses an opportunity to swing by Daedelus. He considers this one of the best bookstores in Portland (fighting words, I know) because of the expansive selection of interesting books geared towards scholars.
Opened in 2019, Melville Books is the new kid on the block, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best used book stores in Portland.
Self-dubbed the smallest bookstores in Portland, it was founded by an insatiable bookworm — Mitch Melville. Melville dabbled as a book scout and online bookseller in a previous life before branching out into the bookstore business.
When opening his Portland bookstore the objective was clear: he noticed a void in used bookstores in the Alberta neighborhood and sought to change that.
This Portland bookstore is still growing. The current inventory clocks in at 4,000 books, but Melville buys books from customers daily, so the selection is always growing. He strives to build trust in the community by being very selective about the books folks see on the shelves ensuring that anything you take home with you will be a delight.
Serving locals and visitors alike since 1992, Broadway Books is often regarded as one of the best bookstores in Portland and it’s not hard to see why.
The shop hosts interesting reading panels, author discussions (Michelle Obama hosted a discussion), an impressive selection of carefully-curated titles and an unwavering commitment to the community and neighborhood, this is a Portland bookstore you can feel good about supporting.
If you plan to make this your local Portland bookstore make sure to ask about the Pink Card loyalty program. It’s a reward program for frequent buyers (but 12 books, get one free).
Unlike the other independent Portland bookstores mentioned on this list, Broadway Books mostly deals in the business of selling new books. Indeed, the used section is small, but the new titles by local authors makes this Portland bookstore a worthwhile stop, even for those that prefer to buy used books.
Green Bean Books
Started by a school teacher with an insatiable love for books, Green Bean Books is the best bookstore in Portland for new and used children’s books. Jennifer Green opened this charming little Portland bookshop on trendy Alberta street back in 2009.
Housed in an old home (with creaky old floors, to boot!), you can’t wander into this popular Portland bookstore without thinking about the charming bookstore in You’ve Got Mail.
Expect to find a wide selection of children’s books in English and other languages. It’s also worth mention that the shop sells educational children’s toys and houses custom vending machines that dispense things like homemade finder puppets (made by Jennifer herself), mustaches and beards.
If you’d like to peruse a book before making a purchase head to the outdoor deck where a weeping mulberry bush has been converted into a magical and secretive reading fort. Indeed, there’s so much to love about this popular Portland bookstore, I can’t recommend it enough.
Local’s Tip: If your little one loves story hour make sure to swing by Green Bean Books Tuesdays at 11am for story time.
Backstory Books & Yarn
Backstory Books & Yarn is an interesting concept. Fusing together two passions, this locale is part Portland bookstore and part yarn shop and locals can’t help but love it! It’s a weird fusion and this is Portland, after all.
This independent Portland bookstore is full of fascinating books that span the gamut. You’ll find everything from traditional titles to fresh off the press treasures.
Powell’s Books (Yes, this is the best bookstore in Portland)
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Powell’s Books.
As you probably already know, Powell’s is the best bookstore in Portland. It’s easy to hate on them because they’ve grown so large (Powell’s is the largest independent bookstore in the world), but the success is well-earned.
Rated by CNN as one of the coolest bookstores in the world, Powell’s Books, dubbed City of Books, sells both new and used titles for all to enjoy. It’s nearly impossible to leave empty-handed (believe me, I’ve tried).
Located within the Pearl District and spanning an entire city block, this popular Portland bookstore is home to more than one million books, the store covers 4 floors. If that sounds overwhelming, grab a map before embarking on the adventure. Arrive early or be prepared for crowds, visiting Powell’s is by far one of the best things to do in Portland.
Local’s Tip: Pop into the Gold Room during your visit to see the rarest books in the store. The most expensive book at Powell’s is an 1814 copy of the Lewis & Clark Journal which includes Captain Lewis’ map safely tucked between the pages. The price? $350,000.
Further Reading: Local’s Guide to Powell’s Books
Best Bookstores in Portland (Post Summary)
- Broadway Books
- Wallace Books
- Belmont Books
- Mother Foucault’s Bookshop
- Annie Bloom’s Books
- Melville Books
- Green Bean Books
- Backstory Books & Yarn
- Daedalus Books
- Powell’s Books
Map of the best Portland bookstores
I hope you enjoyed this roundup of the best bookstores in Portland, Oregon. Don’t hesitate to let me know if I missed anything!
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What do you think?