a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Throw the Book At That Dog

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Throw the Book At That Dog

SUMMARY: Compare and contrast: Powell's City of Books vs Taj MuttHall's unincorporated village of books.

One thing I did while in Portland--which is required if you ever go to Portland, you have sign an affidavit before you leave town that you've done it--is go to Powell's City of Books. This is bookstore paradise (you could lose yourself blissfully for hours just browsing) and bookstore hell (why do I always suddenly own 42 more books than I did just a couple of hours ago?). It is amazing beyond amazing words. It is the largest new/used bookstore in the known civilized universe, Jupiter included. It has sucked up an entire city block--and more than one floor of it, too. Without remodeling, either, so you kind of go up and down and around and in and out through holes in what used to be the walls; no redecorating, either, except by the application of bookshelves to everything that vaguely resembles a vertical surface, and all of the space in between.

And everything is SO organized and SO neat--all the book spines are pulled neatly even with each other so that you can browse easily while adding to your stack of 42 books. And there's an extrahumanly helpful person at the helpful person booth in every room. PLus they have little tags dangling from all the shelves that tell you their personal opinions about books, or useful facts, or helpful lists of all the books in a series so that you don't go home with Episode 3 missing from the middle.

You can get an online tour to get you in the mood, and you can even take a real tour when you get there, and pick up a map at any Helpful Person Info desk so you don't get too lost. For those who want to remember their day in paradise/hell, you can even buy souvenirs.

Some of us walked over there our last afternoon in town so's we'd be able to sign our Powell's affidavit, and I thought I'd just kinda look around for old times sake, but it turns out that (a) if you don't want to carry your books on the plane, the cashier is all set up to cheerfully mail your books for you anywhere you want them mailed. In a jiffy or even a trice. Even 42 of them. And (b) we got to Powell's around 2:00, a 10-minute stroll from the hotel, and I had to be back by 5:15 to meet my sister-out-law for dinner, and I almost missed the whole thing. A little looking around, my astronomical unit.

Here is what they have in the way of dog books (and we're not even talking favorite fiction like Jim Kjelgaard or Albert Peyson Terhune): not merely one monolithic bookcase, 4 feet wide by 8 feet tall so that I can barely reach the books on the upper shelf. Not two. Not three, but six and a half of those sections.

I'm not sure how long I spent browsing the books. Maybe 5 minutes. Maybe 95. So many books. New and used side by side so you can save money without any extra effort. Sitting on the floor (which was invitingly clean) half the time.

One fun thing was to note that, on every shelf, there were at least 2 or 3 books that I already owned. So perhaps it's not surprising that, after all that woofer-book browsing, I did not buy a single book from that section.

Because I have my own little burgeoning mini-Powell's woofer-book section. Not only does it have several shelves of woofer books, but it has little ceramic plaques with clever dog-related sayings (e.g., "DOG") on them, and a couple of very nice cedar boxes containing the only earthly remains of former Taj MuttHallers Jake and Remington, plus my childhood favorite china statuettes of a German Shepherd and a Collie, plus various awards and mementos--although I don't have any big dog agility trophies like the Power Paws overflowing awards display or other similar talented agility friends, still, it's a collection of randomness that's starting to fill up a shelf all by itself.

So, remember that you can always click on a photo here to see a larger version of it if you want to browse bowser titles yourself. In preparation for your own trip to the world-famous Powell's City of Books.


  1. Wait! You can buy kids at Powell's gift shop?!?! I have a friend who lives in Portland and loves Powell's. Maybe I could have him pick up a kid and have it shipped! ;-)

    Next time you're in the Boston area, you must visit the New England Mobile Book Fair. It's not actually mobile, but it is amazing.

  2. Haven't been to Boston yet. Will have to keep that in mind.

  3. I've been to Powell's in Portland a couple of times and it's truly overwhelming. I didn't do quite as well as you though and only came out with 2 or 3 books each time. Might have even gone once and come out with nothing-shocking I know.

    I've been trying to convince a friend of mine to move back to Portland so I have a reason to go. After 2 harsh Chicago winters he's practically there so maybe I'll soon get my excuse to go.

  4. OK, in truth, I think I bought only about 15 this time around, and at least a couple were crossword puzzles, so they hardly count.

  5. That is a great store! I remember Powells from when I worked for Macmillan Publishing! One of the few surviving independents and powerful folks in the publishing world.

    Have to say that's a lot of dog books, too fun!

  6. We were wondering how they were surviving as an independent. Probably because (a) they're large enough to actually be competitive with amazon etc., and (b) they're a tourist destination as much as a book store, so may draw more people per square foot. I'm glad they're still around.

  7. wonder how many people were unable to browse the books in the aisle, or worse yet, broken aisle continuity, while you were sitting down reading books in the aisle ?

    is there a shortage on chairs at the bookstore or something ? I post this because I was barely able to navigate my local bookstore because of all the layabouts, drove me mad.

    Starting a crusade to ask peopel to realize that when you're sitting on the floor, you're blocking access to others browsing. You may think that since you're willing to move for them that you're not causing a problem, but many people are too considerate to tell the truth; that your sitting makes their browsing uncomfortable, and they usually have to return another time to browse this area comfortably.


  8. Hard to browse when you can't be at the shelf! If I had found a book that I wanted to read some of, I might have gone off to find a place to sit, but look at all those books! I was mostly reading titles, pulling them out and reading the blurbs and putting them back, glancing at the index, and so on. I have never been bothered by the fact that there are other people in the aisles when I'm trying to get through. If I were in a wheelchair, I'd ask them politely to move and I have no doubt that they would. Wouldn't be practical at a well-frequented bookstore to wait for an aisle to be unoccupied before you can go in there. When you feel inconvenienced, consider that you're among other book-lovers and that those people are the only reason that the stores stay in business for you to browse at all! And appreciate them!