Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I lugged in a large bag of books, which I sold, and still managed to make a significan dent in my credit card at Powell's this week. My level of indoctrination into the whole graduate school whatever can be measured by my excitement over the purchases I made, some of which are for a specific class, some of which are "for fun" (also because I know I'll need them and might as well buy them now, not that I have an excess of spending money or anything, just that I know they'll come in handy and Powell's had some good deals). I love Powell's, so much. The most I spend on any one of those books was $16.95, which was for required reading for the first week of class. The rest were all under or around $10. So goddamn great.

In Chicago the only used book store I know of is, actually, Powell's. It's the original Powell's, located in Hyde Park about a mile from my place. It's a different order of book store, small-ish and built for informal browsing rather than the Portland model, which is so large that you kind of need to know what you want beforehand (or stick to one of the poorly-stocked sections, like the entire film, art and music floor). You go to stores like the Portland Powell's in search of specific books, with a little browsing on top of that (and, naturally, careful inspection og all the "on sale" displays), while the Hyde Park version isn't large enough to reliably carry any specific title. But it's fun to spend an hour sifting through the poorly organized shelves of film books, breezing past the various randomly assigned sections on the ways in and out. Real good place. Even though I might prefer this to any one of Seattle's used book stores, I miss the variety and options you have there. Not that there aren't other great book stores in Chicago: Hyde Park's Seminary Co-Op, only five or so blocks from my apartment, is easily one of the best stores for new books I know of, but I can't justify a $25 new book purchase to myself as easily as I can four used books at $6.95 each, which you could find at any one of three places in the U-District and a couple on Capitol Hill. And Hyde Park's known as "the book district," sort of - I get the feeling that's intended as a vaguely derisory invocation of what the NYT called the neighborhood's, ahem, "nerdiness."

For the curious, the story behind the two Powell's is supposedly that Mr. Powell started the store in Chicago first, then moved to Portland. He sold the original store to somebody else, who kept the somewhat established Powell's name. The two developed independently of each other, with one attaining national prominence as the best book store on the West Coast, and the other being a fun, quirky hole in the wall that caters to the pointy-headed U of C crowd. I guess the biggest similarity for me is that I spend too much money at both.

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