3 best gifts for readers: part II

Books.  Books.  Books.  Is there anything else?

When you give someone a book, not only are you wrapping up a passport good for entry into an enchanted storyline but you’re giving yourself the pleasure of passing an hour or so in the idyllic splendor of your local independent bookstore.  This week Two or Three Little Birds invites you to roam the stacks with us as we take you to some of our favorite shops.


Reading Our Way From Ashland to Portland

Many find themselves in Ashland, Oregon some glorious summer evening during the annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and we were no different.  On a road trip to visit family and friends, my little loves and I stopped in for one night with tickets to see an all-female cast perform Two Gentlemen of Verona in the outdoor Elizabethan Theater.  Ashland is a delightful village nestled in a valley at the base of oak-studded foothills just north of the California border.  With a university population and a steady stream of well-heeled theater-goers, it’s the perfect place to pop off the interstate for a delicious meal followed by a stroll through one of the best children’s bookstores I’ve ever visited.  Tree House Books lies at the end of the main drag near the theater complex and among a collective of pubs and creekside cafés.  Grab a bite to eat and then head inside where magic, the kind of magic you can only find in Oregon, awaits . . .

On the particular day we entered the store, the owner happened to be working behind the counter, festooned in fairy garb and ready for storytime.  Wings and facepaint and glitter.  She had it all.  The shop is small, perfect for little visitors who otherwise get lost in larger book shops.  In the center of the store my littlest love discovered an apothecary devoted to all sorts of wizardry.  Tiny clear glass bottles for potions in various sizes.  Jars of herbs and everything a Harry Potter fan could possibly need for imaginative play.  Along the front window were more jars filled with treasures of all kinds, and most importantly, we found well-stocked shelves with all the titles we were looking for.  In the back of the store my oldest love came upon two narrow black doors and discovered a passageway leading to a separate room called The Secret World, an old bank vault cleverly decorated and dedicated entirely to Young Adult fiction.  It looked like a tween fantasyland, with tree trunks climbing the walls, chandeliers, twinkle lights and large mushroom shaped chairs for curling up on with a favorite book.

treehouse_apothecarysign          treehouse_apothecarywizard

treehouse_secretworld          treehouse_secretceiling

Some say there are spiritual vortexes all over Oregon, and I think this shop is built right on top of one.  You walk through the door and are transported into another world.  Customers are not only treated to the wonderful merchandise, but the imaginative silly-fun owners also host story time and clever reading and writing programs like Tree House Secret Book Club and the Time Travel Portal Game featured in the Day-3 video clip below.  You have to see the magic for yourselves — a bookstore that offers a virtual young writer’s workshop?  that introduces narrative devices and takes young writers through the storytelling process?  Tree House Books is one of a kind, and it’s only in Ashland.

If you’re like me, you will want to get in your car in Ashland and just drive straight through to Portland.  But if you have lovely people to visit along the way, then by all means make a stop at While Away Books and Espresso in Roseburg.  Littlest love poked around here with her grandpa and had no trouble finding something she liked.  Sip fair-trade coffee and nibble on something sweet from Lighthouse Bakery while you browse the new and used book selection, and you’ve got yourself a much more pleasant pit stop than the few minutes you’d otherwise spend filling up at Love’s Travel Stop along the highway.

powells_mainregisterYour final destination is, of course, Powell’s Books in Portland.  A full city block several stories high.  I think I flat lined when I walked in the door, it’s that overwhelming.  A bookish Mecca, they call themselves THE CITY of BOOKS for good reason and know that everyone who enters the door is immediately smellbound.  Let’s just say one could plan an entire weekend sojourn just around a visit to Powell’s.  The literature section is as large as my entire house, with shelves so high I needed a ladder to reach Edward St. Aubyn.  I dare say, I think this bookstore was too big, if that’s possible.  I felt overwhelmed, and there were so many other literary tourists with guidebooks and binoculars stepping all about, mouth agape just like me.  I felt like I was in the Louvre jockeying to see the Mona Lisa or three rows back trying to toss my coin in Trevi Fountain.  But it is a must see.  You simply have to make your pilgrimage there, and when you’ve made it up to the top floor, where the rare book room is located, then you can say you’ve seen it all and head for another Portlandish line over at Voodoo Donuts.  And where you go from there is entirely up to you.  With a book and a maple bacon donut, you can’t go wrong.

powells_stairs       powells_ireaddeadpeople


Are you someone who likes to pop into bookstores during your travels?  Have you got an especially sacred independent bookstore tucked away in your hometown?  Two or Three Little Birds welcomes readers to submit their reviews via the contact form available on this website.  Happy reading!

For a full list of all the stores reviewed on this blog, visit our page Support Independent Booksellers

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