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

If you liked this post, you might enjoy mission district bookstores

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ask a book buyer at powell’s

ask-a-book-buyerIn a rare check of my twitter feed this morning (Twitter, I’m just not that into you) I stumbled upon an exciting new resource at one of my favorite Independent Bookstores.  Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon has really led the way in making books available over the internet, and I have long included links to their online storefront on all of my syllabi and course websites to give students an alternative to amazon.  So I’m not surprised they are also making their personalized customer service available online as well.  Check this out!  On their book blog you can submit an email request for reading recommendations based on the latest books you’ve devoured.  Are you a fantasy fanatic who long ago swept through the George R. R. Martin bibliography before anyone had even heard of Game of Thrones?  Do you need the best translation of Dante’s Inferno?  Looking for something atmospheric for that vacation you’re planning?  Ask the book buyers at Powell’s!  For someone with idosyncratic tastes who’s always annoyed at book club, this can be a life saver for me.  Read a brief excerpt here at Two or Three Little Birds and then bookmark the first installment of Ask A Book Buyer

Q: I’m leaving in a few weeks for Italy and Spain, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t have something to read on my downtime over there. Suggestions? – Chelsea

A: For Spain, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. – Gerry

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. It is partially set on the Italian Coast in 1962 during the filming of Cleopatra. It’s a wonderful story and a great vacation book. – Jen

Andrea Camilleri has a great Italian mystery series set in Sicily. The first book in that series is The Shape of Water. And, of course, there’s Donna Leon’s fantastic Venice-set series, starting with Death at La Fenice. – Tom

It’s older but The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte is very atmospheric and set in both Spain and Italy. Just out is Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant. It’s good historical fiction about the Borgias. Even though they were Spanish, the family is synonymous with the dark side of the Italian Renaissance. The Vatican doesn’t like to show the Borgia apartments for a good reason. – Kathi

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