As one of the largest—if not the largest—independent bookstores around, Powell’s Books in Portland is rightfully celebrated widely. But there are, of course, other bookstores in that city, many in neighborhoods beyond downtown. Broadway Books is one such shop. Founded in 1992, the store is named after the vibrant street that cuts through Northeast Portland. We spoke with Kim Bissell, Broadway’s co-owner, about her bookstore.
ZYZZYVA: What’s a little-known fact about your store?
KIM BISSELL: We were lucky enough to host former first lady Michelle Obama. She met with a local book group, and their heartfelt discussion about her memoir and “becoming” the women we all respect and adore was by far one of my favorite moments. It was an amazing experience, and we were honored to be a part of the magic.
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Z: How would you describe the smell of your shop?
KB: Portland is a rainy, rainy city. Imagine the smell of paper, ink, and glue of a new hardback, mixed with the scent of fresh, cool rain.
Z: Which new book would you recommend most to readers?
KB: Portland phenom Patrick deWitt’s latest novel, The Librarianist. The loveable main character, Bob Comet, is a retired librarian who helps a confused older woman get back to her senior living facility. He volunteers at the center, and we meet a cast of characters who illuminate Bob’s life and story. It’s a remarkable story filled with Portland quirkiness.
Z: Aside from your own, what’s your favorite bookstore?
KB: Persephone Books, which used to be on Conduit Street in London and has now moved to Bath, England, is a perfect, small store. They publish rediscovered female writers from the 20th century. The space is absolutely charming, with fresh flowers, a few well-placed antiques, and the most beautiful window displays. All their books are published with a clean gray cover and custom endpapers that match the time period and timbre of the book. Just lovely.