Magazine article Sunset

Once upon a Time in the West

Magazine article Sunset

Once upon a Time in the West

Article excerpt

Here are four great bookstores worth the trip to their cities

DENVER RESIDENTS show visitors the Rockies. Then they show them The Tattered Cover. Seattleites boast about Puget Sound. Then they brag about Elliott Bay--the bookstore, not the nearby body of water.

Bookstore as tourist mecca? Sure, when the bookstore is truly great. And what makes a great bookstore? Well, we have our idiosyncratic criteria. A great bookstore should be independent. It should bear the stamp of its region. And, to echo Walt Whitman, it should be large and contain multitudes--of book readings, book signings, and, most of all, books.

Among the West's many fine bookstores, we think the four below are the creme de la literary creme--so outstanding that it's almost a crime to spend time in their cities without paying a visit.


"This isn't a place for racing in and racing out," says owner Michael Powell.

That's putting it mildly. With 750,000 new and used volumes packed into 43,000 square feet, Powell's Bookstore invites days of reading and exploration.

Powell's, founded in 1971, now operates six bookstores elsewhere in Portland, but the rambling structure on W. Burnside Street remains the empire's heart. Browsing tips? With its color-coded rooms (purple for travel, orange for art and architecture), Powell's is well organized, but maps of the store help. Ask to see the rare-book room, with its good selection of Northwestern Americana. Also, be sure to check out the window display just left of the main entrance, where Powell's features such not-for-sale gems as God Drives a Flying Saucer and Mystery of the Ductless Glands.


It's a story better suited to a Hollywood screenplay than to the book world. It's 1974: a young woman, Joyce Meskis, buys a 950-square-foot bookstore in Denver's Cherry Creek neighborhood. Dissolve to 1993: the bookstore has moved twice and grown to be one of the biggest in the nation, and Meskis has just completed a term as president of the American Booksellers Association.

These days, The Tattered Cover is downright soigne, occupying a tasteful four-story building near Neiman Marcus. …

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