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In Oregon, Just Readin' in the Rain

Sunday, December 2, 2001

Portland, Ore., averages 222 cloudy days per year, with 150 of those wet, allowing for plenty of time to splash in the puddles -- or read. For literary types with oddball tastes and a hankering for a good book hunt, the city has more used and/or independent bookstores (70-plus) than it does Starbucks (65). We took a spin through some of the city's best-known neighborhoods, foraging for $1 Hemingway paperbacks and other novel finds.

• Booking it: For the written word on the West, try the Great Northwest Bookstore (503-223-8098, 1234 S.W. Stark St.), which carries up to 150,000 titles focusing on Oregon and its outskirts, including local fiction writers, historical tomes and yearbooks dating back to the Jackie O bob. At Morrison Books (503-295-6882, 530 N.W. 12th Ave.), you can buy whatever you see on the walls (a Wegman photo), the floor (African sculptures) and in the bookcases (8,000 books on art, architecture and design). Not for sale: Drawings by the owner's 3-year-old daughter, though you can purchase her literary picks, including "I Am Curious Blue."

• Booking It: Cameron's Books & Magazines (503-228-2391, 336 S.W. Third Ave.), established in 1938, is noted as being the city's oldest used bookstore -- with prices stuck in the Great Depression. The labyrinthine shop brims with books spanning the whole Dewey Decibel System as well as cardboard boxes full of used magazines. At Counter Media (503-226-8141, 927 S.W. Oak St.), a sign warns gawkers and mishandlers they will be shown the door, as will those not old enough to buy a pack of Kool's. But who can just glance at such categories as Funky Death Books, Weirdness, Freak Out and International Graphic Novels? There are also underground "comix" and books on erotica and, gulp, J. Edgar Hoover. Next door, Reading Frenzy (503-274-1449, 921 S.W. Oak St.) sells 'zines, comic books (edgier than Archie and Jughead) and fringe publications, such as a pop-up book on phobias. Plus, with an independent publisher's resource center just upstairs, new issues arrive still inky wet.

• Booking It: Fans of mysteries, the macabre and everything Agatha should head to Murder by the Book (503-232-9995, 3210 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.), which stocks up to 5,000 new and used titles of "whodunnits" and "the butler did-its." Up the street, you'll find Periodicals and Book City Paradise (503-234-6003, 3315 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.)behind a shocking pink and green door. Inside are staggering towers of periodicals (more than 100,000), including Cosmopolitan's special Man and God issue (1958) and a 1971 Newsweek cover of the red-hot Redskins. In Other Words (503-232-6003, 3734 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) is a nonprofit feminist bookstore featuring a majority of female writers and a slew of women's issues. Music and movies with a liberal or lesbian bent are also thrown into the mix.

-- Andrea Sachs

Pick up a map and booksellers directory at Powell's main store, or contact the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (541-683-4363) for a list of member bookstores. For general info on Portland: Portland/Oregon Visitors Association, 877-678-5263, www.travelportland.com.

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