Books

Powell’s Books out at PDX Airport

Here’s yet another reason to curse COVID-19.

Powell’s Books has permanently closed both the store and the kiosk it operates at Portland International Airport.

Book lovers know Portland’s Powell’s Book as the iconic store that has been selling new and used books since 1971.

The company’s flagship location, Powell’s City of Books, in downtown Portland is a block long and boasts more than a million books. The store hosts hundreds of author readings and appearances each year.

The Powell’s Books branch at PDX is a rarity in airport book shops in that it carries new and used books and has been operating for 30 years.

Besides the joy of having a real bookstore at the airport, many travelers loved being able to order a book and pick it up at the airport on their way out of town. Or when they landed.

Better yet, the airport branch of Powell’s Book was located pre-security, with lot of other shops that draw locals as well.

Since Covid-19 blew in, Powell’s has shuttered all its locations, but is still offering shipping and pick-up. Powell’s plans to reopen its downtown flagship store and, perhaps, its other branches in town. But the company has decided that will not reopen its airport shop or the concourse kiosk.

“The privilege of welcoming book lovers to Portland, and sending Portlanders off on their travels with a good book in hand, has been a true gift, Emily Powell, CEO of Powell’s Books, said in a statement, “It’s hard for me to imagine our future without the airport, and without the airport’s seasoned team of booksellers.”

Shops closing at other airports too

Losing Powell’s Books at PDX is a heart breaker. But, sadly, it is not the only popular airport shop – or restaurant – that PDX and many other airports around the country are losing.

As passenger numbers stay in the dumps, many airport concessions can barely afford to stay open or reopen.

Post-pandemic, we’re sure to see a great many shuttered airport shops.

What we’re reading

On the road or off, it’s good to have a book or two handy.

In addition to book stores, some airports have free book swap stations.

This one we spotted in the airport in Walla Walla, Washington is pretty basic.

This one in the Helsinki Airport is more elaborate.

Need some suggestions on what to read? Here are some travel-related books that have recently arrived in the Stuck At The Airport mailbox.

Atlas Obscura: 2nd edition: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders is out and is full of even more odd, entertaining and must-see spots around the world.

There’s an Atlas Obscura page-a-day calendar and an Atlas Obscura wall calendar out for 2020 as well.

For anyone interested in Roman mythology or who may be traveling to Rome, David Stuttard’s book Roman Mythology – A Traveler’s Guide from Troy to Tivoli may come in handy.

And if you’ve ever been to Massachusetts or New England, you’ll likely recognize the names of just about all of the 25 Pioneer Valley towns that serve as settings for the stories in A Book of Fields – Tales from the Pioneer Valley , by my friend, Stephen Billias.

Greenfield, Deerfield, Springfield, Westfield, Sheffield and Pittsfield are all in here.

Plus one imaginary town and, says Billias, one field that is not a town at all.

What travel-related books are you reading?

(All the links here will take you to Amazon, but if you can, buy these books from your local bookseller.)

Souvenir Sunday: a journey with “Luggage”

On my travels this week I’ve been toting a review copy of Susan Harlan’s book, Luggage, which is part of Bloomsbury’s charming Object Lessons series.

The slim book is travel-sized, but densely-packed and Harlan has stuffed it with stories and side-trips that touch not just on the actual history and development of suitcases, bags, trunks, carry-ons and valises, but on the role baggage plays in literature, art and films.

Remember Mary Poppins’ carpet bag?

“It contains all of her desires,” writes Harlan, and is a “powerfully enabling object” from which the nanny is somehow able to produce a lamp and a mirror (in the 1964 Disney movie) and, in the novel by P.L. Travers, everything from an apron to an armchair.

Poppins’ luggage was not only magical, notes Harlan, it gave her freedom. “She can come and go as the wind changes, which would hardly be possible with a steamer trunk,” Harlan writes.

In “Luggage,” Harlan tells us about her own collection of vintage luggage, a bit of how she and others approach packing and of her visit to to Alabama’s vast Unclaimed Baggage Center, which is not just a store but a tourist destination.

Along the way she unpacks the role and relationship baggage has to everything from home and gender to class, memory, loss and, of course, travel.

“The history of luggage is the history of travel: how we traveled, and why, and where, and what we have packed,” Harlan tells us at the beginning of this journey, “It is virtually impossible to think of traveling without luggage.”

 

 

 

 

A rare and much-loved amenity at Raleigh=Durham International Airport is closing this week after serving passengers for almost 34 years.

2nd ed. Booksellers – a used bookstore located post-security at RDU – is closing it doors on December 31 after 33 and half years at the airport.

“It is quite sad to see it go, but it is time to retire as I have arthritis issues that strongly recommend that I stop lifting and toting boxes of books,” owner Walter High, who operates the store with his wife Karen, wrote on the store’s Facebook page. “We will miss our faithful customers and RDU will lose one of its most unique aspects. A used bookstore behind security at the airport doesn’t happen anywhere else in the US that we know of.Thank you all for your support over the years!”

RDU’s used bookshop was a favorite with travelers and a rarity at an airport. Two other airports have bookstores (that I know of) that also sell used books: Renaissance Book Shop at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport and a branch of Powell’s Books (selling new and used books) at Portland International Airport.” But these are pre-security.