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10 years online!
Decade of Reading Essay Contest
History of
History of Powell's Books

Featured essays

Marc Acito
Kurt Andersen
Win Blevins
Rebecca Brown
Bruce Haring
Martin Clark
Michael Cunningham
Regan Daley
Veronica Doyle
Samantha Ettus
Jody Gehrman
Eric Jager
Justin Cronin
Garrison Keillor
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Ben Mezrich
Sara Nelson
Luanne Rice
Esmeralda Santiago
Judy Reene Singer

Staff essays

Chris Bolton
Steven Fidel
Jill Owens
Joe Rogers
Kevin Sampsell
Dave Weich

KAPOW! celebrating ten years at
KAPOW! Decade of Reading essay contest
What was your most memorable reading experience of the last ten years?

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of, we're asking readers worldwide to describe their most memorable reading experience of the past ten years. To get you started, a few well-known writers and Powell's employees have already taken the question for a spin. Here is one of their answers.
High Fidelity

High Fidelity
by Nick Hornby

List Price $16.00
Your Price: $4.95
(Used - Trade Paper)

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Straight Man: A Novel

Straight Man: A Novel
by Richard Russo

List Price $15.95
Your Price: $1.95
(Used - Trade Paper)

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Fight Club

Fight Club
by Chuck Palahniuk

Your Price: $8.95
(Used - Trade Paper)

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The Sandman, Volume 4: Season of Mists

The Sandman, Volume 4: Season of Mists
by Neil Gaiman

Your Price: $9.95
(Used - Trade Paper)

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Pigs in Heaven

Pigs in Heaven
by Barbara Kingsolver

Your Price: $6.98
(Sale - Trade Paper)

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The Prince of Tides

The Prince of Tides
by Pat Conroy

Your Price: $5.95
(Used - Trade Paper)

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Chris Bolton on Naked Memories

The opening pages of a great book are like the first, electric moments on a date when you realize the person you're talking to is feeling the same connection you are, and at some point in the near future you're going to see each other naked. Great books are like that — minus the naked part.

I experienced that sensation as I perused the first few pages of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, a Christmas gift from my father, back in 1995. It was one of those books that hits you in exactly the right way at precisely the perfect moment. Since I was dealing with my own relationship miseries at the time, the list of all-time, desert island, top-five worst break-ups that opens the book struck a chord that resounded deeply through me.

Six years later, Richard Russo's Straight Man entranced me in the same way. The opening pages drew me in with a voice so singular and entertaining, I knew it would stay with me for years to come. I was right; I've read Straight Man three times now and continue to find buried treasure in each new visit.

Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club had a similar effect, albeit in reverse. In the spring of 1999, I was in my fifth year as a projectionist for a movie theater chain in Eugene, Oregon. Because much of my job involved sitting around waiting for something to go wrong — which it did, fairly often — I was accustomed to reading at work in between movie showtimes. But I wasn't accustomed to being so engrossed in a novel that I stayed in the projection booth for an hour after my shift ended to finish the book. It wasn't until I'd closed the cover that I realized the degree to which Fight Club had impacted me, viscerally and irreversibly. It forever altered my perception of what fiction — and society — could be.

The opening pages of Season of Mists — the first Sandman book I read, back in '94 — carried me inexorably into a fantastic realm the likes of which I'd never experienced. Neil Gaiman's saga is rich in mythology, resonant with emotion, and bursting with unforgettable characters. I've read the entire series twice now — the second time in chronological order — and the story only grows deeper with familiarity. Never before — and only rarely since — had I encountered such depth of feeling in the comic-book form as in Gaiman's magnum opus. Perhaps for nostalgia's sake, or possibly because its overtones of regret and melancholy ring true for me, Season of Mists remains my sentimental favorite of the series.

Like pop songs, certain books have become indelibly intertwined with a time and a place and an event in my life — and, as time passes, with a very different me. As a projectionist, I used our movie schedules as bookmarks and turned my books into time capsules. Years later I will go through the books on my shelves, uncover a schedule from eight or ten years ago, and suddenly find myself transported to a past that is near yet distant, vivid yet irretrievable.

I read Barbara Kingsolver's Pigs in Heaven and Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides while dating the first woman who would break my heart. Opening those books a decade later, I am assaulted by sense memories — many pleasant, others that were once utterly unpleasant but have since had their sharp edges filed down to poignancy, even wistfulness. Certain kinds of pain turn bittersweet with memory.

Since I started at Powell's in the summer of 1999, the year I moved to Portland, I've done a lot more reading and my horizons have broadened considerably. I can only imagine how the next ten years will look in hindsight, and wonder at the books that will stand beside the crucial moments of my life.

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