Back in 2012, author Will Schwalbe
wrote what’s become a perennially popular post for the Powell’s blog on the best places to read
. While Will looks at general reading locales like trains, planes, and under quilts, we’ve decided to add to the list with the real spots in Portland where we love to read. Many are outdoors, but read on for our favorite book-friendly bars and coffee shops too. Do you have a favorite place to read? Share in the comments.
Note: Given the shifting nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in Oregon, it's always best to double-check a location's website for updated safety information before visiting.
For those of us in outer SE, it’s been fun to watch FoPo light up with new bars and restaurants (or as we like to call them, “reading environments”). A new favorite for microbrews, Detroit-style pizza, and a chill spot to read is Assembly Brewing on SE Foster. Also, with a five-hour Happy Hour on Mondays and takeout any time, it’s easy to enjoy Assembly’s tasty offerings on a slim budget or from your favorite reading perch at home.
This SE Belmont café has a great outdoor patio and an extensive menu to fortify you for epic reading sessions. Weekday afternoons and midday weekend hours are the easiest times to find a solo table.
Close to our Cedar Hills Crossing store, Commonwealth Lake Park provides 20 acres of lush wilderness, with a man-made lake perfect for birding, fishing (it's stocked with trout), or grabbing a solitary bench for some serene reading time.
Free on Mondays and $5 for everyone 11 and older Tuesday-Sunday, the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a haven of quiet benches and grassy stretches to tuck into a book. In the spring, waxy magnolia blossoms carpet the paths and ducklings paddle by; late summer and fall visits yield flowers, changing foliage, and waterfront vistas.
So cute and cozy Central Perk should hide behind its Rachel bangs, this NW coffee house has soft armchairs, sweet staff, and delicious pastries, plus limited outdoor seating. We’ve never felt rushed at the Dragonfly, making it one of the best places to settle in for a long read and a large pot of tea.
Never get involved in a land war in Asia and don’t let another year go by without a tasty Princess Bride-themed sandwich and a reading session at Guilder Café. We’re partial to the Montoya Sandwich (So. Many. Different. Pickles.) but the Inconceivabowl is hard to resist.
There are many pretty reading spots in this SE Portland park, but our favorite is on a bench by the large duck pond. It’s quiet enough to concentrate, but if you’re feeling dreamy or distracted, the ducks, pedestrians, and cyclists provide ample entertainment and inspiration.
With two locations in Beaverton, Lionheart Coffee Co. is a perfect destination shop for readers on the SW outskirts of Portland. Not only do they make scrumptious breakfast sandwiches and host a shifting roster of single origin espresso beans, but their staff is the sweetest.
Khunamokwst (pronounced KAHN-ah-mockst) Park in NE Portland is an excellent option for parents hoping to sneak in a few chapters while their kids play, skate, and picnic. According to its website, “Khunamokwst Park is the first PP&R park to enjoy a name indigenous to the land it sits on. Chinook wawa is the language commonly used by the original people of this area.”
We've heard a rumor that a bookolith recently touched down in Mt. Tabor Park. If Portland’s beautiful mountain park is good enough for a giant book creature from space, it’s good enough for us. Plant your blanket under the fir trees at the summit of the park, or find a sunny bench on the east side of reservoir 5. Either way, prepare for a parade of cute dogs, cuter children, and happy runners while you tuck into your latest book.
Sometimes you want to take a nice book out to dinner. For those special occasions, we heartily recommend the Muddy Rudder Public House in Sellwood. Pizza, a pint, and the Rudder’s slim nook of a patio are a pleasant way to while away an evening.
Let’s face it, most of us are reading at home these days. Luckily, we really like our homes! Sofa, soft bed, bath tub, balcony, porch, patio, kitchen table, parked in front of a bowl of ice and a box fan… any place you feel safe and happy is always a perfect place to read.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Book Pub owner Elise Schumock a couple of years ago, and her cheerful, spacious, wood-paneled pub remains a favorite place to meet friends for book club or settle in for a solitary snack and an engrossing read.
You’ve probably been to Sauvie Island to pick berries and pumpkins, but it’s also a great destination for an afternoon of reading on the beach. Take a dip in the river or stretch out on a towel and soak in the atmosphere of the Portland Riviera.
Most of us don’t ride the bus for fun. But one major advantage to riding over driving or cycling is passing over the reins (and the traffic stress) to someone else and escaping into a book instead.
Another perfect spot for parents desperately seeking the solace of a book while desperately seeking kid-friendly activities, Westmoreland Park has lovely wetland trails and a fantastic natural playground with sand and water features, mild bouldering, and a lot of logs for kids to heft around. There are also a great many benches and shady trees where parents can keep an eye on their adventurers while getting a little down time.
There are probably 1,000 excellent reading spots in the International Rose Garden alone (there’s an entire amphitheater, for one) but our favorite spot in the park is the quiet meadow below the Rose Garden, close to the Holocaust memorial. A little isolated from the tourist traffic, this green patch of peace is the perfect place to let the drone of bees lull you into a reading trance (or a much-needed nap).