Finally, after two years of restricted travel during the pandemic, Oregonians are likely to scatter in all directions during this summer’s travel season. If you’re a booklover and you’ve missed the smell of printing ink, paper, and a good cup of coffee in a new setting, we’ve got you covered with this tour of independent bookstores east of the Cascades.
Note that each is doing its own version of recovery from COVID restrictions. Public event schedules are in flux, sometimes subject to change on short notice. A prudent traveler will be well advised to keep an eye on websites or make use of the phone number to keep up to date on what’s happening.
Sisters: Paulina Springs Books, 541-549-0866
Dropping out of the Cascade Range toward Central Oregon, a traveler will find this bookstore that has been doing business for just shy of 30 years. The store carries new, general trade books and specializes in nature, guidebooks, science, children’s nonfiction, and adult fiction, plus high-end board games and toys.
This bright and open shop hosts public events such as author’s readings, classes, story times and book groups. Since 2021, these folks have donated 1 percent of annual gross sales, split evenly among 12 groups that support local, regional, and national communities, including NAACP, BrightSide Animal Center, and Sisters Trail Alliance. Check the website for details. The store is pet friendly.
Insider tip: These folks work to make this your third place, with the first place being home and second place work. For book lovers, this would be your third place.
The Dalles: Klindt’s Booksellers, 541-296-3355
East up the Columbia River is Oregon’s most venerable bookstore. Opened in 1870, Klindt’s still has its original 19th-century floors, cabinets, and bookshelves, the latter stocked with general trade books, specializing in local authors, guidebooks, and Columbia Gorge and Pacific Northwest geography. The store carries a small number of used books, as well as greeting cards and stationery recalling its roots as a bookstore/stationers shop.
Insider tip: This long, narrow building with creaking wooden floors houses more than books. Inside are the cremated ashes of three people. According to the manager: “Two are former owners and the other was just dropped off.” If you step inside the door and ask, “Where are the bodies?” the staff will show you. Hint: You can learn a lot about the manager’s mood by knowing what section he’s stashed the human remains in.
Madras: Black Bird Magical Tea and Tales, 907-841-0367, on Facebook/Instagram at #bohemian.peddler
Opened in February, this may be the newest independent bookstore east of the Cascades. The mother/daughter team carries 90 percent new books, specializing is sci-fi/fantasy, herbalism, fairy tales, graphic novels, natural living, and anything local.
Public events include a book club every Monday. Additional events are being reviewed as they see what works best in their downtown location. Many fresh teas are available in-house, ranging from breakfast and dessert blends to medical tisanes and magical sipping potions.
Insider tip: Walking into this narrow hole-in-the-wall bookstore is like walking into a well-lit tunnel filled with the smell of many herbs and spices. It’s not something you’ll soon forget.
Bend: Dudley’s Bookshop & Cafe, 541-749-2010
This downtown bookshop has been open for about a decade, carrying 60 percent new and 40 percent used books. General trade books specialize in fiction, outdoor guidebooks, natural history, and exploration/adventure.
Tea, coffee, and goodies are available in-house. This is one of those comfy and eclectic bookstores that inspires a lot of loyalty from the regulars, who appreciate the second-floor area with seating built for hanging out.
Insider tip: One percent of gross profits are donated to 1% for the Planet, which distributes the money to local environmental nonprofits. This has been going on for three or four years for a total of about $15,000.
Bend: Roundabout Books & Cafe, 541-306-6564
This shop, opened in 2016, is perched on one of Bend’s famous roundabouts that slows vehicle traffic for pedestrians in Northwest Crossing. It carries a general trade collection of all new books, specializing in running, mountain and rock climbing, hiking, foraging, and local interest. Plus, they have gifts and puzzles.
Public events include a story time on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, regular author events, and weekly book club meetings for different genres. An in-house cafe serves espresso, tea, and snacks with an outdoor, clean and relaxed vibe.
Insider tip: A remodel over the winter added 1,000 square feet with seating.
Redmond: Herringbone Books, 541-526-1491
This downtown shop has been open since 2007 as a second Paulina Springs store (see Sisters). It became Herringbone in 2015 when the store was sold. Herringbone carries all new books that are middle-of-the-road and of general interest. The store is unique in the volume of books that display their cover, rather than spine. The store also carries a selection of vintage vinyl music.
Insider tip: For those who enjoy the camaraderie of fellow book lovers, take a few extra moments with owner Brandon Weimer and ask him about his goal of growing old and being the bookseller who inspires the grandchildren of today’s customers.
Sunriver: Sunriver Books & Music, 541-593-2525
This collection of new, general-interest books specializes in local, regional, community, and national interest for anyone who wants a good read. The store is dog friendly — be sure you ask about the dog play sessions.
In-person book clubs may be resuming this spring – check the website. On May 21, bestselling mystery author Philip Margolin will be appearing in a ticketed event.
Insider tip: Make sure you ask about Kipling, the German shepherd with the diva personality who sings opera.
Heppner: Flood Town Books, 541-236-2940
This store carries all new books, specializing in children’s fiction, general fiction, and a growing section of art and craft books. The store also carries items from a local wool spinner, craft coffee-bean brewing, and locally made walking sticks.
Public events involve local art, plus art and local history, author readings, and book groups. The store has an attached Airbnb and will have an adjacent art studio. Don’t forget to ask about making your own coffee mug. Bookstore dogs Peppa and Lottie alternate responsibility for overseeing customers.
Insider tip: In June 1903, Heppner had a devastating flood that killed 240 residents. Stepping into the children’s section, you’ll see walls painted as if they were underwater.
Hermiston: The Next Chapter Bookstore, 541-667-7080
This store carries new, general trade books, specializing in books for kids, guidebooks, and local authors, as well as book-adjacent gifts such as teas, mugs, and puzzles. Check the website.
Public events are a regular Saturday story time, book clubs, and author signings. The store is adding seating for coffee and tea customers.
Insider tip: Many independent bookstores tend to be long and narrow. This one is inside a dance studio lobby, where floor-to-ceiling windows provide marvelous lighting. Check the website for when dancers are present.
Baker City: Betty’s Books, 541-523-7551, on Facebook at #bettysbooksbakercity
This historic building, built in 1888, has housed Betty’s Books since 1979. The collection — about 90 percent new books and 10 percent used — emphasizes local history, guidebooks, Pacific Northwest, children’s, young adult, and adult fiction.
Events include author signings and book clubs. The store also participates in downtown events such as wine walks. The vibe is an eclectic variety suited to the region and its place in the global community.
Insider tip: On Saturdays, store dogs Woodrow and Loomis officiate over proceedings. The dogs are such a hit that if for some reason they don’t make an appearance, the owner faces regulars who demand to know what happened.
La Grande: JaxDog Cafe and Books, 541-624-5888, on Facebook/Instagram at #jaxdogcafe
This collection in La Grande’s historic downtown is 30 percent new and 70 percent used books, with specialties in local, hiking/field guide, and vintage sci-fi.
Breakfast and brunch are made from scratch in the in-house cafe. Store cat Amber recently retired, but even without her, the vibe remains friendly, relaxed, and should be considered an extension of your living room.
Insider tip: A painting on the wall pictures the rescue dog, Jax, for whom the bookstore is named. And two more words: “cardamom rolls.” Check them out.
Enterprise: The Bookloft, 541-426-3351
This store has been around since the 1970s and is closely associated the venerable Fishtrap writers’ retreat that’s helped regional writers since 1988.
The collection is new and used, specializing in Native American lore and issues, local and regional history. Plus, the in-house Skylight Gallery sells local pottery and photography. Coffee and treats are available.
This is an old, long, narrow building with a reputation for being waaayyy comfortable.
Insider tip: On the way in, check the screen door made by local artist Steve Arment, said to be the tallest in Oregon.
Klamath Falls: Canvasback Books, 541-887-2062
Traveling past Klamath Lake, it’s easy to see where this bookstore got its name. The store carries all new, general trade books, specializing in outdoor, local, and wildlife. It also sells puzzles, gifts, and stationery. For those interested in birding, watch for the Winter Wings Festival in February with many bookstore events. Keep your eye on the website.
Events include regular book clubs and author readings with a story time every Saturday for kids of all ages.
Insider tip: Keep your eye open for the mascot duck statue. Its name is Charles Duckins.