As the new year begins, it’s the perfect season to pick up a new book — or revisit an old favorite. With the cold weather, there’s no better time to wrap yourself in your best blanket and immerse yourself in a good story. Some of the best places to find these stories are right here in Eugene.
Inside each of these bookstores are staff with friendly faces and shelves full of just about any book you could possibly imagine. What better way to kick off 2022 than by supporting a local business and treating yourself to a new book?
Although every bookstore in Eugene deserves a superlative, these five make up the best classic, grassroots, used, comics and underrated bookstores in the city.
Best classic store: J. Michaels Books
J. Michaels Books has been an independently owned staple of the Eugene community since 1975. In 2017, it earned a spot on Huffington Post's list of the top 50 indie bookstores in the United States. It’s easy to spot from the outside, with its green canopy promising fine books.
“The best thing about the store is the curated stock. You won’t find any junk here. I have larger sections of architecture, photography and literature,” Jeremy Nissel, the store owner, said. “Condition is really important to what we buy. Used books are fairly close to new condition for the most part and we also sell collectable books and we have a great selection of new books as well.”
In J. Michaels, you can always find the most beautiful display of both new and used, classic and contemporary books. This is accompanied by a peacefully quiet atmosphere, surrounded by a warm and welcoming environment to stroll about the store, which seems to have the magical ability to grow larger the further back you go.
“I’m not super huge on bookstores, but I do really like this one,” Sofia Cruz, a UO sophomore, said. “It’s super classy and makes me feel like I could read all of the books they have for sale here.”
J. Michaels is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and sells through an online store as well. It also buys books Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. J. Michaels is located at 160 East Broadway Street.
Best grassroots store: Tsunami Books
A gem of south Eugene, Tsunami Books is instantly recognizable by its beautiful mural of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” and a painted arrangement of different notable books representing each season of the year, which was done by local artist Emily Poole, displayed outside of the store.
Oftentimes, there may be a small stage in the corner of the store, complemented by the rows of books. They host a number of in-person and virtual community events, including book signings, concerts and other events. The store is always full of vibrant life, and you never know if you’ll run into your favorite author or stumble into a poetry slam on your way to pick up a new used book.
The Sunday before UO started its winter term the store was bustling with students perusing the store’s unique selection. “We had a building full of returning students yesterday. I’ve never seen so many,” Scott Landfield, an owner of the store, said. “The stock just reflects who we are in relation to a good community. It is small and select.”
For the next event on Jan. 6, Paul Safar will be performing on the store’s baby grand piano — something every great bookstore has at least one of — from 6 to 6:30 p.m., as the second installment of “First Thursdays with Paul (and friends).” While the event is free, all tips will be given to the Burrito Brigade, a nonprofit that serves free vegan meals to the hungry around Eugene, Springfield and Portland.
Tsunami Books is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. You can also shop from them online. The store is located at 2585 Willamette street.
Best used books store: Smith Family Bookstore
One of the oldest independent bookstores in Oregon, Smith Family Bookstore is truly a palace of wonders for any literature fan. With two floors, six rooms and an aisle for just about any genre, it’s easy to spend hours getting lost between the pages there. Whether you’re looking for poetry or dissertations, horror or romance, novels or screenplays, chances are that Smith Family Bookstore has it.
“I’m really glad that I discovered this store. It’s super cool, and they have a great selection of anarchist literature,” customer Orion White said. White, who recently moved to Eugene, also added that the Smith Family “made the city more homely.”
Having been around since 1974, Smith Family Bookstore can be found in one of the oldest buildings in Eugene’s Market District, making it a perfect stop on an afternoon shopping trip. It’s also an excellent and affordable place for UO students to search for used textbooks.
“We are one of the largest bookstores in the Pacific Northwest with a lot of varied stock. We are, I think, an undiscovered treasure,” Joe Pettit, manager of internet book sales, said. “We’ve been here for 30 to 40 years, and we have stock from all time periods with comprehensive selections in history and psychology among others. We just have a great selection.”
Smith Family Bookstore is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Book buying hours are by appointment only, and there is an extensive online collection. The store is located across from the Post Office at 525 Willamette street.
Best comic store: Books with Pictures
Comics and graphic novels are still emerging as a serious form of literature for all ages and demographics, and there’s no better place to find them than Books with Pictures. Books with Pictures sells brand new comics ranging from the superheroes of Marvel and DC to manga and local indie works. On the outside, it’s a quirky store that sits on the corner of West Broadway — and on the inside, a well lit and well organized wonderland of graphics. They surely live up to their slogan, “Comics for everyone.”
The sister to a Portland store by the same name, Books with Pictures works to create an inclusive environment for groups of people who have often been left out of comic book spaces, such as women, People of Color and members of the LBGTQ+ community. The store is a safe space for anyone with an interest in comics and graphic novels to be met with a friendly face and the ability to browse the shelves in peace.
“It's really neat that we have a comic shop in Eugene, especially one that doesn’t try to gatekeep comics,” long time comics fan Riley Watkins said.
Books with Pictures is open from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. They’re located at 99 W Broadway Suite C (conveniently down the street and around the corner from Voodoo Doughnut).
Best underrated store: Second Hand Prose
Second Hand Prose is run by the nonprofit volunteer organization Friends of the Eugene Public Library. The Friends’ mission is to raise money for the library’s projects and programs through selling second hand books — hence the name of the store — and fosters a love of reading in the community. Not only do they provide an affordable resource for literature, but all of their profits go directly to the Eugene Public Library.
The cozy library store has table rows full of expertly organized books, featuring a wonderful display to peruse through. Truly a bookstore with a heart of gold, here you can find yourself an excellent book and support an excellent cause.
Second Hand Prose is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Since they keep their browsing capacity small, they also have an online selection. The store is located at the Eugene Public Library, 100 W 10th avenue.
Whether you are a student, community member or just passing through Eugene, all of these bookstores are worth checking out and supporting. If you’re COVID-19-conscious or quarantining and want to avoid in-person interactions, these stores also have online options, ensuring that no one is left out of reading.
Each and every one of these establishments brings something special to Eugene and helps to build a culture for our city. It’s always important to support local businesses, but especially after a year-and-a-half of COVID and quarantine, when we need their stores and their stories the most. Supporting these stores isn’t just about buying books. It’s also about supporting our community.