A series of posts about places where you can buy, borrow or donate books in and around our amazing neighborhood.
The east side of Portland has an affinity for buildings that are painted outlandishly bright colors. It is necessary in a city that has more overcast days in a year than sunnier ones. Another essential aid for surviving the melancholy Portland winter is books. Add a lime green coat of paint and books together and you get Microcosm Publishing on Williams and Graham. Microcosm Publishing is an independent publishing house that highlights skill-building, telling hidden histories, and fostering creative pursuits by publishing books about DIY skills, food, bicycling, gender, self-care, and social justice.
Joe Biel founded Microcosm Publishing 21 years ago in Cleveland, Ohio. Joe’s love for punk rock and comic books led to his foray into underground publishing. His first publication was a catalog called Microcosm, which compiled pieces from zines all over the world. Joe moved Microcosm to Portland in 1998, where Microcosm lived out of whatever spaces it could afford: a mud room, closets, under the desk of a credit card company, and eventually the lime green building with purple trim on Williams and Graham.
Microcosm Publishing produces many valuable resources that help people make the changes they want to see in their own lives and communities. Joe Biel, the founder of Microcosm, elaborated, “We have perhaps the only alphabetized bookstore in the state with a very Old Portland vibe that offers many historical and politically radical understandings of the phenomenon that continue to change our city.”
Microcosm approaches both publishing and who they hire from a radical lens. Joe Biel was diagnosed with Autism in 2009. He explained, “This revelation allowed me to reconsider Microcosm as an employer and to consciously begin hiring special needs employees to work in our store, mail order, and office. It may not be the typical retail experience but we need visibility and I believe this is a powerful way to educate the public.”
The staff at Microcosm are knowledgeable and will assist you in finding what you are interested in. Some of Microcosm’s best-selling publications include Make Your Place:Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs; Henry & Glenn Forever by Tom Neely, Scot Nobles, and Igloo Tornado; Zinester’s Guide to Portland by Shawn Granton; and Basic Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.
If you decide that you want to get your hands on every new thing that Microcosm publishes, they’ve got a system for that. You can sign up for Microcosm’s 6-month BFF subscription and receive every new title that Microcosm publishes within a period of six months. Microcosm Publishing distributes books all across the world. If their books or media seem interesting to you, stop by the green building with purple trim on Williams and peruse. There are a myriad of hidden stories waiting to be read.
By Anna Daggett