Suggestions for a Seattle Book Crawl
Seattle is a book-lover’s paradise. It’s been in the top 3 of “Most Literate Cities” since the list started in 2003! Maybe there’s something about gray weather and coffee that lend themselves to reading. Given this, it’s not surprising that we have some fantastic bookstores. Feel like a stroll to see some of them? On the map below, you will find a Seattle Book Crawl—it should take about an hour (jf you skip 1A and 2A), but of course you may find yourself needing a little more time to spend in the stores themselves! Also, the basic route is pretty much all downhill, with a gentle uphill slope up First Avenue and back up Pike St. to the Convention Center after you leave Pike Place Market. And we can’t even count how many coffee shops you’ll pass!
1) Start off at the Convention Center!
1A) If you feel like a bit of a hike, with a pretty substantial uphill section, add 1A to your route (check out Plymouth Pillars Park on the way), in order to check out Elliott Bay Book Company (1521 10th Avenue), the Grand Dame of Seattle Bookstores. Moved from its original location in Pioneer Square, this is still a huge and fabulous indie bookstore with author readings, a café and gift shop, and some of the best stock anywhere.
2) Next up is the stunning Seattle Public Library building, at 1000 Fourth Avenue. Built in 2004, this building features 10,000 panes of glass, and some amazing art. It’s also a bustling and functioning library with 1 million volumes onsite, and creative and innovative programming (the Tuesday of the conference there’s a poetry appreciation group meeting at noon!).
Photo Credit: Joe Wolf
2A) Like Elllott Bay Book Company in being a little out of the center, you can skip Kinokuniya Books (525 S. Weller St.) if you are short of time or motivation to do a lot of walking, but it’s worth the extra mileage to feel like you are in another country for a while! Kinokuniya “offers a wide variety of books, magazines, and stationery from Japan…[including an] extensive collection of Manga, graphic novels, art and design books, cookbooks, travel books, children's book, and more, both in English and Japanese, [and] Chinese books at our Seattle store.” It’s located in the International District, next to the foodie paradise Uwajimaya.
3) After seeing The Seattle Public Library, architecture will be on your mind! (And if you skipped 2A you can go straight from one to the other.) Therefore, take a stop at Peter Miller Books (304 Alaskan Way South, in Post Alley), home of all things architecture and design. The books are ravishing, and so are the gift items—writing implements, glassware, bags, and more.
4) After seeing sleek modern design, you will perhaps want a dose of tradition? Drop into The Globe Bookstore (218 1st Avenue South), and imagine you are in 19th century London (in fact, the Pioneer Square neighborhood in which The Globe sits is Seattle’s oldest area, built like London on the ruins of a Great Fire). There are nooks and crannies, exposed brick, and amazing finds here, along with a glorious selection of cards and prints.
Photo credit: Brewbooks
5) For a larger selection of “new, used and rare books, and original editions of literature and graphic arts”, check out Arundel Books, “fiercely independent since 1984”. They are at 212 Occidental S. (between Washington and Main), at the site of the wonderful David Ishii’s famous old bookstore.
6) Next, it’s time for a deep genre dive. The renowned Seattle Mystery Bookshop (117 Cherry St.) “for those who know what they want and those who haven’t a clue” is all-mysteries, all the time, and is worth seeing even if you aren’t usually a mystery reader—there’s truly something for everyone, and the staff is knowledgeable and helpful. Check out the “NW Authors” tab on their web site, if you want to do some atmospheric reading to get ready for the Northwest vibe!
7) Metsker Maps (1511 First Ave.) is another place in which you can totally geek out, this time, obviously, with maps. Just the main page of their site give you a sense of the many types of maps they carry (and globes, travel books, flags and more). Ask to take a look at the World Beat Music Map—it’s an actual piece of music, which visually creates a world map!
8) Metsker Maps is located right at the start of that world-famous Seattle landmark, Pike Place Market. And as it happens, Pike Place Market is chock full of bookstores! If you want a challenge, Lion Heart Book Store is said to be the hardest to find. Easier to find is Left Bank Books, which is at 92 Pike Street, just before the heart of the market (which is Rachel the Piggy Bank). From their site: “We specialize in anti-authoritarian, anarchist, independent, radical and small-press titles…[and we] feature various sections such as anarchism, fiction, feminist studies, immigration studies, race & culture studies, "dis"ability & Deafness, poetry, graphic novels, parenting, labor history, science fiction, sexuality, environmentalism, native studies and much more.”
Finally, glide back up the gentle grade of Pike Street back to the Convention Center, or to your hotel, to dive into your new purchases (hard to imagine there wasn’t at least ONE item you couldn’t resist!). Happy reading!