Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mini Bookstore Tour of Seattle

This past weekend I had to make a brief trip to Seattle, Washington, for a business meeting; beforehand, I had an afternoon to wander around the city and of course, check out their wonderful bookstores.

I only made it to five of their many bookstores but they were all great.

I started out by asking the concierge at my hotel for a good independent bookstore; he directed me to Arundel Books (1001 1st Ave. at Madison), which describes itself as "new, used & rare books for readers & collectors." Sounds about right!

It's a charming shop offering everything from the latest bestsellers to old copies of Dickens and regional specialties to self-produced books published under its own moniker. I bought Pretty is Hard: Poems About Shoes, Chocolate and Best Friends by Veronica Markey. I read some of the poems in the store and figured I had to buy the book!

Next, I asked the cashier at Arundel where to go next, and he directed me to Wessel and Lieberman (208 First Avenue South), a rare and collectible bookshop in the heart of Seattle's Pioneer Square. Their books were pretty and pricey, and I didn't think I was going to get anything, until I stumbled into to the back room and found a signed first edition of Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace. I think I'm collecting Margaret Atwood firsts now!

I wandered around Pioneer Square for a while longer, and just as I was on my way out I walked by the intriguing Seattle Mystery Bookshop (113 Cherry Street) tucked away on a side street. I almost missed it- I was crossing the street and only saw it because I looked behind me.

In addition to its impressive mystery holdings, this store also stocks thrillers and suspense, and it's bigger than it looks from the outside. I got the Akashic Press anthology Moscow Noir, as well as a sweatshirt for my husband. As part of their anniversary promotion, they let me take two free galleys as well! How fun is that?

Not really a bookstore but deserving of mention is the incredible, impressive Seattle Public Library (Central Branch- 1000 Fourth Avenue). I headed over there next to meet up with Phil of King Rat's Reading.
Wow! What a place. A gorgeous, ten-story building that would feel at home in the middle of MIT, it's also clearly a haven for bibliophiles. On a Saturday afternoon I saw hundreds of folks reading, chatting, eating and enjoying themselves. There was a cafe, a gift shop and lots of places to read, use computers, do research and more. I took a few minutes to relax myself!

Phil and I headed over to the Capitol Hill neighborhood, home to nightclubs, great restaurants and eclectic shopping of all kinds. But we focused on the bookish kind, naturally. Phil took me to the legendary Elliot Bay Book Company (1521 10th Ave.), recently moved from its old home in Pioneer Square. This is an indie bookstore the way indie bookstores should be- large, cavernous and housing just about everything. Loved it! I picked up Robert Littell's novel The Stalin Epigram.

But we definitely saved the best for last. After dinner we went over to the amazing Pilot Books (Upstairs, 219 Broadway E) , a tiny boutique bookstore in a small shopping mall. Specializing in independent and small press books, their small but carefully-edited selection is perfect for the discriminating bibliophile looking for something truly special and hard-to-find. Phil found that they carry books from an Indian publisher which he'd previously had to look far and wide to find, and I came home with an armload of stuff including a graphic novel (Ruts & Gullies: Nine Days in St. Petersburg by Philippe Girard) and two novels (Ergo by Jakov Lind and The Russian Lover, actually a collection of stories by Jana Martin) as well as a little zine produced by Pilot and written by a woman from Massachusetts! I wish I could clone Pilot Books and put it in my neighborhood in Cambridge. It would fit right in!

After that it was time to call it a day. But what a day! I can't wait to come back to this beautiful, fun city sometime soon!

21 comments:

JaneGS said...

What a fantastic post and what a fantastic way to explore a city. I've only been to Seattle a couple of times and never for very long, but my daughter is now going to college in Tacoma so I think stops in Seattle will become much more frequent, and I will definitely bookmark this post for future reference.

bermudaonion said...

There's not a lot more fun than bookstores and getting together with other bloggers! Sounds like you had an awesome trip.

Zibilee said...

Oh wow, what a wonderful tour! I would love to visit another state or town and do a bookstore tour as well, but alas, I am sort of a homebody. I might have to think about this for my next vacation! I am glad you had such a good time and that you got such good books! Can't wait to read the reviews!

mynovelreviews said...

Sounds like you had a great day! I enjoyed reading about all of ther different bookstores.

Which signed firsts do you have of Margaret Atwood? If I ever come across one in a used bookstore - I'll keep you in mind and send it to you!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Sounds like you had a fantastic time! Next time you make a visit out here, shoot me an email and I'll take you up to some of the bookstores in the University District too!

jewwishes said...

It sounds as if you had a fantastic time roaming and browsing and buying.

Kathleen said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who looks for bookstores to visit when I travel. I visited Seattle last August and really enjoyed The Elliott Bay bookstore. I also visited Arundel. I found a good used bookstore near Pike's Place market but can't remember the name of it!

Marie said...

JaneGS- thanks! I hope you enjoy your visits there!

Bermuda-absolutely! It was a treat to meet Phil and I really enjoyed my time there.

Zibilee- :-)

Mynovelideas- I have THE HANDMAID'S TALE, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD, ORYX & CRAKE, THE BLIND ASSASSIN, BODILY HARM, THE ROBBER BRIDE & WILDERNESS TIPS. :-)Not all of them are signed but if I ever meet her again they will be!

Michele- Definitely!!

Jewwishes- yes I did!

Kathleen- I'm sure there are tons of them. I didn't make it to Pike's but next time for sure.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Wow, that looks like so much fun! It's great to check out new and awesome bookstores -- that's part of what my sister and I did when we went to San Francisco last year. Thanks for sharing about it!

Darlene said...

What a great trip to take! I can't think of a better way to spend a day than visiting book stores especially ones that aren't the huge chain ones. I'm glad you had such a nice trip!

Mystica said...

What a wonderway way to discover a city.

....Petty Witter said...

A great post, it was interesting to see all those bookish buildings.

Andi said...

These all sound amazing, but I would especially enjoy Pilot Books. What a gem!

clerisy said...

This is great information. I try to visit book stores where I travel. I haven't been to Seattle, but I'll write these places down in my notebook for when I do. Thanks for the tips! -John

Vasilly said...

What a great trip! Now I want to see Seattle!Wonderful post.

Kristen M. said...

I live here and haven't been to all of these! Apparently, Arundel is right next to where my husband works so we will be going there soon. I haven't been to the new location of Elliott Bay Books either -- just been lazy.

Serena said...

Wow, what a bibliophile's dream place. Sounds like you had a great time, and I love the little mystery shop hidden around the corner.

Jessica said...

I live here and haven't been to most of these places! Nicely done. I give thumbs up to Seattle Mystery bookstore, though, I used to work around the corner and they were great.

stacybuckeye said...

I'd love to visit Seattle someday. Thanks for giving me a bookstore itinerary :)

Malia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Malia said...

I live in Seattle and I absolutely love the independant and free vibe of the city--and it's a great place for bookworms like me! Thanks for the info I can't wait to check these out!

Also, have you heard of The Silent Reading Party? It's every other Wednesday at the Sorrento Hotel, and it's a free event where a bunch of strangers gather to (silently) read. Sexy!