Bookish Adventures in Seattle

What does a bookworm do with a ton of free time in a big city (aside from reading, that is)? This week I’ve tagged along with my husband while he attends and speaks at SharePoint Fest in Seattle, Washington. As the conference takes up most of the morning and afternoon, I’ve been left to wander the city. Forget the Space Needle, museums, and the aquarium. I’ve turned my week into a bookish tour, visiting bookshops and libraries!

First stop: two bookshops in the Pike Place Market. On the corner of 1st Ave and Pike Street is Left Bank Books, a lofted shop filled with new and used books. According to their website they specialize in “anti-authoritarian, anarchist, independent, radical and small-press titles.” The floor to ceiling shelves are arranged with face out displays and decorated with hand written recommendations and reviews by staff. Up in the loft, you’ll find an office space and an adorable reading nook with a window seat that overlooks the market.

If you wander through the maze of booths and shops inside the market, you’ll find Lamplight Books. This is a small, one room storefront shop filled with new, used, and vintage books on shelves marked with handwritten signage. It’s amazing how many books you can cram into a little space. I didn’t spend much time here, because it gets crowded quickly as the shop fills with browsers.

Next stop: the Seattle Public Library Central Library. This modern downtown library is made up of 11 spiraling floors of books, computers, specialized collections, and meeting spaces. Escalate up to the top floor to peek down over the atrium from the highest vantage point, and then wander down through floors of nonfiction stacks and periodicals. Warning: if you’re not paying attention to way finding signage, you could easily get lost. I loved spending few hours working in the quiet reading room, surrounded by the people of Seattle and visitors like myself snapping photos.

As head of Cataloging and Collection Development at my library, one thing that caught my attention was the lack of Kapco protective covering on their paperback books. We apply the covers to help protect them and prolong the shelf lives of the books, but the those on the shelves here still looked in decent shape. When I asked a staff member, they said they do see some damage from their automatic materials sorter, but admitted the collection team is happy if the cost per circ of a book reaches below $1. Now I’m interested in researching this back home!

My bookish adventures continued with two stores in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. This is my favorite district to explore, mainly because of the rainbow crosswalks and pride flags that decorate every other shop window. The Elliott Bay Book Company is a large independent bookstore located among the coffee shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants. This large, one and half story space offers new and bargain books, a coffee bar, tabletop and staff picks displays, events and book clubs.

My husband and I love supporting locally owned, independent stores, and after wandering around Elliott Bay for close to an hour, we picked up Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett and Dry by Neal Shusterman. We probably would have bought more, but since we only packed a carry on each for our flight, we had to exercise restraint.

The other store on Capitol Hill is probably my absolute favorite. It’s a cat loving bookworm’s dream, but for fans of straightforward organization and those with pet allergies…not so much. Though, I might want to watch what I write here, as I may end up memorialized on plaque in the shop! Seriously, though, I personally have no complaints about this bookstore.

Twice Sold Tales is the home of thousands of books, four cats, and a friendly owner who will rave about almost any book you bring to the counter. Genre sections wind around corners, pause for overstock shelves, and continue across the shop in this maze of shelves. Books are stacked here and there along the floor among open boxes, book carts, chairs and cat trees. When I brought a Star Wars book the counter, the owner exclaimed that she had just bought it the day before, and my buying it that day was a sign that she should get it again.

The last bookish location I visited was the Capitol Hill Branch of the Seattle Public Library. This vine-covered, modern building with its window seats, multi-story windows and interior exposed brick wall is like something out of an urban fairy tale. It didn’t take long to explore this quiet, open lofted space, but I could have spent hours there. In fact, if we were to ever move to Seattle, it’d probably be the first place I’d apply if there were an opening. (Don’t worry friends and family, only hypothetically speaking!)

It’s been inspiring to be in a city with so many bookish places to visit (though, I admit, I didn’t get much work done on my current project as I intended). I’ve enjoyed my week in Seattle, but now I’m ready to go home and see my cats again!

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