Seattle is a City of Literature: 12 Local Bookstores We Love

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Seattle officially became a UNESCO City of Literature in late October. It's perfect timing, because is there a better season than autumn to curl up with a good book? We think not.

Independent bookstores abound in Seattle. Some are quite unique. To mark this occasion we have to give some love to some of our favorites in some of the most vibrant and picturesque Seattle neighborhoods.

Pioneer Square

The heart of the art gallery scene is also home to some of the most exquisite book shops in town. It may have lost Elliott Bay Books a few years ago (we’ll get to them), but it has some truly incredible shops to fill your shelves.

Arundel Books

Arundel Books has that classic bookstore look: wheeled ladders, shelves towering overhead. In addition to rare books, it also sells limited edition broadsides of poetry, fit to be framed. It has its own press, too, which has produced a few art books, including one devoted to the art of Jane Richlovsky (which is always by the coffee table in the Divas’ living room).

We are in Seattle after all… . #espresso #expresso #coffeecapital #seattle #arundel #wewillserveyouanyways

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The Globe Bookstore

Also on 1st Avenue, The Globe Bookstore focuses especially on visual art, literature, and children’s books. The affable owners have been running their store for decades and can make excellent recommendations, especially if you are buying books as gifts this holiday season.

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Capitol Hill

Seattle’s gayborhood is also an epicenter for literature, thanks to its vibrant cafe culture, schools, and institutions like Richard Hugo House. Naturally, the many independent bookstores are an essential part, too!

Elliott Bay Book Company

Longtime residents still remember Elliott Bay Book Company as a Pioneer Square cornerstone. It has been thriving in its beautiful, sprawling Capitol Hill home over the last few years, where it is a vibrant hub of at all hours of the day and evening.

Twice Sold Tales

Twice Sold Tales is a maze of shelves, and yet it’s never too hard to find the subject (or subjects) you want. (The LGBT fiction and erotica is, in a small, closet-sized room at the heart of the store. Not intentional, we’re sure, but kinda funny anyways.) The cat on the neon sign out front might be fair warning, but steer clear if you have severe kitty allergies. (If you love cats, you’ll love the resident felines, wandering among the books.)

University District

We’ve lost some great independent shops over the years (like the wonderful Cinema Books), but there are plenty of big shops and smaller nooks for bookworms to explore.

The University Bookstore

The sprawling University Bookstore is about more than textbooks, by far. You’ll find it all here. Bonus for bargain hunters: The University Bookstore has expanded its used book inventory over the years, and their many bargain book tables offer new editions for deep discounts. Bonus for drivers: They have a paid parking lot and they validate with a purchase!

Edge of the Circle Books

For the witchiest book lovers, Edge of the Circle Books covers all things pagan, occult and divinatory. Astrology, tarot (and tarot decks themselves), spellsโ€”all mystical and metaphysical matters are the fare here. Naturally, you’ll also find some esoteric treasures to adorn yourself and your home, too.

Fremont

Book Larder

Book Larder is an essential destination for gourmets and gourmands. It’s entirely devoted to used and new cookbooks, and hosts lectures and classes, too. Just browsing its online shop will make your mouth water.

Wallingford

Open Books

Open Books is Seattle’s only bookstore devoted solely to poetry. Anthologies of the most laureated, new translations of international poets, chapbooks by contemporary talentsโ€”Open Books has it all. The shop also hosts readings and lectures (but many of these are offsite, as the building is quite cozy even without a crowd). If you love words for words’ sake, this is a must-visit.

The world of poetry is so wide & wonderful ๐Ÿ’œ

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Seward Park

Third Place Books and Raconteur

Third Place Books has three locations in Seattle, two of which are in north Seattle (Ravenna and Lake Forest Park). Their newest location is in picturesque Seward Park, just blocks from Lake Washington. Within the bookstores is Raconteur, a bar and cafe that serves pub food, cocktails, beer andย  Come during the day and work and sip and read in their chic, comfy cafe. When it gets dark, enjoy (almost nightly) readings and lectures by local and traveling wordsmiths.

We do books. #smartdog #btposse #borderterrier #borderterrorist

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West Seattle

Merryweather Books

Over in bustling Alaska Junction in West Seattle, you’ll find all sorts of wonderful independent boutiques, bistros, bars and shops. Merryweather Books is a great place to look for lighthearted fare (comics, children’s books, games) and kitschy little trinkets, too.

Beetle Royale greeting cards and stickers for sale at a local bookshop ๐Ÿ™‚

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Pegasus Book Exchange

Just a few doors down from Merryweather, check out Pegasus Book Exchange. Their selection of used books is a little headier, their store credit policy is generous, AND they have a fun basket of mystery books near the door. (Wrapped in paper and labeled by topic with a hint of the content, they’re a fun, adventurous way to discover new subjects and authors.)

#books #pegasus #bookstore #betweentwoferns

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Lower Queen Anne

Mercer Street Books

Right near the opera, the ballet, On the Boards and SIFF Uptown, amidst the bustling nightlife in Lower Queen Anne, there’s Mercer Street Books. It’s a little literary jewel. It’s tightly curated selection is easy to browse, so you don’t feel overwhelmed walking in, and the staff selections near the front are always interesting. The next time you go to a show around Seattle Center, beat the crowds and come early for a trip to Mercer Street Books.

And if you are really early, take your new book to one of the many cafes or bars and relax. A drink, a good book and a show: That’s life in a city of literature!


There were literally (literarily?) at least a dozen other independent bookstores that we could have included in this list. Have some favorites of your own to recommend? Share your favorites with us on social media. Happy reading, Divaland!

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