Jun 25, 2017

Seattle in Libraries and Bookshops

Seattle was the first stop of my West Coast trip, and the place where I stayed the longest. I was very lucky: in a notoriously rainy city, I got blue cloudless skies for all but one day, and also the warmest Memorial Day Weekend in over forty years. I got to see and do a lot: I hiked on Mount Rainer, had amazing food, wandered around Capitol Hill and took photos of the many protest posters and stickers, visit Ballard and Freemont, climbed many hills with stunning views of the city, walked along the waterfront, spent time with people I love — and of course, visited many libraries and bookshops.

You might be unsurprised to hear that my very first stop was the Seattle Central Library. I knew it was housed in an amazing building, and it didn’t disappoint in person:

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The children’s library was surprisingly empty as compared to my own on a weekday morning. This was the case not only here, but also in Portland and LA. I wonder if it’s a result of these cities having a wider network of local libraries with busy children’s programmes? I did get to eavesdrop on storytime in Seattle later on, which was a lot of fun. And of course, I was in awe of the programme of adult events, which could be the subject of a whole other post.

The library is I suspect too big to ever feel crowded, but the space was definitely well used. I spent a lovely few hours there on my second day reading The Mother of All Questions and trying to recover from jet lag.

I absolutely loved this: a collection of books that can be checked out without a library card.

It wouldn’t be a Pacific Northwest library without a Zine collection.

Twice Sold Tales, a second-hand bookshop on Capitol Hill, had absolutely everything: adorable and friendly cats, people asking about Audre Lorde, helpful staff, great queer and comics sections, and a Happy Hour in the evening when everything was 20% off. On a side note: I think I have a better understanding now of why all my US friends go overboard in the UK. Used books are by and large a lot cheaper here than in the US. It’s hard not to buy everything when it ranges from 50p to £3.

I really wanted to take him home.

In Fremont I went to Ophelia’s, another second-hand bookshop with a resident cat. Once upon a time it had bunnies too, but by the time I visited they had been rehomed. I loved that there was a sign explaining their fate to any concerned visitors, though.

I was able to resist this signed copy of The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit somehow (and, later on, I stayed strong when faced with a signed copy of Thick as Thieves).

The adorable Fremont branch of the Seattle Public Library.

Some of the amazing lamppost stickers I saw.

Open Books, a bookstore dedicated entirely to poetry, was one of my favourites. It had pretty much everything I thought to look for, and I’m annoyed that I didn’t remember to see if they had any Karen Brodine until it was too late. It took a lot of restraint to walk out with nothing but a copy of Sharon Olds’ The Father for a friend.

I resisted getting any more Adrienne Rich by telling myself one day I’ll just get the Collected Poems and be done with it.

Comics Dungeon decked out for Pride Month.

Left Bank Books, a radical bookstore and publisher, was another favourite. I visited twice and would happily have spent hours there.

The Elliott Bay Book Company was beautiful and had a great stock selection. It was there that I met Kristen, Robin and Lena; as per usual when visiting bookshops with blogging friends, we had a great time talking excitedly about what we’ve been reading and want to read, and being terrible influences on one another. (Lena, now I desperately want The Book of Joan and it’s all your fault.)

I also stopped briefly by Kinokuniya, a Japanese Bookshop in the International District. I wanted to buy all the comics and stationary.

Lastly, I visited Gay City, an LGBTQ community centre and library whose mere existence makes me happy.

I was sad to have missed the Fantasgraphic Comics bookshop and gallery, but hopefully next time. Seattle is where one of my favourite people in the world lives, which I think is a good reason to go back as soon as possible.

Next stop: Powell’s, which lived up to all my dreams and more. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.


  1. This all looks wonderful! And yeah, it's a real problem going to bookstores when on vacation. The books are so MANY and it's like, well, I'm on vacation, when else will I have the chance to buy all these books?

    PS I am jealous you met Kristen. Was she the best? I know that she was. <3

    1. She waaaaaaaas! So friendly and easy to talk to, and she gives great hugs - just like you ♥

    2. I am SOOOO blushing right now. <3 One day I will get to hug Jenny ... one day ...

  2. What a wonderful trip! Oh and a poetry only bookstore? Love. Looking forward to your hearing about your visit at Powell's!

    1. I know - I wanted all the things! A lot of the books I bought at Powell's ended up being poetry, and I think that was largely because I was empted by them at Open Books first.

  3. Used books are cheaper in the UK you say? There's another reason on my list of why we should go back!

    1. Well, it could be that my sample was not representative, and I'm happy to be corrected if so, but it seems they mostly range from $3 to $10 over there, whereas here they're usually less than £3? London is probably an exception to this, though :P

      And yes, you should come back! When I spent a day with Jenny and Mumsy last month they were talking about how great you are and I was telling them how much I'd love to meet you.

  4. I saw in your picture the sign for The Crumpet Shop which is next door to Left Bank Books and is one of my favorite places for a treat. If you didn't stop in this time, you definitely should next time. They make their own chai and have maple-buttered crumpets which are amazing! Also, now I want to head out book shopping in this beautiful town of mine.

    1. Gah, I didn't! One day! Maple-buttered crumpets sound so amazing.

  5. You know you are in a great city when the libraries and bookstores are wonderful. I will be reading The Book of Joan soon.

    1. I haven't caved and ordered it yet, but I feel my resistance weakening... Let me know if it's as amazing as it sounds.


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