Many times, it's a happy accident that certain bookstores are beautiful. It's nearly impossible to imagine someone planning for the Elliott Bay Book Company to become such a gorgeous bookstore; it's just happened, over time, as the store has grown and expanded. The small main entry room of Ophelia's Books in Fremont, too, is one of those rare spaces. Not every bookstore needs to be beautiful—Magus Books, for example, is more overwhelming than aesthetic, and that's the way it should be—but it's always nice to have a couple lookers around, if just to class up the city a little bit.

It's an embarrassing truth that, for a long time now, the most beautiful bookstore on Capitol Hill has been the Half Price Books on Belmont Avenue East. This isn't to say that it's embarrassing because it's a bad bookstore; in fact, that particular Half Price Books is the best place to buy used comic books in Seattle. But it's beautiful because it's planned. The sweeping beams and glorious waste of space between the high ceilings and the tops of the tall shelves are signs of forethought, which is a rarity in bookselling.

You want your favorite neighborhood bookstore to be more organic. It's no fun when somebody gives you exactly what you want. That's why it's so wonderful that the new Twice Sold Tales location at the corner of Harvard Avenue and East Denny Way is a perfectly beautiful bookstore. The old storefront, which was shuttered to make room for the eventual light-rail station, was one of those functional nonbeauties that relies more on character and personality.

But the new Twice Sold Tales is made up of nooks and rooms and hallways, and it feels respectful. The new location doesn't have the sarcastic signs that covered the old cash register area like a halo of snark, but it's possible that the four-block move has shaken off some of the bus stop–dwelling eccentrics who made the chitinous shell of cynicism necessary. The store is lined with windows, and natural light, and places where you can be alone and sit quietly among the books. It's like the prom scene at the end of a teen movie; the perm has been straightened and the braces have been removed.

Readers with allergies won't be happy to hear that the bookstore's cats have moved to the new store, too. Because it's in a residential building, Twice Sold Tales won't be open past 10:00 p.m., which means the frenetic weekend late-night sales are gone; and the treasure-laden cartsful of 50 cent books have disappeared, too. But the gains are so incredible—a new heart in a rapidly changing neighborhood—that I have to keep returning to the bookstore, just to make sure that it's real and not a figment of my imagination. recommended