In its debut issue, Seattle Metropolitan magazine announced that "It takes a village—University Village—to marry hunting and gathering with sophistication." This is obviously a dumb sentence, but it functions as a mission statement for Seattle Metropolitan: work in a stupid reference and then link that reference to stupid shit you can buy. Unfortunately, there are thousands of people in Seattle who adore Seattle Metropolitan, and they dearly love shopping at University Village. Many of these people probably think that the U-Village Barnes & Noble is the greatest bookstore in the universe.
And yet it's possible to walk through the entire two-floor bookstore and not once lay eyes on a worthwhile book. There's a table display of signed copies of the latest diet-book best seller Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, but most of the other displays are of $40 framed photos of flowers (a sign above one of these displays helpfully chirps, "A picture is worth a thousand words!") and stationery and other useless crap.
If you should happen to be in the U-Village Barnes & Noble and you should happen to ask to see the atheism/agnosticism section, well, you should prepare for disappointment. A number of atheist books were released last year—God Is Not Great, The God Delusion, The Portable Atheist—and a good many of them became best sellers. Barnes & Noble stocks most of these books in the philosophy section (next to such faced-out wonders as Pink Floyd and Philosophy and Embryo: A Defense of Human Life). And the philosophy section is dwarfed by the mammoth Christian Inspiration section and the Religious (read: Christian) Fiction section.
This is the standard for Barnes & Nobles across the country. I sent an e-mail to Mary Ellen Keating, B&N's spokesperson, asking why books for nonbelievers were so poorly represented. She replied, "We are planning to introduce an atheism section as part of the philosophy subject later this year." Keating declined to get more specific on a date. Barnes & Noble is far from the only bookstore in town to not address atheism as a subject. Elliott Bay Book Company doesn't have an atheism section, choosing to shelve the atheism books in general religion instead, and the University Book Store's unmarked atheism/agnosticism section has exactly 12 titles. Classics like Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian are shelved elsewhere. These independent bookstores are losing out on the chance to one-up one of their chain-store competitors: Borders Books and Music has the best atheism/agnosticism section in Seattle, and it's had the section for years. Seattle Metropolitan's stance on the existence of God remains unknown at press time.