Seattle is known for its lively literary scene, and we’ve put together this handy guide that encompasses recommendations on places you might want to read, hear other people reading, shop for books, or just soak up some of Seattle’s immense literary power.

Central Library


It’s gorgeous. Just go look.

Elliott Bay Book Company


Elliott Bay Book Company echoes biblio-metropolises such as New York City’s the Strand and Portland’s Powell’s Books, but instead of walking around a cold, cosmopolitan warehouse, you get to walk around a warm, spacious, creaky tree house. Little Oddfellows cafe sits in the back, featuring plenty of outlets and good sandwiches. The basement hosts daily readings from big time, medium-time, and small-time authors. It’s part marketplace, part cathedral, part kitchen, all home. Other beloved bookstores that host near daily readings: University Book Store, Third Place Books (Ravenna, Lake Forest Park, and Seward Park).

Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery


If Seattle is a mecca for comix, then Fantagraphics is our kaaba. Here you will find gorgeous, grotesque, academic, sophomoric, and deeply weird books from the greatest comic artists on the planet. If you only have time to visit one place on this list, then I’d pick this one, even though it’s a half-hour bus ride from downtown. You’re just not going to walk out of this place without something in your hands. Other comics shops worth a gander: Push/Pull, Phoenix
Comics & Games.

Hugo House


To borrow a phrase from Dana Ward, Hugo House is one of the many-gendered mothers of Seattle’s books scene. It’s a literary center that hosts innovative readings with touring and local authors and also classes for writers at all levels.

Open Books


That a poetry-only bookstore exists in the first place serves as a testament to the strength of the literary communities we have in Seattle. You can find almost everything in this little shop, from first-edition stuff to zines and chapbooks and magazines. Other speciality bookstores worth checking out: Arundel Books (rare, antiquarian), Left Bank (anarchist), Ada’s Technical Books (science), Book Larder (cooking), Estelita’s Library (social justice library).

Silent Reading Party


Invented by a former editor at The Stranger, the reading party takes place every first and third Wednesday of the month at 6 pm. That’s when the Fireside Room at the Sorrento Hotel goes quiet and fills with people. By 6:15 pm, you often can’t get a seat. Everyone brings whatever they feel like reading and sits there and reads, silently, to themselves, while waiters bring them things and Paul Matthew Moore plays piano softly and exquisitely. He’s amazing. The music goes until 8 pm. This party is all-ages and it’s free.

Suzzallo Library


You have to be a University of Washington student to check out books, but no one will stop you from walking through UW’s historic Red Square, climbing the stairs to the library’s giant doors, walking up the Grand Staircase, and entering the glory of the Reading Room. Light filtered through 35-foot-tall stained-glass windows dapples good oak tables and book-lined walls. Iron chandeliers hang from timber-vaulted ceilings. If there was a god, it would read here. Plus: Only a few blocks away is University Book Store, which, as mentioned, hosts readings all the time, and Magus Books, my favorite used bookstore in the city and a good place to find leather-bound tomes and weird maps.

Note: Seattle is one of the most literary cities in the country, with free readings and talks every night of the year. To see who’s reading tonight, go to The Stranger’s calendar, EverOut.