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.
It's gorgeous. Just go look.
Elliott Bay Book Company is Seattle's version of biblio-metropolises such as New York City's the Strand and Portland's Powell's. But instead of walking around a cold, cosmopolitan store, you get to walk around a warm, spacious, creaky tree house. The cafe is in the back and has plenty of outlets, plus good cake. Four comfy chairs sit in the center of the store, right next to the well-curated poetry section and the well-populated fiction section. The children's area is tops. The basement hosts daily readings from big-time and medium-time and small-time authors. It's part marketplace, part cathedral, part kitchen, all home. Other beloved bookstores that host daily readings: University Book Store, Third Place Books (Ravenna, Lake Forest Park, and Seward Park), Seattle Mystery Bookshop.
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, one-day classes, six-week classes. As of this writing, the House is occupying an interim space on First Hill until it returns to Capitol Hill in 2018, in much swankier digs.
That a poetry-only bookstore exists in the first place is 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.
Invented by one of the editors at The Stranger, the reading party takes place every first Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. That's when the Fireside Room at the Sorrento Hotel goes quiet and fills with people. By 6:15 p.m., 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 p.m. This party is all ages and it's free.
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 thestranger.com/events/readings.