ABA’s Winter Institute opens February 20 in Seattle with a range of tours introducing booksellers to the city’s independent shops. Sixteen bookstores, ranging from the general-interest smorgasbord of Elliott Bay Book Company to the University Book Store at UW to neighborhood shop BookTree, make the tours a veritable feast for the bookseller’s senses.

The feast is more than a metaphor at Book Larder, a woman-owned shop stocked with cookbooks from all corners of the globe. The space smells delicious, too; an in-store kitchen allows author-chefs to host demonstrations and classes. “We offer a carefully selected collection of new and imported cookbooks and food writing to lovers of food and cooking in Seattle and beyond,” said events manager Zoe Friesen. Sidelines include tea towels and aprons emblazoned with Book Larder’s logo.

Blue Kettle Books may resemble one of Seattle’s many food carts, but in fact it’s a bookshop on wheels. A business can schedule the bookmobile to pull up to its curb, supplementing bar crawls and community markets with tasty reads. Visitors to Ada’s Technical Books and Café can browse a curated selection of scientific literature, SF/fantasy picks, and graphic novels and picture books galore; nerd out in a back-room workspace where techies purchase (or consult) hardware and software manuals; or grab a bite in the vegan and vegetarian café while solving a 3-D puzzle.

A mile from Ada’s is Loving Room: Diaspora Books & Salon, a new Black-owned bookshop and community space that provides new and used books by Black, Caribbean, African, and diasporic writers. According to owner Kristina Clark, “We aspire to cultivate a space for collective Black ancestral healing and transformation.” Recent events have included a watch party for the FX miniseries Kindred, based on Octavia Butler’s 1979 time-travel novel. Last year, Loving Room partnered with Elliott Bay to host Stephen Shames and Ericka Huggins’s stop on their tour for Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party.

Whether on a tour or independently, visitors can traverse a variety of Seattle neighborhoods in search of indie bookstores. For a panoramic view of the Emerald City, travelers can ascend the steep slopes to Queen Anne Book Company, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. “Laurie Frankel, Jennie Shortridge, and Jessixa Bagley all live in our neighborhood, so we usually have autographed copies of their books,” said children’s book buyer Tegan Tigani. Queen Anne offers store totes and PNW-themed sidelines, and “visiting booksellers will receive a goodie bag with some healthy and indulgent treats—we know visiting bookstores works up a huge appetite—as well as a souvenir.”

In nearby Ballard, book tourists can step into Secret Garden Books, a general-interest store with a wealth of children’s and YA titles that has been a neighborhood hub for 45 years. To the east, in Phinney Ridge/Greenwood, Tom Nissley’s Phinney Books exudes an inviting local buzz. (Its sister store, Madison Books, is not part of the official tours.)

On the full-day book tour that ventures farthest afield, participants visit Laurie Raisys’s Island Books on Mercer Island, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and well known for its playful energy, children’s storytimes, and vintage typewriters peeking from shelves. Two stops in Redmond—home to Microsoft—include Half Price Books–Redmond and the Ullom family’s expansive Brick & Mortar Books, established in a former Eddie Bauer store in 2017 and boasting more than 20,000 titles. In Kirkland, on Lake Washington’s eastern shore, BookTree was established in 2016 by former Parkplace Books owner Mary Harris and Chris Jarmick, who became sole owner after Harris’s 2017 retirement.

All three Third Place Books locations are on the schedule: original site Lake Forest Park (established in 1998), Ravenna (2002), and Seward Park (2016). All are designed as community hubs, with event spaces and eateries that encourage guests to linger. “Third Place Ravenna is the featured location of the Third Place Books Literary Luncheon series and features touring authors,” said manager Kalani Kapahua. The store’s 20th anniversary T-shirt will be discounted 20% for WI18 attendees. Ravenna’s location boasts Café Arta, a Mediterranean bistro.

Kitri Wood, manager of Third Place Seward Park, explained that the neighborhood “is home to a large Jewish community, and is walking distance from the bustling and historic Columbia City.” To bring in foot traffic, the store hosts a brewpub, a café, and food trucks. “We strive to serve our community, as well as provide a safe space for everyone, and with beautiful Seward Park down the road, we’ve got a nature lover’s draw as well,” Wood said.

Three of the book tours begin or end at Seattle’s stalwart Elliott Bay, a must-see destination in vibrant Capitol Hill, where street zebra crossings are rainbows of Pride. “We’re excited that our hometown will be host to both Winter Institute and, a couple weeks later, AWP,” said general manager John Duvernoy. “There’s always an extra spark of energy in the air knowing that the bookstore is full of writers, readers, and fellow workers in the trade.”

Return to main feature.