I may not be much of a shopper but you can bet I’ll always poke my nose in a book store. And there is always a book store.
Shopping in Pike Place might just be the quintessential Seattle experience. But something was missing… What was it now? Oh yes – Seattle coffee! On a cool damp morning, I was ready for a hot cup of coffee and a warm croissant. I got them from The original Starbucks and Three Girls Bakery then settled in to wait for the bookstores to open.
Lamplight Books is tucked away into the hidden place behind the creamery and Three Girls bakery. The Sanitary Market building opens up into a pleasant court deep inside with a few benches, bistro tables and chairs. There, I found Lamplight in it’s little nook. This used book store specializes in arts, culture, and children’s books. I found a favorite book from my childhood, The Headless Cupid. Classic cookbooks made room for Jane Austen on eclectic and creative shelving. It even smelled like the magic of childhood. (Thank you to a fellow book-loving tourist for taking this pic.)
Left Bank Books is a little edgier. I’m so glad I had my coffee before entering this erudite establishment of articulate anarchists. Left Bank Books operates as a public collective. There is a shop where you can purchase books but the not-for-profit collective specializes in providing books to prisons. There is a lot of literary fiction, independent political commentary, small press and university publications. Gender studies? Got it! Race and culture? You bet! Disability, deaf, and mental health rights? This is the place! And the icing on the cake? Poetry, graphic novels, and science fiction! And if you think the books are good, you should hear the conversation!
First and Pike News is a real time warp! It’s a privately owned small business across from Left Bank Books. It’s a good, old-fashioned news stand with an international twist. You can get the Washington Post, the London Times, and even the Delovoy Petersburg! European fashion magazines share the shelf with university and literary mags. English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Chinese, Portuguese, and even Cherokee – there were languages I couldn’t even recognize.
Metsker Maps of Seattle pulled me in like a moth to the flame. Globes of every size and color pallet, filled the window and lined the tops of every shelf. There were folded road maps, topographical maps for hikers, and educational maps for school children. Beautiful wall maps hung on every wall. Some were artistically rendered others strictly nautical or geographical. I bought a giant blow-up globe for my grandaughter and a tiny marble globe for myself. There were books there too! Giant atlases slid out of deep slots. Pocket-sized phrase books were stacked on the counter. Shelves everywhere were loaded down with travel books and tour guides. They even had an impressive array of geographicaly themed gifts. Everywhere I turned I found celebrations of travel.
Lion Heart Books is the hardest to find. In fact, I didn’t find it. Have you been there? Please comment. I understand that no list of Seattle literature is complete without mentioning it. After wandering the lower levels of Pike Place I began to worry about missing my plane and withdrew without this prize.
BLMF Literary Saloon is also hidden in Pike Place’s underground but I found this one! It was incredibly cluttered. The shelves literally overflowed with books. And yet, it was a strangely well organized chaos. The “travel section” started with a vertical stack of books reaching to a broad shelf. Other sections stacked extra rows on the floor in front of shelves giving the appearance of a great cypress tree of literature overgrowing the shop. The books had a life of their own and covered every wall and shelf floor to ceiling.
Of course, no visit to the Market is complete without going to see the “flying fish” of Pike Place Fish. I was expecting to see the fishmongers tossing salmon and was not disappointed. When Ryan asked if he could help me and I told him I was in the market for books, he didn’t bat an eye. He immediately showed me what he had to offer. Thanks Ryan.
Read ~ Write ~ Wander
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