The Best Bookstores in Seattle

Amazon headquarters might be in Seattle, but the city still has—and proudly supports—many independent bookstores with enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff members. From general interest to children’s bookstores and even a cookbook store, you can feed your need to read at these bibliophile havens in Capitol Hill and beyond.

1833 Harvard Avenue
Also known as “the bookstore with the cats,” Twice Sold Tales has a great neon sign that’s worth the visit all by itself. But don’t stop there—go inside and wind your way through the narrow aisles of bookshelves packed with used books. The store is filled with 10,000 books plus an assortment of fluffy, lazy cats with varying degrees of interest in being petted. Twice Sold Tales has locations in Capitol Hill and the University District, with plenty of affordable books perfect for a rainy afternoon’s browsing.
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
The Elliott Bay Book Company is the Seattle bookstore and, thankfully, survived its move from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill with soul and towering cedar bookcases intact. Elliott Bay lost a significant chunk of square footage during the move but gained a home right in the heart of Capitol Hill. Which makes it even easier to execute the ideal lazy Sunday afternoon combo: new novel + Fonte latte and one of the book-size housemade muffins from the on-site café (if it’s sunny, make a beeline for the grassy Cal Anderson park, just across the street). The food is northwest downhome—unpretentious salads with local greens, wholesome soups—but the abundant outlets and cozy café vibe make up for any food misses.

Try it there: The lemon crepe

Bring it home: Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and tickets to a Neptune Theater reading
2214 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107, USA
Open for over 35 years, this venerable independent bookstore has a good selection of adult fiction and nonfiction, but it really specializes in children’s and young adult books. Good karma alert: they offer free gift wrapping, plus discounts for teachers purchasing books for classroom use. Secret Garden also hosts adult and youth book clubs, author events and readings, and other community happenings; see their calendar for details.
4553 California Avenue Southwest
Not to be confused with Pegasus Pizza (also in West Seattle) or Pegasus Coffee Bar, Pegasus Book Exchange is one of several used bookstores in the Alaska Junction. Trade in your old books and get store credit towards new-to-you ones. They specialize in paperbacks, with an emphasis on mystery, science fiction, horror, literature, and romance. Browse among the aisles, or use their online search tool if you’re after something specific. They usually have a sidewalk sale table with books for just a few bucks, too.
4537 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116, USA
Just down the street from Pegasus Book Exchange, the Alaska Junction’s other used bookstore, Merryweather Books, is a small but friendly shop with a long history; it’s the new incarnation of Leisure Books, which was around for over 20 years. This Seattle bookstore has a large children’s section, a large occult section, first editions, comics, and all the usual fiction and nonfiction, plus spices, vintage cards, and other gifts.
4326 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105, USA
Not just a wonderfully large bookstore—although it is that—the University Bookstore is also a café and a fantastic gift shop. The two-level bookstore has a textbook section for students and general fiction and nonfiction for the public, as well as a good selection of art supplies and kids’ crafts and toys downstairs. The large front room is devoted to all things fun: journals and stationery, makeup counters, bags and silver jewelry, candy and novelty items, soaps and housewares. If you’re a Husky fan, they have plenty of team merchandise, too. The Seattle bookstore has frequent author reading events (shown above: a cupcake-loving dragon sketched by illustrator Jackie Morris during a Robin Hobb reading), so check their calendar and see what’s going on while you’re in town.
525 South Weller Street
Located inside Seattle’s Uwajimaya Asian grocery store, Kinokuniya is a one-stop shop for Asian magazines, books, manga, stationery, and writing supplies. Even if you’re Japanese-illiterate, it’s a fun place to wander around admiring gel and fountain pens, fancy stickers, coffee table, and art books. The store also has a nice selection of unusual calendars and planners. This is a good place to pick up a gift for your favorite Japanophile.
3504 Fremont Avenue North
It’s basically a universally acknowledged truth that a true Seattle used bookstore must have a resident cat, and Ophelia’s Books, in Fremont, is no exception. Well-organized and eclectic, they carry out-of-print and one-of-a-kind treasures. Settle down with a book in their reading area, or try to lure one of their friendly, talkative kitties onto your lap. If you dare to head down the somewhat rickety metal staircase, a large selection of non-fiction awaits in the basement.
7 Mercer St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
In case the unthinkable happens and you run out of reading material while visiting Seattle, there’s an inexpensive solution at hand: Mercer Street Books. Located in Lower Queen Anne, this little used bookstore offers a general selection of fiction and nonfiction books at very reasonable prices. The owner is a friendly book lover who’s equally happy to help you find your next read or just let you browse the stacks in peace. A clean, well-organized place with beautiful wooden bookshelves, Mercer Street feels just like a used bookstore should.
92 Pike St # B, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Pike Place Market isn’t just fish-throwing and flower bouquets: it’s also home to Left Bank Books, a collectively owned and operated anarchist bookstore that sells primarily political and philosophical nonfiction, but also literary fiction, poetry, periodicals, zines, clever T-shirts and posters, and more. They’re also active supporters of the Books to Prisoners program which provides free books to prisoners throughout the United States. You won’t find bestselling paperbacks here, but they do have general-interest books and a decent selection of used titles.
1501 Pike Pl #322, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
B L M F Literary Saloon is proof that there are treasures to be found for the patient visitor who wanders down to the less-frequented lower levels of Pike Place Market. For more than 17 years, J.B. Johnson has owned this cozy, lovingly curated store—ever since a guest at his book-filled home commented that he had “books like a motherf----er” (hence the name). What this little shop lacks in square footage, it gains back in an eclectic selection and friendly personal attention from a knowledgeable staff. Restock your to-read pile here without emptying your wallet.
425 15th Ave E, Seattle, WA 98112, USA
Even in a bibliophilic city like Seattle, Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe stands out as an exceptionally geek-friendly haven. For one thing, it presides over some of the best themed book clubs in town—human thought and sexuality, classics of science fiction, nonfiction, and general science fiction—plus it has a charming little café that serves coffee, beer and wine, baked goods, and vegetarian comfort food. In addition to computer and engineering manuals, this store carries architecture, math, science, sci-fi, and general interest books. Wooden puzzles, electronic kits, jewelry, and notebooks make excellent gifts for your favorite nerd; and we love the “I Read Technical Books” T-shirt.
1007 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
Bookstore Bar & Café combines two of life’s great pleasures: books and booze. This hotel bar focuses on scotch and whiskey (over 130 varieties), though they also serve up carefully made craft cocktails; we liked the the Rum Daisy (light rum, lemon, house-made grenadine). At happy hour, you can nibble on small plates with charcuterie, cheese, or fried padron peppers, too. And if you see a book you like, they’re all for sale.
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