With endless lists of the best libraries in the world and greatest literary spots in the country, it can be hard to decide where to start your literary pilgrimage. As a part of our ongoing series with Macmillan’s Fierce Reads authors, Lish McBride makes the case for starting in her hometown of Seattle, Washington. From neighborhood library boxes to silent reading parties in fabulous bars, the Firebug author has us itching for the car keys.
Seattle is a city in love with books. It would be freakishly easy to mold your entire social life around your love for the written word in this city. With that in mind, here are five book-centered things to do in Seattle. The list is by no means encompasses all the bookish stuff you can do here, but it will get you started!
Check it out
You can’t really bring up books without bringing up libraries. We have a vibrant network of libraries and librarians in this city for visitors to check out. In particular, Central Library in downtown Seattle is a must-see. It reopened in 2004 and has hundreds of computers, one million items for you to check out, a fun calendar of events, and a stunningly modern architecture. As if that isn’t enough, Seattle has become a big fan of those tiny neighborhood library boxes—the ones that look like giant birdhouses for books. A lot of our coffee shops boast free libraries, too—like Verite, the coffee shop I’m in right now. Books—they’re everywhere!
I have no beef with book chains, but they’re not the same as having an independent bookstore to call your own. Indies foster community in different ways than chain stores do, and they tend to be more invested in the local goings on. Seattle boasts a bunch of unique, funky, and fun independent bookshops for you to peruse. We have Elliott Bay Book Company, Secret Garden Books, Mockingbird Books, Queen Anne Book Company, University Book Store, Ada’s Technical Books, Left Bank Books, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Phinney Books, Twice Sold Tales, Ravenna Third Place, and Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park… and that’s not even all of them.
We also have many used bookshops, more specialty bookshops (visit Open Books for poetry, East West Bookshop for your spiritual needs, etc.) and after all of that, you can either grab a beer in the bar underneath Ravenna Third Place, or hit the Bookstore Bar downtown for a cozy, bookish pub feel.
Speaking of bars, for the reader who enjoys a glass of wine or a cocktail, the Sorrento Hotel sometimes hosts a Silent Reading Party. Guests pack the Fireside room and read quietly—and it is packed. People read whatever they want and enjoy the quiet atmosphere.
More of a coffee and let’s-talk-books kind of person? Head to Bryant Corner Café in the Wedgwood neighborhood in Seattle. Every Tuesday they host the That Stack of Books podcast. Librarian and author, Nancy Pearl and Steve Scher discuss whatever stack of books Nancy (or visitors) brings in. Order a cup of coffee and a scone and listen to people talk books. (If you’re not in Seattle, you can check out the podcast through iTunes or Stitcher.)
The Play is the Thing
Like the theatre and books? You’re in luck. Seattle boasts the Seattle Children’s Theatre, which often features a play based on a book, and the Book-It Repertory Theatre, which has a unique take on adapting books for the stage. Instead of writing a new script based on the story, they recite the lines directly from the book itself. They’ve trademarked this distinctive take on the adaptation, calling it the Book-It Style.
Profiting from Nonprofits
It takes a lot to keep a thriving book community going. For local word-nerds, we have several nonprofits to help us out. Page Ahead is a local provider of literacy services for kids. Writers in Schools match local writers with teachers to help teach creative writing in the classroom. The Hugo House has workshops, readings and a variety of events. 826 Seattle, located in Greenwood, offers free workshops and homework help for kids and teens. The workshops are all taught by local writing professionals and run a wide gamut: Want to write notes to goats? Create an opera? Write your own choose-your-own-adventure dystopia? Are comics more your thing? They have something for everyone. They also have writing field trips for local schools and an in-school program. All services for kids are free. I’ve been volunteering there for the past five or six years, and there’s nothing like it. Did I mention that the front of the center is a space themed store called Greenwood Space Supply? So after you take a workshop you can buy your own black hole kit on your way out and all proceeds help fund the programs there.
Like I said, my list is more of a starting point than a definitive guide. So come visit, grab a book, and enjoy!
You can find out what’s new with the Fierce Reads tour using #FierceReads, and let us know what you’re reading on your #YARoadTrip on Twitter.
Lish McBride grew up in the Pacific Northwest and got her MFA in fiction from the University of New Orleans. Lish lives happily in Seattle with her family, two cats, and one very put-upon Chihuahua.