Seattle Travel
The Perfect Guide to Seattle Bookstores: From Independent Shops to Enrapturing Used Books

The Perfect Guide to Seattle Bookstores: From Independent Shops to Enrapturing Used Books

Post created August 10, 2023

Seattle is a treasure trove for thrifting and books are no exception. From hole-in-the-wall shops in Pike Place Market to cat-filled stores to local publishing companies, Seattle’s book scene is as eclectic and unique as the city itself.

With so many used and independent bookstores all over the city, it can be hard to decide which to go to. Below is a guide to some of the best used and independent bookstores, where to find them, what they have, and more.

Twice Sold Tales

With two locations in Seattle, Twice Sold Tales has become an iconic symbol for used book stores within the city. Their first location in Capitol Hill is a cozy spot just a few blocks away from the hustle and bustle of the bars and restaurants of the area, complete with 6 live-in cats: Lily, Buster, Screamer, James, Jinx, and Eleanor.

Their other store is located in Ballard and although it is smaller and has only 1 cat, it still upholds the standard of wide book selection that the original store first established back in 1987. The Ballard store opened in 1992 and is well known for their science fiction section and their loving and loud watchcat named Beau Geste.

Open Books: A Poem Emporium

This store is one of the most unique in all of Seattle. It is the only bookstore solely focused on poetry, including new, used, and out-of-print books. Their store is also a popular event venue for author readings and local publishing companies. Open Books is one of the best places in the city to learn more about all things local and poetry related.

Open Books recently opened up an online store for customers to use to find certain types of books or to see what classes or events are coming up. They also recently opened up a parlor space for people to rent out and use as a workspace, complete with wi-fi, complimentary tea, and access to their resource library and their archive of poetry readings on vinyl and cassette.

The Elliott Bay Book Company

Independently owned and operated since 1973, the Elliott Bay Book Company is one of the oldest and best independent bookstores in Seattle. With over 150,000 titles in store, the Elliott Bay Book Company is a great place to find something new and exciting to read.

On top of their huge collection of books, the Elliott Bay Book Company also hosts regularly scheduled author readings and other events throughout the year. Their location in the heart of Capitol Hill makes them one of the best places in the city to find new, local, and rare literature and to connect with a community of both readers and authors alike.

Mercer Street Books

This cozy little store is located just around the corner from the historic SIFF Cinema Uptown. It is a great place to stop into after a movie or before grabbing dinner at one of the many nearby restaurants. Their large collection of books covers all kinds of genres and are always available at a good price.

Mercer Street Books is known as the favorite bookshop of playwright August Wilson and with good reason. Their store is small but mighty, with floor to ceiling shelves and a charming book cart out front. Their staff is both knowledgeable and friendly, making it one of the coziest places to go book shopping in the city.

Magus Books

Tucked within the heart of the University District, Magus Books is a longtime indie bookstore with over 70,000 books in their collection. Their store covers a wide range of genres and even has rare books for sale. They also buy used books and have an online store that ships books.

Magus Books has been in operation since 1978. Throughout the decades, the University District has grown and shaped itself into a sprawling area of restaurants and bars for college students to enjoy but through it all, Magus Books remains. Its location also makes it a perfect place to check out before grabbing dinner or just after getting coffee. 

Ophelia’s Books

Fremont is one of the most eclectic places in Seattle and their most prominent bookstore is no exception. In operation since 1997, Ophelia’s Books is a place to find used books of all genres, many of which were bought or donated from Fremont locals themselves. Located just a block north of the Fremont Bridge, this place is a great spot to check out after visiting the Fremont Sunday Market.

On top of their book buying and great selection of books, Ophelia’s Books also hosts events and even has a live-in cat named Claudia. The bookstore is deceptively small looking from the outside, with a spiral staircase inside that leads downstairs to an entirely hidden section of books. They also offer a book ordering service if you are looking for a particular book but they do not have it in stock at their physical store.

Lion Heart Bookstore

Located in Pike Place Market, Lionheart Bookstore has been in business since 1961. The current caretaker, David Ghoddousi, is known to recite poetry and sing songs from his desk in the shop, making customers laugh and smile as they browse the books.

This historic bookstore carries both new and used children’s books, poetry books, philosophy books, history books, and more. Their fiction section is enormous, taking up most of the center of the store. They also have books on local history. 

B L M F Literary Saloon

Independently owned and operated for the last 26 years, owner J.B. Johnson opened this store after a friend said that he had “books like a motherf-er”, which inspired the name of the shop. This black-owned bookstore is nestled in the third underground level of Pike Place. Even though the store is small, it lives up to its name with books piled high in every corner and on every shelf.

The books at B L M F Literary Saloon quite literally overflow from the shelves. Their selection covers all kinds of genres. If you’re looking for something in particular, the owner can absolutely help you find something or make a recommendation. 

Book Larder

Opened in 2001, this is a specialty store dedicated to all things cooking. Their shelves are stocked with cookbooks, children’s books, food writing, edible gardening books, and so much more. They also have a handy online book shopping section with over 2,100 books available.

On top of their expansive selection of books, they have author events, cooking classes, demonstrations, book signings, and discussion events. The store even has a big kitchen counter inside. They even sell jars of spices, tea towels, rolling pins, aprons, and other cooking tools.

Edge of the Circle Books

This unique bookstore is right next to the Neptune Theatre in the University District. Edge of the Circle Books is the premier resource for all things Paganism and occult in Seattle. Owner Robert proudly boasts a wealth of knowledge not only about the books in his store but also about the local history of occult, Pagan, and Wiccan groups.

As spooky as this store sounds, the staff are quite friendly. The space is bright and open, filled with not only books but also goblets, chalices, tarot decks, candles, incense, handcrafted jewelry, statues, and much more. Their book selection ranges anywhere from Wiccan to Divination, including rare books on these subjects. This is without a doubt one of the most unique stores Seattle has to offer.

MORTLAKE & Company

Located just south of the Smith Tower in Pioneer Square, MORTLAKE & Company is more than just a bookstore. It is also home to local publisher Ouroboros Press and has an in-house art gallery. This place is about all things rare and special, including hard to find books, monthly art exhibits, and guest speaker events about esoteric subjects.

MORTLAKE & Company fosters a sense of community, with their classes and workshops and their curated collections based on requests from customers. Their collections expand and develop to best suit the needs of customers, resulting in a selection of books curated by the community ranging anywhere from fiction and poetry to world religions and mythology.

Secret Garden Bookshop

This bookstore just celebrated its 45 year anniversary last year. The Secret Garden Bookshop continues to expand their collection of books, with a particular penchant for children’s books. Over the years, the shop has grown to include author events, school book fairs, and more.

The staff at Secret Garden Bookshop are both friendly and knowledgeable. They can also help you with free gift wrapping, shipping services, and special orders. Educators and book clubs get special discounts. Their location makes them an ideal place to visit after getting coffee at a nearby cafe or on a weekend while going shopping in Ballard.

Ashleigh on ferry Island hopping.

Hi, I'm Ashleigh! Welcome to Seattle Travel, my little piece of beautiful PNW. This is home and I'm here to share all my experiences so visitors and locals alike can find the best experiences this part of the country has to offer. I started Seattle Travel in 2012 as a way to journal my experiences and over the years have been encouraged by family and friends to open up my adventures to everyone. I actively seek out the best food, activities, and day trips and give you a local perspective.  The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful areas in the world and my goal is to let you explore it to the fullest. 

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