Independent Bookstore Day Adventures

Oh what a glorious day we had yesterday! My mother and I met the Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Challenge and went to all 17 participating stores, got a fabulous haul of books, and had a blast all day long.


Proof! (with a funny note from Phinney Books who momentarily caused PANIC when I thought we’d forgotten to get a stamp from them and that they were already closed. But no, they had extended hours yesterday, and we had only gone one store on so we rushed back – turns out they had stamped it, just in the wrong place. Phew! And hey what’s a Challenge without a little adrenaline rush somewhere. I did have a receipt so probably could have proved our visit with that, but I wanted a complete passport and no chance of a technicality problem!

It was a really delightful way to get to know my new* city better.  The strength of Seattle’s literary community is quite something*, and there was a lot of palpable excitement in the stores about all the fun that was going on yesterday.

(*New-ish city — I grew up in the south Sound and lived in Tacoma between college and grad school, so of course came to Seattle many times, but not to very many different parts of it really, and most of that was 15-30+ years ago.)

(*And it’s not like Portland’s a slouch in the reading/writing department, but Seattle’s literary scene feels like it has deeper roots, a little more solid, a little less DIY. I’m not ranking on* Portland at all, but these two communities do have pretty different vibes.) 

(*Yeah, I said ‘ranking on’. Despite my excellent education and broad reading habits, a little pocket of my vocabulary is permanently stuck in about the 6th grade/1989.)

The weather gods shone too, literally—you can’t even believe how glittery the water was. (This is Seattle, so hitting 17 bookstores meant two ferry rides and a floating bridge, plus skirting some lakes.) All of that PLUS books and book people and hanging out with my mother*…just glorious.

(*I get my love of books and bookstores right from the source. A friend said last week “So you talked your mother into it?” and I was like, there was no ‘talking into’ she said yes instantly. I don’t even think she checked her calendar first.)

Mom on ferry with popcorn.

Mom (Marianne Bull) on ferry with popcorn.

Thanks to my friend Le’a, who came up with a much better route for us than I had*, and to my mother’s mad parallel parking skills* and astounding parking karma*, we actually had time to browse a little at every store and chat with the booksellers, which is of course the best part of any bookstore visit.

(*Le’a hilariously texted halfway through the day “Keep moving! The greatest danger lies in the Eastside!” (i.e. potentially bad traffic that might prevent us from getting to them all before they closed) and also provided an on-the-fly alternate that got us around a big backup on I-5.)

(*A stranger outside Queen Anne Books who watched my mom maneuver the minivan into a tight spot complimented her on her parking skills.)

(*Seriously, we never had to walk more than a block and a half. Ballard, Queen Anne, downtown, even Capitol Hill, people! Her parking karma CANNOT BE BEAT.)


The geographic spread that put the challenge in Seattle Bookstore Day Challenge


First leg, a big circle hitting the outliers

Second leg, within the city proper

Second leg, within the city proper, ending at Elliott Bay which was open the latest.

On the ferry to Bainbridge

On the ferry to Bainbridge. (My mother drove up from Steilacoom on the peninsula side and we met at Eagle Harbor Books, stop #1, then on to Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo.)


Looking back at the Seattle skyline on the way to Bainbridge


We got matching temporary literary tattoos at Edmonds Bookshop.

Third Place Books after spinning their wheel—my mom got a free book and I got a 20% off next purchase coupon.

Third Place Books after spinning their wheel—my mom got a free book and I got a 20% off next purchase coupon.


Making sandwiches on my lap in the car between Third Place Books (Lake Forest) and Island Books. (We brought a cooler of provisions.) Although the day was better than several birthdays in one, it wasn’t either of ours—leftover paper plates from the nephew’s party.

Books we picked up at Parkplace Books, with our day's chariot in the background

Books we picked up at Parkplace Books, with our day’s chariot in the background


Spinning the wheel at Island Books. I won a tote bag! Which I totally needed by that point!


My trusty spreadsheet.


Fun “mystery books” at Seattle Mystery Books


My “mystery books” choice. Revealed to be: Enter Pale Death by Barbara Cleverly and Black Valley by Charlotte Williams.


“We’re gonna need a bigger tote.”

One of our more successful selfies! At Queen Anne Books.

One of our more successful (relative scale) selfies. At Queen Anne Books. (Though really I should have been taking pictures of all the great booksellers!)


Secret Garden Books


Quick stop home to let the dog out. Home being conveniently located between two of the stores.


At Open Books, who just celebrated their 20th anniversary of being the most awesome poetry bookstore ever. We totally scored with their “free book from the sale table with purchase” special. I got Marianne Boruch’s Grace, Fallen From, and Mom got Jon Loomis’ Vanitas Motel.


We snacked on green beans and Cheez-its in between stores to keep up our stamina. And Mom filled me in on everything that’s been happening on The Voice. (She’s rooting for Sawyer and says Pharrell is the best coach.)

Beautiful wisteria in front of the second Third Place Books location (Ravenna)

Beautiful wisteria in front of the second Third Place Books location (Ravenna)

At Elliott Bay, our last top. We did it! 17 bookstores in one day!

At Elliott Bay, our last top. We did it! 17 bookstores in one day! (And we weren’t the only ones—we crossed paths with lots of “going for all 17” folks along the way which added to the fun—final tally on Indie Bookstore Grand Champs yet to be announced is 42!…)

And the fun of the day will last! A great big stack of new books to read.

First lines:

“LOG ENTRY: SOL6. I’m pretty much fucked.”
The Martian by Andy Weir
(Because I saw so many people on the bus totally engrossed in it.)

“Frank O’Hara never talked about his childhood.”
City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara by Brad Gooch
(Because after Open Books’ group discussion about Lunch Poems a couple months ago, I’ve been wanting to know more about his life.)

“A few years ago, passing the sign on the New York State Thruway for the Central Leatherstocking Region, a friend of mine misread it as saying laughingstock and thought, That must be where Russo’s from.”
Elsewhere: A Memoir by Richard Russo
(Friend Erika’s recommendation.)

“The child’s world changed late one afternoon, though she didn’t know it.”
Hild by Nicola Griffith

(Friend’s recommendation from a while back. But which friend? was it Liz?)

“The dirt road is frozen. I hear the geese first in my lungs.”
Reading Novalis in Montana by Melissa Kwasny

(Because John at Open Books recommended it.)

“Let’s get one thing straight right from the beginning: I didn’t set out to be a comma queen.”
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
(Friend Laura’s recommendation.)

“Half an hour before Diana Snyder died, she tidied up her desk in the typists’ office of the Cabinet War Room.”
Mr Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia Macneal
(Recommendation from the Seattle Mystery Bookstore—I told them I like Amelia Peabody, Masie Dobbs, and Flavia deLuce mysteries and they immediately said try this one.)

“I was born a colored man and don’t you forget it. But I lived as a color woman for seventeen years.”
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
(Because I just finished his memoir The Color of Water and it was extraordinary.)

“I first fell in love with tomatoes when I was a young girl.”
Tomatoes by Soa Davies

(Because the recipes in it sound delish and tomato season is nigh. Also I like the cover.)

“In 2003, during the Iraq war, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during an American bombing raid.”
The first line in the first poem in The Best American Poetry 2014 ed. Terence Hayes, “Sonnet, with Pride” by Sherman Alexie)
(I always pick up this series.)

“Ada was the only legitimate child of “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” poet and nutcase Lord Byron.”
Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua
(Because I’ve read good reviews of it and because I want to read more graphic novels. Only really read one, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and loved that one.)

Can you help me down now?”
New Tales of Old Palomar 2 by Gilbert Hernandez

(Because I have never been to a comic bookstore before and it looked interesting.)

“The people of my time are passing away”
The first line in the first poem in The Best American Poetry 2005 ed Paul Muldoon, from “In View of the Fact” by A.R. Ammons
(Because I finally remembered to bring with me to a bookstore a list of the years my Best American Poetry series collection is missing.)

“The last Indian of Seattle lived in a shack down among the greased piers and coal bunkers of the new city, on what was then called West Street, her hovel in the grip of Puget Sound, off plumb in a rise above the tidal flats.”
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan
(Because I’ve always loved Edward Curtis’ photographs, and have heard this bio is good.)

“We shot dogs. Not by accident.”
Redeployment by Phil Klay

(Because I got this out of the library and the stories are so good, but so devastating, that there’s no way I could read all of them in a library loan timeframe.)

“Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts of the state / I am here I am here because I could never get the hang of time.”
Lighthead by Terrance Hayes

(Because I’ve heard a lot about him recently and haven’t read him yet.)

“Maybe it’s common, this sort / of first meeting.”
Grace, Fallen From by Marianne Boruch

(Because she’s very good and I only have her Stick That Breaks and Breaks collection and with my other purchase it was free.)

 We don’t scatter marigold petals here”
Willow from the Willow by Margaret Young
(Because the poems of hers I’ve read online I liked quite a bit, and she’s the daughter of one of my favorite poets/college professors.)

“When you are alone and too tired even to turn on any of your devices, you let yourself linger in a past stacked among your pillows.”
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

(Because I am incapable of getting just one book at Open Books, and because my friend Martha recommended it.)

I call this

I call this “I Love Books, With Old Dog for Scale Reference”. (Alternate title: “I Bought a Stack of Books as Tall as My Dog, Remind Me To Never Get a St. Bernard”)

Thanks, again, and continually, Seattle Bookstores! That was awesome. Can’t wait to visit you all again!


16 thoughts on “Independent Bookstore Day Adventures

  1. Aunt Suzi says:

    You can never have a home without books! I was questioned a in a fire loss deposition about the number of books I claimed (low, I thought), and the only answer I could think of was, “I ‘m sure there were more!”

  2. We love this! Congratulations on making it to all 17 stores!!

  3. Mary says:

    Congratulations! I was on the edge of my seat reading your adventure–I particularly like the making sandwiches in the car bit. I only made it to four stores but my excuse is that we were traveling by bike and bus; we had no plan; and we had scheduled a visit to see baby goats mid-day. Next year I’m modeling myself on you and your mother.

    • Bookstores AND baby goats! Now that’s a good day.

      I almost stabbed myself with the knife in the car making the sandwiches. Word to the wise: slice the cheese and the apples ahead of time.

  4. Haley says:

    See, smart people bring a cooler! That’s what we were saying we’d do next year. I’m impressed with your spreadsheet too. We also had a blast doing the challenge! Congratulations!

    • Provisions are totally key.

      I can’t take all the credit for the spreadsheet—I started it and then a friend who is the queen of project management spreadsheets took over and made it awesome.

      And congrats to you too!

  5. Robyn says:

    Totally love this post on your bookish adventures! I made it to only 3 stores and did them by foot and bus. Elliott Bay was my last stop, too, due to the time we got out of the movie theater. And wonder of wonders, I won a book at Queen Anne Book Company! Next year, I’m planning for the full tour. ❤

    • Thanks! I loved all the different contests and wheels and events at the different stores. Winning the tote bag at Island Books was ridiculously thrilling 🙂

  6. Diana says:

    You & your mom did Independent Bookstore Day so right! I love all of this (& especially appreciate the list of first sentences & reasons for acquiring each book at the end); I was smiling for the whole read-through & feeling high levels of vicarious excitement.
    SF Bay Area stores had a passport this year, too (& prizes at your 3rd, 6th, 9th, etc. stops/stamps). My boyfriend & I laid out a grand plan to get to 9 Oakland & Berkeley, CA bookstores on Saturday, reluctantly drew the line at 6 (dinner & board games with friends beckoned), but were quite proud of our haul. The celebratory atmosphere & lovely booksellers (not to mention all the sweet deals & books) at every stop made it a wonderful day.

  7. Danny Stalder says:

    What an awesome adventure, congratulations! I want to try this challenge with my Charles Dickens book group. Would you mind if we steal your route? Looks great!

    • Sure thing — a few different bookstores on the list this year but we’ll be doing the same basic route — start on Bainbridge, then Edmonds, then a swing around the outer ones and then zigzagging all over the central stores, ending up at Elliott Bay because they’re open til 11.

      You could get enough books to start a whole new [Author] book group if you all went thematic! 🙂

  8. […] road trip.” For the previous 4 years, she’s joined her mother in Seattle for a full day of bookstore visits, beginning with a 6:15 am ferry over to Bainbridge Island, on a fastidiously plotted […]

  9. […] “epic road trip.” For the past four years, she’s joined her mom in Seattle for a full day of bookstore visits, starting with a 6:15 am ferry over to Bainbridge Island, on a carefully plotted car route […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: