Weather which ranged from craptastic to middling in no way made 2018’s Seattle Independent Bookstore Day challenge anything less than its usual shiny and glorious adventure!

“Failure is not an option” declared my mother during our prep conversations about provisions and timing, and we, I’m happy to say, did not fail. Per tradition, (4 years in a row now), we got to all 19 stores and earned ourselves Champion titles (and 25% off cards) and we found books we were looking for and books that were looking for us.

championship card

We ended our day noodling about what it is that makes a great bookstore. Is it the physical space, the number of books to seating to aisle width? Is it the booksellers, their demeanor and/or how well their choices fit our likes? As usual with such conversations, we answered all our own questions in detail and still it remains a charmingly ineffable question, what makes a bookstore great. But that bookstores can be enormously great places to visit is in no doubt. (I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here but Bookstore Day is such a reminder of the strength of bookstores and readers I can’t help but go on about it a bit!)

What makes Independent Bookstore Day so great in Seattle is much easier to articulate: how excited everyone out for it is! I ran into the Seattle Arts and Lectures gang while waiting for the 6:10am (yes really) ferry to Bainbridge Island and had a great time hanging out with them on the way over. We were having so much fun cheerfully chatting about the day ahead that we almost missed the announcement to board.

SAL at 6-10am ferry
The highly enjoyable Seattle Arts & Lectures crew


They also kindly gave me a ride in one of their vans from the dock up to Eagle Harbor Books and The Traveler, saving me from a wet walk.

SAL van and booksters
SAL was serious about their Bookstore Day transportation

I joined the very long line outside Eagle Harbor Books just before it opened and marveled with the rest at how long a line it was at 7:30am on a Saturday! Judging by that and the various booksellers’ guesses, I’m gonna bet on about 500 people completing the 19-store challenge yesterday. (Year one was 42, year two saw 120, and last year was 320). Seattle is a reader’s town, for real.

Met up with Mom (other name: Marianne) who  had driven up to Bainbridge on the peninsula side and off we went in her minivan chariot!

Trusty spreadsheet. Trusty except the times wound up being all off because we actually made the 9:40 Kingston ferry instead of the 10:25, which was great because the original plan didn’t really include any pauses for eating lunch or dinner. Browsing time is always the first priority.


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Leg one: Eagle Harbor and the Traveler to Liberty Bay in Poulsbo, Edmonds Bookshop, Book Larder, Queen Anne Book Company, Magnolia’s Bookstore, and Fantagraphics in Georgetown.

QA Book Company

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Leg two: From Fantagraphics over to Island Books on Mercer Island, then a Kirkland/Redmond/Bothell swing to Book Tree Kirkland, Brick & Mortar Books (new on the list this year), The Neverending Bookshop, and Third Place Books
cheese board
We snacked on both cheese and crackers…
…and on Cheez-its! Mom used to toast her cheez-its in the toaster (really) before they came out with these pre-toasty ones. During our provisions prep conversation I confirmed the need for them on this journey.
third place books with lis and o
At Third Place Books (Lake Forest Park location) we hooked up with my sister and nephew who joined us for the next three stops.
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Leg three: from Third Place to Secret Garden Books, Open Books, U Bookstore, and then the last three, which would make either great dog names or great book character names: Phinney, Ada and Elliott

Along the way we saw tons of Indie Bookstore Day people with their passports, ran into plenty of old Bookstore Day friends, saw a guy in a car ahead of us bouncing a tennis ball out the window onto the pavement at a stoplight for no apparent reason, I tweeted our play-by-play (including when my mom said “Oh fiddleypoop” when she left something in the back of the car she needed and then said “Don’t tweet that” and so of course I did), we were recognized by some strangers who had read my old blog Bookstore Day posts, my mother was complimented by a random person on the street for her mad parallel parking skills for the 4th year in a row—and, of course, we bought some books!

My haul

Historical Atlas of Washington and Oregon with original maps by Derek Hayes: one I totally judged by its cover because it was shrinkwrapped but upon opening this morning I see I was right, it is a beautiful book.

Obama by Pete Souza: I LOVE his photos and I loved Obama’s presidency. Mom and I split this one because we both get such joy from looking at Souza’s photos.

This is M. LasekThe Extraordinary Life and Travels of the Beloved Children’s Book Illustrator: because it’s a beautiful book and it appeared from flipping through it that M. Lasek lived quite an interesting life.

Dogs As I See Them by Lucy Dawson: a reprint of a 1930s book of dog drawings that are absolutely endearing.

Ultimate Sewing Bible: to support my new sewing habit I mean hobby.

Gertie Sews Vintage Casual by Gretchen Hirsch: ditto.

The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums by Will Friedwald: a great random find. I love The Great American Songbook-type music and found myself engrossed by the chapter I happened to open to.

The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St Clair: because it’s full of little fascinating tidbits on different colors and has short chapters, and it’s always good to have a short-chapter book on hand to read in those short moments when one can fit in just a little bit of reading, like over breakfast before work.

The Black (and White) Book of Crosswords by Will Shortz: I do crosswords sometimes. (The most matter-of-fact purchase of the day, for sure.)

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery: recommended by both my mother and several of my new SAL friends.

The Best American Poetry 2013 ed Denise Duhamel and David Lehman: from the wonderful wonderful Open Books: A Poem Emporium, to fill in a gap in my series collection.

Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now ed. Amit Majmudar: also from Open Books, because because.

And the pretty floral one on top is an address book with just the alphabet and blank pages, no specific “Address, phone number” lines, which I feel like is something I’ve been looking for all my life.

Our Elliott Bay championship photo! One of our favorite annual traditions period, and a lovely mother-daughter tradition to boot.

I get my love of books directly from my mother so this is quite a meaningful annual jaunt for us. Thank you to all the great bookstores who got together to make this day happen. Until next year, happy reading and bookstore-ing, everyone!