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 astoundingparking 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!


Seattle Independent Bookstore Day did it again! Such a festive day for all us ‘Willpower in a bookstore? What’s that like?’ folks to celebrate, support, and enjoy the excellent indie bookstore scene we’ve got here.

My mom and I went for it again—we took the challenge and went to 17 indie bookstores yesterday so we are Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Champions once more! (And can continue to get that lovely 25% off for another year.)

Here’s a recap of our adventures:

25 passport IBD2016
Ta-da! My completed passport for Seattle Independent Bookstore Day 2016.

We did a similar route as last year, meeting up on Bainbridge Island (I took the ferry, Mom drove up on the peninsula side), doing an outer swing then zagging around in the metro area, trying to avoid probable Viadoom* traffic areas (successfully!) and be efficient, but also sure we got to each store before they closed.

*For non-Seattleites: the Alaskan Way Viaduct downtown is closed for 2 weeks, which just started. Highway 99 runs on the Viaduct. There are about 90,000 vehicle trips per weekday on 99. There is only one North-South freeway alternative and its usual traffic hovers somewhere between bad and horrendous. So it could have been a major impediment to our day, but wasn’t! (At least not for us). Who knows what Monday’s commutes will hold but the impending workweek concerns us not in this post!

Twitter was pretty lively with both #independentbookstoreday and #SEAbookstoreday action. My favorite early morning tweet:

EBBCO IBD2016 tweet
I adore the fact that ferry boat rides are a part of the bookstore day challenge. Because I adore ferry boat rides. This is on the 7:55 to Bainbridge.
Mom (aka Marianne) at Eagle Harbor, first stop for us and lots of others—place was buzzing already at 8:30. I saw a family we had crossed paths with last year outside doing the traditional picture-in-front-of-the-bookstore and we were all like, “Hey!!” The first of many really fun Bookstore Day community moments. I bought The Big Short by Michael Lewis because I had tried to watch the movie but it’s filmed in that shaky handheld docu-style that makes me motion sick so I couldn’t finish watching it, but I really want to know how it all unfolded.
Stop #2, Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, seen here in a just-for-SEABookstoreDay coloring page. Each store did a few little somethings special for the day in addition to the national Bookstore Day exclusives* and it really added to the personality of each.

* I missed out on the cool stencil and the Neil Gaiman coloring book (wow those sold out fast) but did get the Ann Patchet The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays, in which she says:

“You may have heard the news that the indepedent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say, “Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.”


Provisions are key for a successful all-day bookstore trek. Mom brought an adorable little cutting board for the cheese and crackers portion of the snackage.
10 CB Mom Ferry IBD2016
More ferry!
Showing off my Frenchie totebag. (society6.com is the answer to your inevitable question.)

We both got Alice in Wonderland temporary tattoos. Mine was “I took a kettle / large and new” and Mom said, “I don’t get it” and I’m like “Well…Alice in Wonderland…” and then hers turned out to say, “‘I’m afraid I don’t quite understand,’ said Alice.”

I picked this up in Edmonds Bookshop because it seemed like a great title for a bookstore day…and it turned out to be this beautiful book of paintings of women reading, most of which I’d never seen before. I also got a tote bag that says SNACK. NAP. READ. Which, yes, exactly.

In between stop #3 (Edmonds) and stop #4 (Mercer Island) we saw a bald eagle soaring around all majestically elan. That’s Seattle for ya.

12 Island Books IBD2016
Island Books, where I got a recommendation from Laurie for Jim Lynch’s Before the Wind* and my mom went a little nuts in the kids’ section, and we split the Kit Kemp book A Living Space, one of those beautiful interior design books, because it is (a) beautiful and (b) has an entire section on decorating with dog art/dog fabrics/dog lamps/dog stuff. I also joined a conversation two people I didn’t know were having about how great Hugo House writing classes are—everyone’s in such a fun and communal mood on Bookstore Day, I just love it.

*Seattle Arts and Lectures tweeted a sneak-peek of a few of the Summer Book Bingo squares so Indie Bookstore Day folks could  make a strategic purchase or two—the Jim Lynch one will work for either ‘local author’ or ‘recommended by an indie bookseller’. (‘By a SAL speaker’ is the other one they previewed.)

At Fantagraphics I picked up the “Seattle Underground” bookstore day comic exclusive Fantagraphics put together.
I told the bookseller at Seattle Mystery that I’d re-read all the Sue Graftons last year and was really missing getting to hang out with her character Kinsey Millhone, and wanted a recommendation for a mystery that had a main character that, when you finish the book(s), you really miss and want to see again. She recommended several (including the Louise Penny series which my mom loves, which led to the Fred Vargas and Ann Cleeves she recommended for my mom) but her description of Mallory’s Oracle by Carol O’Connell plus the blurb by Carl Hiassen made me go for that one.
Our recommended mystery books with our free-with-purchases — I love the mystery mystery book thing. It was hard to choose, so many intriguing teaser descriptions!
Several booksellers mentioned how calm we were. This is because my awesome friend Le’a again designed our route and made us a handy spreadsheet so we knew if we had to speed up in order to make them all before they closed or could slow down and browse at a bit longer — by Seattle Mystery we were ahead of schedule! Thanks in large part to my mom’s amazing parking karma and the aforementioned lack of Viadoomness.

Next up was Queen Anne Book Company where I got Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson because of the Staff Picks shelf description of it, plus delightful sentences like these from the first few pages: “She found a table and ordered coffee and buns and chocolate eclairs for she had an unsophisticated palate and a good digestion” and “”Come along, come along,” he said, quite unnecessarily, for Miss Buncle was coming along very well, and the train was not thinking of starting.”

And, my mom apparently won their raffle!

Another favorite tweet.
Magnolia’s Bookstore, the first of two new ones on the route this year—we snagged their last tote!
I chose this little cookbook at Book Larder because it says that yellow squash’s spirit animal is the golden retriever.
Reason #862 to live near an independent bookstore—so you can let your dog out midway through SEABookstoreDay without going off course.
Secret Garden Books! I picked up the new Neruda translation from Copper Canyon Press.
Quick dinner.
I LOVE THIS BOOKSTORE. And I am SO VERY HAPPY that it will continue even though John is retiring and he and Christine are selling it. We were delighted to meet the soon-to-be new owner, Billie Swift, during our visit.
I asked John for a recommendation of dog poems and he of course quoted a wonderful dog poem by heart then pointed me to this anthology, which has way cool linocuts along with each poem.

I also picked up the great (and, quite sadly, late) C.D. Wright’s recent book of essays about poetry, which from what I’ve read already is just phenomenal. An excerpt from the beginning and the end of “In a Word, a World”:

I love them all.

I love that a handful, a mouthful, gets you by, a satchelful can land you a job, a well-chosen clutch of them could get you laid, and that a solitary word can initiate a stampede, and therefore be formally outlawed […]

[…] My relationship to the word is anything but scientific; it is a matter of faith on my part, that the word endows material substance, by setting the thing named apart from all else. Horse, then, unhorses what is not horse.

Open Books was one of the places where our calmness was noted, and we were joking about having had no panic-inducing moments like last year—when I thought I had forgotten to get my passport stamped at Phinney Books and we went rushing back thinking they had closed already but they hadn’t yet, and anyway they HAD stamped it just on the wrong spot, and they wrote a hilarious little post-it apologizing to Elliott Bay for stamping on their space, and it stayed on my passport when I turned it in at the end of the day, so when the SEABookstoreDay folks later tweeted a photo of all the champions’ passports lined up together I could tell which of the 42 was mine.

And then John turned around and whaddyaknow he totally stamped the wrong spot on someone’s else’s passport and had to write a post-it note apologizing to the other bookstore. The tradition continues!

We neglected to take any pictures at Mockingbird Books so here is a gratuitous cute photo of my dog sleeping, which is of course how she spent her Indie Bookstore Day. But back to the narrative thread, at Mockingbird Books my mom picked up the Lego Star Wars Character Encyclopedia, which my young nephew had instructed her to find today because, “I really think you will like it, Grandma.”
Again with the forgetting to take a picture at the actual bookstore, but here we are in front of some random Phinney Ridge house’s gorgeous rhododendron holding Phinney Books’ SEABookstoreDay bookmarks. I got a copy of the 2013 Best American Sports Writing. (That I like reading about sports surprises some people who know me but it’s not that I don’t like sports, it’s that I don’t like sports commentary or commercials, or running and kicking/throwing things et cetera myself. But the actual athletic endeavors, when well written, are great reading.) And my mom picked up something for my dad but it’ll be a gift so I can’t say what, but it looked like something I am liable to want to borrow.
My University Bookstore purchase. Because sometimes you gotta buy a book because of the cover. And I’ve never read it. I also, you bet your ass I did, entered the raffle to have breakfast with Nancy Pearl.
Third Place Books Ravenna, our third-to-last stop! We are pretty tired by this point and wondering what Capitol Hill’s generally impossible parking situation might have in store for us yet on a Saturday night, but we’re so very nearly done! (Spoiler: parking karma pretty much held! You know, allowing for Cap Hill norms.)
Ada’s Technical Books is SO COOL! I’d never been before, this was the second new one on this year’s list. Gorgeous space with all sorts of cool stuff, and small but wonderful topic sections with fascinating books; I am going back very soon. I got The Best American Infographics 2015 because I love a great infographic. (That’s another championship group browsing in the background.)
We walked into Elliott Bay about 8:30pm and flung our arms wide as we reveled in our success! And then high-fived some other awesome SEABookstoreDaychamps we’d seen out and about all day who also finished at just about the same time. My last purchase was Marilynne Robinson’s The Givenness of Things, a book I’ve been wanting for a while and was waiting until this very day to get, and my mom got the Ellen Degeneres house book she too has been wanting for a long while—a lovely way to end a truly lovely book- and bookseller- and bookpeople- and sunny Seattle- and independent bookstore-filled day.

I am totally curious how many champs there are this year compared to last, and how many repeats — I suspect quite a few! I also saw (thanks to social media) that there were at least a couple other mother-daughter teams, and several with kiddos (you go, young readers!). Hope they do a party for the grand champions like last year so we all get to meet. I also hope yesterday’s booksellers got to put their tired feet up today and bask a little in all that Independent Bookstore Day love—you totally deserve it.

And that brings us to the end of the 2016 Seattle Independent Bookstore Day adventures for me and my mom. Now on to all the reading…and since if I were you I’d be wondering: Miss Buncle’s Book is the one I chose—after a preposterously long time staring at the stack this morning trying to decide—to start first.


Last night when I got home from another delightful (and yes, triumphant once again!) Seattle Independent Bookstore Day challenge I put this lovely mini-poster on my fridge where it belongs, with the photos of my other friends and family.

(artist: Third Place Book’s Stephen Crowe)

As usual—I can say as usual now that it’s been three years running—my mom (Marianne Bull) and I met on Bainbridge Island at Eagle Harbor Books at 8:30am for what is our mutually favorite most-looked-forward-to annual mother-daughter tradition. She drove up from Steilacoom on the peninsula side and I walked on the 7:55am ferry from Seattle.

(Huge kudos to all those super-dedicated earlybirds I saw on Twitter who took the 6am ferry and were lined up outside of Eagle Harbor Books before it even opened at 7am! Even though I think you’re all the reason we missed getting on the 10:25 ferry to Kingston and had to take the 11:15 instead. But I totally forgive you and also I’m getting ahead of myself.)

While on the ferry from Seattle, a woman recognized me from last year’s blog post, which was linked to in the Seattle Times write-up of Independent Bookstore Day earlier this week. That was a kick! She was doing the challenge with her whole family and they asked if they could take a picture with me since my post had inspired them to do the Bookstore Day challenge for the first time. Which made my day! before my day even got started. I’m so happy to have inspired someone to get out there and support independent bookstores. She asked if I worked for one of the bookstores or something and I was like nope, just a regular person. Who gets really excited about books, and talking to booksellers who are not algorithms.

My first two purchases from Eagle Harbor and The Traveler. I was in a wanderlust mood apparently! Also, I know the name Nellie Bly but barely know anything about her really and this seemed like a good way to rectify that. First of many Staff Recommends purchases.

Next up: stop #3, Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, who provided entertainment for our ferry line wait:

We also had festive snacks.

I was vastly entertained by the silverware my mom brought for the snackage. This fork has been rattling around her silverware drawer for like 45 years. She forgot to bring her own raincoat (the woman who still calls me to tell me to bring one!!!), but remembered silverware.

The project management skills of my friend Le’a, who helped me with our bookstore routes in years past, have rubbed off on me so I had two spreadsheets just in case—one if we made the 10:25am ferry to Edmonds and one if we had to wait for the 11:15. So either way we had a reasonably logical route planned out and could get to all the stores before they closed. And—and this makes it a much nicer day’s expedition—we knew for sure if we were on time, behind, or ahead of time. It wound up being kind of fun to change things up and do a pretty different order this year than the last two.

We used our iphone map apps of course and learned some new ways around the city while discussing what sort of physical layout and atmosphere and je ne sais quois makes our favorite bookstores our favorites. And we were, as always, thoroughly entertained by Siri’s pronunciation of Aloha Street as “Alloh-HA”.

Picked up one of the Indie Bookstore Day exclusives I really wanted at Edmonds Bookshop – got their last one!

Although I had two spreadsheets, I had neglected to get around to writing up a wishlist of books, so I relied on Staff Recommends shelves and serendipitous browsing and that worked out beautifully as it always does.

At Queen Anne Books I chose this one, which sounds like a great diversion from the real world. I adored the Staff Recommends I got here last year, Miss Buncle’s Book.

Also at Queen Anne my mom found a beautiful new edition of Olga da Polga, which I read approximately a million times when I was a kid. It’s by the same author who did Paddington Bear but is SO much more wonderful although inexplicably less popular. This new edition has fantastic illustrations that capture guinea pig-ness flawlessly.

While we were in line we ran into bookseller Tegan and we all gushed over this book together. She also told us something we didn’t know, which is that Michael Bond also wrote mysteries for adults featuring a character named Monsieur Pamplemousse.

Outside Secret Garden Books, where my mom got some classics for my nephew.

At Open Books I picked up two poets,Warsan Shire and Safia Elhillo, that I’d been wanting since Open Books tweeted out poems from them right after the immigration ban was signed. Plus a books of prompts, The Daily Poet, that has been praised by pretty much everyone I know. (Well, everyone I know who cares about poetry prompts, which being a poet is a large percentage of the people I know.)

At Open Books my mom got a copy of WA129 state poetry anthology, which features a poem of mine, but I completely neglected to get a photo of her beaming proudly with it because we immediately shifted gears to get across the street for LUNCH.
At Seattle Mystery we looked for the Michael Bond books but they were out, however the fine folks there recommended this book as one that might hit the same sort of spot.
At BookTree Kirkland, one of the new bookstores on the route this year, we got books about books. The mid-century book cover design for me and the essays for mom.

At the Neverending Bookshop in Bothell, another of the new bookstores, I had another lovely encounter with the booksellers, who said, “I know who you are!” again recognizing us from last year’s blog post, and we had a lively conversation about bookstores and the loving of them. And then I discovered that someone had done this beautiful $5 “pay it forward” in honor of the late author Amy Krouse Rosenthal, which I think is just wonderful.

And after that it was Island Books (where they had live music), Fantagraphics, Phinney Books (where my willpower was at its lowest and their Recommended Books at its greatest which is a fabulous combination for everything but the wallet), then Third Place Books Ravenna (where we ran into the Seattle Arts and Lectures crew and also took a timeout for some Greek food to bolster us for the last push to Ada’s and Elliott Bay).

Ta-da! My finished passport which, per my spreadsheet, I finished 15 minutes early 🙂
3-time #SEABookstoreDay Champions!
Not done browsing…

What a wonderful tradition Seattle’s independent bookstores have created, I’m not sure how many more ways I can say that.

I’ll update this when I hear how many people made it to all 19 stores yesterday but I ran into a bookseller who was putting out a guess of over 300 and it wouldn’t surprise me.

Here’s my 2017 Bookstore Day haul. Great-looking books from a great time hanging out with my mom and interacting all day long into other people who love books/stores as much as we do. Looking forward to 2018’s #SEABookstoreDay already! And to answer your inevitable question, I picked The Rook to start first.


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!


This year, a leisurely but full and delightful trip for me and my mom, to ten great Seattle bookstores.

The haul!SEABookstoreDay_CatherineBull_2019

The haul, annotated!IMG_3155