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.
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.)
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.)
And the fun of the day will last! A great big stack of new books to read.
“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.)
“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.)
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:
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:
* 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.”
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.”
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.
*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.)
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!
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!
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.
Next up: stop #3, Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, who provided entertainment for our ferry line wait:
We also had festive snacks.
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”.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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. Lasek: The 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.
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, annotated!