Best Bookstores in Pacific Northwest
April 22, 2013 10:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm road tripping thru the Pacific Northwest. I'll be vetting bookstores for my upcoming book tour in Boise ID, Bend OR, Eugene/Corvallis OR, Portland OR, Seattle WA, Spokane WA, and Missoula MT — and any towns in between that warrant it. :-) I'm hoping y'all might have bookstores to recommend! Aside from Auntie's in Spokane and Powell's in Portland, I'm relying on Yelp — but I'd much prefer your personal recommendations for bookstores that host author events, have a great vibe, and friendly staff.
posted by silusGROK to Shopping (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Powells is the obvious one in Portland. The downtown store ("City of Books on Burnside") is the main attraction, but you can see author events at other locations as well on this calendar.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:57 AM on April 22, 2013

in Seattle you have to get yourself to Elliott Bay Book Company
posted by alchemist at 10:59 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bellingham, WA may be out of your way, but Village Books is pretty awesome, if you find yourself there.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:00 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tsunami Books in Eugene is my favorite bookstore in town. They have a little stage that is great for readings and intimate concerts.

Cozy, cool place. The owner has been known to, often, go down the street and bring back a few bottles of wine for concerts and readings. . .
posted by Danf at 11:06 AM on April 22, 2013

Smith Family! Their campus store in Eugene is a treasure trove, and for as long as I can remember (and that's saying something since I recall buying a Russian language book for 50 cents from them when I was eight years old; the last time I was there was 22 years later, in 2006), they've always had great staff. Such a good vibe that this once-8-year-old nerd turned into a multilingual comparative lit nerd in large part thanks to their awesomeness.
posted by fraula at 11:12 AM on April 22, 2013

Looks like Seattle's two best book stores are mentioned. I would add Left Bank Books which is downtown and right in the mouth of Pike Place Market. Anarchism, anti-authoritarianism, activism, collectively owned, etc.

Seattle Metaphysical Library might also be interesting, but I keep forgetting to visit when I'm there in Ballard. From there, take a walk down Leary Way to see the many interesting shops, restaurants and bars that make that stretch of Ballard such great hangout.

And there's a very specialized bookshelf (really just one shelf) of books about homebrewing and distilling that go way beyond anything you'll find at Barnes & Noble, at Bob's Homebrew Store in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle. Many (most?) of the books are from The Amphora Society. I include it because I've never seen the books anywhere else, and I consider it to be vital knowledge.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:14 AM on April 22, 2013

Yes, Village Books in Bellingham is great!
posted by Safiya at 11:18 AM on April 22, 2013

The University Bookstore in Seattle (and the University District branch in particular) is not just where UW students buy textbooks and supplies but is also a top-notch independent bookstore that's fun to browse and has an impressive stream of author events.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:19 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Elliot Bay Book Company
University Bookstore
Don't forget the Ravenna location of Third Place Books
Small but awesome: Secret Garden Books in Ballard
Reopening with new owners: Queen Anne Books (Facebook link since web site isn't ready yet).

I was just in Bellingham the other day, and Village Books is indeed superlative.
posted by matildaben at 11:37 AM on April 22, 2013

A friend of mine in Bellingham who's an author has done events at Village Books, University Bookstore U-District, and Third Place Books. These are all definitely good places to hit.
posted by kindall at 11:39 AM on April 22, 2013

Depending on your route from Spokane to Missoula you could swing through Moscow ID and check out Book People.
posted by Uncle at 12:18 PM on April 22, 2013

Unfortunately (for me!) I don't have a personal recommendation for you but if I wanted to find such a thing on the fly I would go to Here's their store finder - just enter a zip code.

You could also check out Jenny Milchman's blog - she's an author currently on a 18,000 mile book tour with her husband and kid.
posted by lyssabee at 12:47 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you take the northern pass through the Cascades, you could go the Trail's End Bookstore in Winthrop, WA. It's a cute little store in a cute little town. I know the owners and they would love to have more author events.
posted by moptop at 1:27 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Great staff, great events, arguably the best of its kind in the U.S. (certainly in the top two or three).
posted by thetortoise at 1:37 PM on April 22, 2013

(...I guess if your book isn't a mystery it won't do you much good, but, dammit, it needs to be on this list.)
posted by thetortoise at 1:40 PM on April 22, 2013

In Portland, Broadway Books (for normal books) and Floating World (for comics) are both friendly and have a lot of author events.
posted by feets at 3:42 PM on April 22, 2013

If you go to the Third Place in Lake Forest Park, get a slice of the carrot cake at the in-store Honey Bear Bakery. (Split it with a friend, they're huge.) It is the best carrot cake I have ever had, ever.
posted by KathrynT at 4:40 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I love this! Thank you!

Any ideas on the Boise front? I'm seeing Red Letter, Hyde Park, and Rainbow Books — are there others? Any better than the rest?

Lyssabee: I really appreciate the link to I've used it before. Helpful. But nothing beats first-hand opinions. :-)

Which is why I'm visiting all the stores, first.

When I was in DC, I checked out a half dozen stores and came away with one I liked. I guess that would be firstest-hand opinion? :D
posted by silusGROK at 8:00 PM on April 22, 2013

Response by poster: Moptop: do you think your friends might like an apocalyptic novel? Winthrop isn't too out of the way … 
posted by silusGROK at 8:01 PM on April 22, 2013

Smith Family Bookstore -- Downtown
525 Willamette Street
Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 343-4717

This is a great bookstore! I used to live in Eugene, and this bookstore is what I wish Powells was.
posted by Packy_1962 at 8:21 AM on April 23, 2013

Jenny Lawson did an appearance at the Costco north of Seattle when she was here. It's just up the road from the Lake Forest Park Third Place Books mentioned above, which is a bookstore I like. I can vouch for that particular Costco being a perfectly fine Costco except that they sometimes run out of macadamia nuts.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:43 PM on April 28, 2013

It's been years since I was in there myself, but I used to like Orca Books in Olympia and I think they still have a good reputation.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:46 PM on April 28, 2013

Response by poster: I want to thank everyone for helping out on this question.

The trip was a huge success for me: 2,500 miles driven, some 16 bookstores visited. 6 are going to be on the tour and one of them already has me in their schedule for next spring!

My only regrets: I couldn't make it to Winthrop, because of time constraints (but I'll call them and see what shakes out); and Between the Covers — which I found in Bend Oregon — is a PERFECT fit for me, but it's closing its doors forever next week. :-(

Next bookcrawl: Las Vegas / SoCal.

posted by silusGROK at 12:51 PM on May 22, 2013

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