Support These Indie Bookstores in Seattle

Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, self-help, or otherwise these local establishments have got you covered, literally.

Phinney Books
Photo courtesy of Phinney Books

Books (and bookstores) sometimes feel like a relic from a bygone era, but in the age of e-readers, audio books, and streaming platforms, there’s something inherently satisfying about the feeling of a real-life book. In Seattle, readers are likely well acquainted with the bigger mainstays (think Third Place Books and The Elliot Bay Book Company, for instance), but sometimes the more obscure, hole-in-the-wall spots are harder to pin down. They may be off the beaten path, anti-technology, or just plain small, but here’s the thing: They’re often the best places to stumble upon the books, pamphlets, zines, and other forms of the written word that you simply won’t find elsewhere. So grab your most bookworm-y tote bag and take note: ahead, a non-exhaustive list of some of the very best brick and mortar indie bookstores in Seattle.

Estelita’s Library

Central District

Founded by Edwin Lundo and Dr. Estell Williams and named after their daughter Estella, this library-slash-store is a powerful example of what a true commitment to social justice looks like in daily practice. Plus, now that Estelita’s has found a permanent home (they moved from their Beacon Hill rental to the CD in 2021), this shop is all the more poised to establish itself as a backbone of the Central District community for years to come.

Collectively owned and operated by its workers since 1973, Left Bank Books is the destination in Seattle for all things anarchist and radical. Practically speaking, that means you’re just as likely to walk away with a book on building your own furniture as you are one concerning the Cuban Revolution. This is also a good spot to pick up some small press zines, pamphlets, and titles that don’t get distributed to most other bookstores, so come ready to shop.

Book Larder
Photo courtesy of Book Larder

At this point in the pandemic, you’ve either become a semi-professional chef or have given up on cooking altogether. Either way, perhaps it’s time to head to Book Larder for some fresh inspiration in the food department. Here, you’ll find the latest wisdom on cooking, baking, and cocktail mixing; they also host cooking classes, author talks, and other community events (check the calendar here).

Nestled steps from the water on what is probably Fremont’s most iconic avenue, Ophelia’s is a gold mine of used books and obscure titles split between two jam-packed floors and one very narrow spiral staircase. It also happens to be across the street from very good ice cream (namely Fainting Goat Gelato) and the thrifty shopper’s paradise, otherwise known as Fremont Vintage Mall.

In the bustling neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood that is downtown Ballard, Secret Garden Bookshop feels like a blissful refuge from the chaos. Visit this 45-year-old institution for kids books, adult books, and some really sweet events, for example the monthly meetup of the formidable Young Readers’ Society.

Phinney Books
Photo courtesy of Phinney Books

Phinney Books

Phinney Ridge

Phinney Books has been a mainstay of Greenwood Ave (aka Phinney Ridge’s main drag) for years now, and the selection just keeps getting better with time. What’s more, owner Tom Nissley is an author and avid reader himself, and also happens to have won Jeopardy! a whopping eight times (do with that what you will). Thus, trivia night is a common occurrence around here along with a host of other events (check Twitter for the most up-to-date announcements).

BLMF Literary Saloon
Photo courtesy of BLMF Literary Saloon

BLMF Literary Saloon

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market has a slew of book-buying opportunities but nothing beats BLMF (aka, books like a motherfucker) Literary Saloon. Stuffed to the gills with hand-picked second hand books, BLMF’s selection is expertly curated by owner J.B. Johnson, who has run the shop for more than 17 years.

Twice Sold Tales
Photo courtesy of Twice Sold Tales

Twice Sold Tales

Capitol Hill

Steps from the Cap Hill Light Rail station, Twice Sold Tales specializes in rare, collectible, and used books, plus cats. Obviously the cats aren’t for sale but they’re a big part of this shop’s personality and probably the reason you’ll end up staying longer than planned. Not to worry: As the saying goes in this shop, “You can always catch the next bus.”

Emma Banks is a contributor for Thrillist.