The Bookstore Project

A few years ago, when was only five chapters long and sitting in an old dusty file somewhere in the house, I was thinking about other, quicker ways to somehow get off the ground writing.

There's no link to A Field Guide to Bookstores. I didn't finish it. Life reared its ugly head once again. But before it did so, I had managed to visit at least three quarters of the bookstores that were in Seattle in the late '90's. I even wrote an introduction:


There’s no such thing as a bad bookstore. There are bookstores that have what you want and bookstores that don’t. That about sums it up. That is why this is not a critique of bookstores. You will not find them rated with stars. You will only find descriptions. My descriptions, to be sure. I do not pretend to be objective. However, I believe I make my preferences fairly obvious, and they can be taken with many grains of salt.

I got the idea for this book on a road trip down U.S. 101 along the Pacific Coast from Sequim, Washington to San Francisco, California in May of 1998. I had with me an extremely detailed and very helpful guide book to the Pacific Northwest, which took me through Oregon and led me to one of my now-favorite hotels (the Sylvia Beach, in Newport, Oregon) and several worthwhile places to eat. There were, however, no bookstores. And bookstores were where I went. From Mendocino to San Francisco to Portland, I never failed to find a bookstore. I always make a pilgrimage to City Lights, in San Francisco, but I had never been to Powell’s in Portland. Surely, I thought, as I drove back up I-5 on my way home, there would be directions to Powell’s in the comprehensive guidebook I had by my side. But no, there wasn't. Not even a mention.

I found Powell’s on my own, but I started wondering what else I had missed, and driving home to Seattle in the rain that day, I got the idea for this book. It is a small beginning. Visiting the bookstores of Seattle was something I could do here at home, at very little expense (aside from the money I inevitably spent on books!). I live(d) in the Greenwood area of the city, and decided that my first venture would be to the bookstores north of the ship canal and west of the freeway. I spent one summer exploring the neighborhoods of Fremont, Wallingford, Ballard, Greenlake and Greenwood, discovering the bookstores in my community. From there I have wandered east and south, across Capitol Hill, and have ventured into the wilds of West Seattle. It has been a wonderful adventure, meeting those odd and wonderful folks who sell books, and discovering bookstores of all shapes, sizes and collections.

So, relive your childhood at The Secret Garden, discover a never-before-realized interest in things nautical at Seaocean Book Berth, or pet the cats and chat up Joe at A Recycled Reader (I hope they're still there), and follow me to more of Seattle’s amazing bookstores. and Barnes & Noble be damned! There is nothing like holding a book in your own hands, talking with someone at the counter who knows and loves books, and taking something home with you that will keep you warm and well-fed, intellectually and emotionally, through the rainy nights of a Seattle winter – or a Seattle summer, for that matter. I hope you visit them all. I hope you find a new favorite place to browse and chat and fall in love with books. I hope you wander off the beaten path and make some discoveries of your own. Let me know what you find.

Barbara Stoner