10 Independent Bookstores in Seattle to Visit on a Rainy Day

Seattle is full of interesting independent bookstores that showcase the quirkiness and unique character of the Emerald City. These bookstores are a perfect place to wander around (especially on a rainy day) and discover a new exciting literary adventure to expand your mind and let your imagination soar. Here's 10 of my favorite shops that Seattle has to offer.

1. Elliott Bay Book Company

Capitol Hill

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes 

Seating Areas: Limited

Home to over 150,000 titles (including impressive "staff recommendations" and "local authors" sections) Elliott Bay is one of the biggest and best bookstores in all of Washington state. Some of the bookstores on this list are pretty narrow, tight, claustrophobic spots, but the spacious and multi-level Elliott Bay has very wide aisles so you never feel trapped or like you're constantly in someone's way while skimming through the shelves. Located right in the heart of the quirky and eccentric Capitol Hill, this bookstore has plenty of fun bars, cozy coffee shops, and incredible restaurants nearby, including the popular Oddfellow's Cafe right next door. Elliott's also has a small cafe in the back of the store (Little Oddfellow's), but it is currently closed due to the pandemic. I was really impressed with the massive collection of books about Psilocybin mushrooms and psychedelics on display in the front window of the store before I walked in, and I also really enjoyed their selections of travel, poetry, Eastern philosophy, and fiction books. Elliott Bay is easily one of my favorite places in Seattle and I feel so lucky to have this special store just a few blocks away from home.

Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle, WA
Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle, WA
Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle, WA

2. Twice Sold Tales 

Capitol Hill

Wheelchair Accessible - Yes

Seating - Limited

This quaint shop is a fun spot to get lost in the maze of narrow aisles, secluded nooks, and over 10,000 secondhand books while saying hello to the several adorable lazy cats that live in the store (I saw and greeted at least five feline friends napping in between the bookshelves). Twice Told Tales happened to be celebrating their 35th birthday when I visited (the same age as me), which made the experience here even more memorable and special. I recently came out as genderfluid, so I really appreciated this place having an entire little room completely dedicated to "queer studies, queer fiction, and other queer things," where I was able to find some fantastic books about gender identity. Twice Told Tales also showcases an impressive collection of used fantasy, science fiction, travel, fiction, children's, and rare hard to find books. This is seriously such a fun spot to just wander around and discover a "twice sold treasure." Don't forget to snap a photo of the awesome neon cat sign outside the store!

Twice Sold Tales in Seattle, WA
Twice Sold Tales in Seattle, WA
Twice Sold Tales in Seattle, WA
cat at Twice Sold Tales in Seattle, WA

3. Third Place Books

Seward Park / Lake Forest Park / Ravenna

Wheelchair Accessible - Yes

Seating - Plenty 

Third Place fittingly has three locations scattered around Seattle, each with their own unique character and vibe. I personally love the store in Seward Park, which has a restaurant and cafe attached and a bar downstairs known as the "land of 1000 beers." The Ravenna location also has a restaurant, cafe, and bar, and the Lake Forest Park store is the biggest with over 200,000 books, three restaurants, a community room, stage, and many free public events throughout the year. All three locations also have free WiFi and plenty of seating to enjoy a coffee and a novel. Each store has an impressive selection of books on LGBTQ+, women's, and Black studies, and several aisles full of shelves with fiction, non fiction, and children's novels. Since Third Place has something for everyone, it's easy to spend an entire day here inside the walls of these special stores; you can eat, drink, shop, read, and be entertained all under one roof. I personally can't think of a better place to relax on a rainy day in the Emerald City.

Third Place Books in Seattle, WA
Third Place Books in Seattle, WA

4. Left Bank Books Collective

Pike Place Market

Wheelchair Accessible - No

Seating - None 

Hiding in plain sight right on a busy corner of Pike Place Market, Left Bank offers a radical collection of anarchist and anti-authoritarian books on its shelves that you'd have a hard time finding anywhere else in Seattle. In operation since 1973, this is a good spot to come "unchain your mind" (according to the sign on the back wall) and to expand your way of thinking. I personally enjoyed the unique layout of this store and its wide selection of T-shirts hanging above the register. Left Bank Books is a can't miss place that's easy to miss among the chaos of Pike Place, so be on the lookout for its sign while wandering around the market. 

Left Bank Books in Seattle, WA
Left Bank Books in Seattle, WA

5. Mercer Street Books

Lower Queen Anne

Wheelchair Accessible - Yes

Seating - None

Open since 2009, Mercer Street Books is one of the smaller stores on this list, but its snug surroundings make it an extra quaint and adorable spot. There's a diverse display of different genres packed into this tiny space, and the owner was very friendly, offering hand sanitizer and helpful recommendations when I walked in, yet also allowed me to browse the stacks in peace, which I truly appreciated. Mercer Street doesn't have the biggest selection of books in Seattle, but it's a very beautiful and well organized store that offers low prices and great service.

Mercer Street Books in Seattle, WA
Mercer Street Books in Seattle, WA
Mercer Street Books in Seattle, WA

6. Queen Anne Book Company

Upper Queen Anne

Wheelchair Accessible - Yes

Seating - None inside / limited seats outside for attached coffee shop

This warm, bright, delightful bookstore is one of the highlights awaiting to be explored on the top of the hill in the Queen Anne District. What makes Queen Anne Book Company extra special is that they stock their store based on requests from the customers! The selections on the shelves have been meticulously curated based on feedback from what titles and types of books the local bibliophiles are looking for. They have a wide variety of genres, including best sellers, fantasy, new releases, health / wellness, and a nice assortment of reading inspired gifts. Since this is a small boutique shop, they don't carry quite the huge selection that bigger stores have, but the employees here are more than happy to special order (for no additional charge) any book they don't have in stock. Queen Anne Book Company really cares about its customers and providing the literary needs of its community.

Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, WA
Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, WA

7. Ophelia's Books

Fremont

Wheelchair Accessible - No

Seating - Limited

Fremont is home to one of the most eclectic used bookstores in the entire city. Opened since 1997, Ophelia's looks pretty tiny from the outside, but upon entering the building, that initial assumption is quickly proven wrong. In addition to the main floor housing mostly fiction and literature, there's also a loft upstairs with children's and young adult books. The real highlight of this store is a tightly wound spiral staircase that leads to the nonfiction, history, and fantasy section in the basement. Those stairs might be nerve-wracking for some, but to me it gives this store some additional unique character that makes it an extra fun destination to visit. Ophelia's is one of the best spots to search for older hard-to-find books, including releases from overseas and novels that are out of print (some of the vintage finds I discovered on the shelves were nearly 100 years old)! Simply put, this store is a book-browser's dream come true and a place every resident or visitor of Seattle should stop by to come take a gander at the treasures awaiting within.

Ophelia's Books in Seattle, WA
Ophelia's Books in Seattle, WA

8. Magus Books

University District

Wheelchair Accessible - Yes

Seating - None

This indie bookstore located on a small side street right around the corner from the bustling main drag of University Ave has over 70,000 used and rare books in stock. Even though it's a bit cramped inside, the walls are filled with books from top to bottom and this is a place where book lovers can easily spend an afternoon searching for bargain books to dive into back home or at nearby coffee shop in the U District. Since this store is a bit claustrophobic and the aisles are narrow, it's not exactly the most wheelchair friendly bookstore in the city, however when I was visiting the store, I saw one of the employees hold open the door for a customer in a wheelchair that wished to come in and helped him inside the store. Friendly and helpful employees like this are more than a good enough reason to visit, and their affordable selection of quality used books is the icing on the cake. I'm glad good people and good places like Magus exist in Seattle; a significant amount of the books in my personal collection at home have been purchased from here, and they definitely have earned my business and support.

Magus Books in Seattle, WA
Magus Books in Seattle, WA
Magus Books in Seattle, WA

9. Couth Buzzard Books

Greenwood

Wheelchair Accessible - Yes

Seating - Some chairs / tables in back 

Located in the Greenwood section of Seattle, Couth Buzzard is not only a used bookstore and coffee shop, but also serves as an important cultural and community hub for the neighborhood, as well as a live music venue and event space. Some of those events include open mic nights, yoga, poetry and book readings, watercolor painting, board game nights, Girl Scout meetings, and book clubs. They also offer arts and crafts for sale by local artists, and have a cafe in the back that serves homemade food, coffee, and alcoholic drinks. I personally loved browsing through their huge selection of vintage sci-fi books that take up the entire back wall, and found many novels here that I didn't see for sale at any of the other bookstores on this list. Couth Buzzard offers the vibes and feel of a small town gathering space right in the city, and provides a much needed place where people can connect, create, and communicate together.

Couth Buzzard Books in Seattle, WA
Couth Buzzard Books in Seattle, WA
Couth Buzzard Books in Seattle, WA

 10. Phinney Books

Phinney Ridge

Wheelchair Accessible - Yes

Seating - None

Phinney Books owner and former Amazon and Microsoft employee Tom Nissley is a bit of a local celebrity in Seattle. Nissley is an eight-time winner on the game show Jeopardy!, totaling over $340,000 in prize earnings (which was the third highest winning total in the history of the show at the time). After this life changing experience, Tom quit his job, wrote a book, and then ended up opening up a bookstore. Phinney Books gets the most out of its tiny space and values quality over quantity. Since Tom takes pride in his store being for the community, he truly listens to what his customers are looking for and stacks his store accordingly. During the pandemic, he mentioned that the selection of children's graphic novels is now twice as big as it was previously, and people have been particularly interested in nature books recently, since exploring the outdoors was one of the few activities people could enjoy outside of their homes while everything was closed. What makes Phinney Books extra special is their book subscription program, called Phinney by Post, where the staff sends a book each month to subscribers. Come say hello to Tom and check out his adorable little store while exploring this underrated section of Seattle. 

Phinney Books in Seattle, WA
Phinney Books in Seattle, WA

Reading has always been a favorite pastime of mine, but my passion for it reignited while quarantining during the pandemic. It's really important to support our local bookstores during these uncertain times to ensure that these special places stay in business and are available for future generations to enjoy. These independent shops offer unique titles, atmospheres, and experiences that are impossible to find or recreate at big chain bookstores, and are the perfect spots to explore on a rainy Emerald City day. Author George R.R. Martin famously said "a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one," so browse the aisles and find a new literary adventure to get lost in the pages of at these best independent bookstores in Seattle.

Edward Homick

Greetings! My name is Edward, a new resident of Washington state who is proud to call Seattle home. My biggest passion is traveling and I’ve been to all 50 US states as well as 26 countries. When I’m not wandering around the world, my cat Cosmo makes a pretty adorable hiking buddy and we have some pretty epic outdoor adventures around the PNW.  Follow Edward on his Instagram Follow Cosmo on his Instagram

1 Comment

  1. […] around my new home. Here are 10 of my personal favorite places to people watch and read a book (from my favorite bookstores in Seattle) while enjoying a delicious coffee or warm frothy beverage in this wonderful […]

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