A bigger book isn’t necessarily a better book — and so too a bigger bookstore isn’t necessarily a better bookstore. While Barnes & Noble, Borders and online retailers may have thousands of copies for that latest best seller, Seattle also is home to many smaller independent shops which cater to readers with finer tastes. Besides Elliott Bay, there’s also the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Left Bank Books, Wessel & Lieberman and others putting a unique stamp on Seattle’s reading scene.

The Elliott Bay Book Company

1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle WA 98122
(206) 624-6600

The iconic Elliott Bay Book Company needs no introduction. Forgive the cliché, but go ahead and judge this book by it’s cover: As big as some major retail chains’ stores, the gorgeous new shop with high ceilings and monolithic shelves swallows up casual browsers. Helpful clerks help host several regular book groups and post frequent staff recs on the company blog. When contemporary authors come to Seattle to do a book signing, more often than not you’ll find them here. Nothing else in the region comes close to the EBBC experience.

Seattle Mystery Bookshop

117 Cherry Street
Seattle, WA  98104
(206) 587-5737

A whodunnit headquarters in Pioneer Square, the Seattle Mystery Bookshop features new, used and collectible titles celebrating the thrill of reading crime. For a measure of their passion, check out founder Bill Farley’s online database of Rex Stout/Nero Wolfe titles — you need something on the list, he can get it.

Wessel & Lieberman Booksellers

208 1st Avenue South
Seattle, WA
(206) 682-3545

An antiquarian’s dream, Wessel & Lieberman features new, used, rare, and out-of-print books. The gallery inside the store features fine art exhibits and some book titles older than the nation.

Left Bank Books

92 Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 622-0195

A radical’s landmark in the Pike Place Market since the early 1970s, Left Bank Books is collectively owned and operated by its staff. Their politics — anarchistic, progressive, vegan — are reflected in their stock of titles. For a small shop, their visions of social change are pretty big.

Third Place Books

17171 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
(206) 366-3333

6504 20th Ave. NE
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 525-2347

Cozy is the key vibe here, looking to not just sell books but also to build a community of egalitarian bibliophiles. Quoting from their website, here’s the story: “Sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s book The Great Good Place suggests that to lead a rewarding life, each of us needs three places. First is the home. Second is the workplace or school. Beyond lies the place where people from all walks of life and social levels interact, experiencing and celebrating their commonality as well as their diversity. It is a third place.”

(credit: eastwestbookshop.com)

East West Bookshop

6500 Roosevelt Way Northeast
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 523-3726

As the name suggests, this small shop boasts a fusion of Asian and Western spiritual traditions among its wares. When other bookstores jumped onto the in-house coffeeshop trend, East West responded with its own take: An indoor tea garden featuring its own monthly club. When looking for help shopping for Buddhist, Hindu and New Age titles, here’s the place to go.

(credit: queenannebooks.com)

Queen Anne Books

1811 Queen Anne Ave North
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 283-5624

A quintessential small independent bookstore, in addition to bound reads the shop also sells waterproof copies of Thomas Horton’s map to various stairs around Queen Anne Hill, pinpointing some surprising views or hidden gems in the neighborhood.