The Best Bookstores in Seattle and Tacoma

The Best Book Shops in a City Full of Readers

Elliott Bay Bookstore
••• Elliott Bay Bookstore. Kristin Kendle

By some measures, Seattle is the most literate city in America (with a nod to other frequent list-toppers like Portland, Minneapolis, and Boston). In a city with sky-high college graduation rates and long periods of the year with gray skies, can you blame us?

The Seattle Library System is world class, but sometimes even the most frugal Northwesterner has a tome that he or she just has to make a permanent addition to the bookshelf.

For those times, here are some of the best spots to make your purchase.

Elliott Bay Book Company

Few booksellers would dispute Elliott Bay’s preeminence in Seattle. Not quite a match for Portland’s epic Powell’s, Elliott Bay has a breadth,size and depth that nobody north of the Columbia river can match. The bookstore is located on Capitol Hill. The spacious but warm store is a book browser’s paradise, complete with a cafe right within the shop.

Location: 1521 10th Avenue, Seattle

Twice Sold Tales

This cat-loving bookstore is the best place to grab your favorite book at a used price. The staff here is about as real as you can get—they’ll plainly let you know if they don’t like a particular book, or your behavior. They consistently acquire great books which they offer at unbeatable prices. Check before you buy for when happy hour is and you might get your books for 25% off.

Location: 2001 Market Street (Ballard)

Magus Books

Magus offers possibly an even better selection of great used books than Twice Sold Tales. Just across the street from the University of Washington, Magus no doubt benefits from thousands of barely (or un-)read books by college students. A wonderful and dense browsing experience on their small footprint, Magus is the oldest independent book store in the city and not to be missed.

Location: 1408 NE 42nd Street, Seattle

King's Books

King's Books great selection and devoted following prove that Seattle has no stranglehold on bookselling prowess in Western Washington. The staff is less uptight than many of their Seattle counterparts and you can while away the hours in one of their many chairs unbothered. There are resident cats that hang out at the store, too!

Location: 218 St Helens Avenue, Tacoma

Third Place Books

Seattle’s miniature Barnes and Noble, a two-store chain that chooses breadth over depth and quirkiness. No shame in that, because sometimes you’d rather find the bestseller you’re looking for instead of crawl through the dusty stacks. Both locations are pleasant spacious locations with great cafes attached.

Locations:

  • 17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park
  • 6504 20th Avenue NE, Seattle

Tacoma Book Center

Tacoma Book Center is not about fancy spaces or even spaces that feel warm and cozy. It's about books. Lots of books! With more than 16,000 square feet and shelves that reach floor to ceiling, there are likely more books within the walls of Tacoma Book Center than in any other area stores. Prices are fair and the staff helpful if you're having trouble finding what you're looking for.

Location: 324 E. 26th Street, Tacoma

Half Price Books

While it wasn't founded in Washington, Half Price Books has a steady stream of bookish followers. This chain of used bookstore offers all books at half off their cover prices (except for rare books, of which each location has a respectful collection), as well as movies, text books, cards, comics and some random merchandise. The staff can check the always changing collection for you, but browsing is half the fun!

Locations: There are Half Price Books located throughout Western Washington.

Honorable mention: Amazon.com

Amazon was of course founded in Seattle and, despite opening dozens of warehouses around the world, has kept the bulk of its operations in the city. Seattlites are in the unique position of being able to both buy from the mass-volume discount online retailer and keep that money in the community, at least to a degree.

Supporting your local brick and mortar bookseller is ideal (and much more enjoyable) but the guilt of an Amazon purchase is lessened a bit.

Updated by Kristin Kendle.