I remember when Barnes and Noble opened in Bellevue, Washington. I was a child of the ‘burbs, and all I knew of bookstores up to that point was the little chains in the malls that sold the latest mass market bestsellers and not a whole lot more. I loved books, so Barnes and Noble, with its monstrous size and couches everywhere and cafe inside where you could get a mocha to drink while you strolled around the aisles, seemed like heaven to me.
Fast forward about fifteen years. Barnes and Noble, and its large-chain ilk all across the nation, is the last resort bookseller to me now. I have a certain hierarchy when it comes to buying books, starting with local, independent bookstores (used if possible), then from the internet (because technically Amazon is local, right?), then, finally, if I really can’t wait for a delivery or if I happen to be walking around near one and fancy strikes, I will purchase something from a big chain.
This is all an introduction, of sorts, so I can talk about what I really want to talk about, which is my favorite bookstore in Seattle: Third Place Books.
Somehow, it manages to get everything right. It combines the couch-lounging, coffee-drinking, wandering-the-roomy-aisles vibe of the big chain stores with the independent spirit of the smaller stores. You might find a really interesting, out-of-print used title hidden among the shiny new books on the shelf. You can even sell your books back, if, for instance, you’re dead broke and can’t wait for the latest Ian McEwan title to come out in paperback.
Third Place has two locations: The original, in Lake Forest Park just north of Seattle, is huge. It has a food court. If you haven’t been there, and you’re wondering how a bookstore could possibly contain a food court, then you really must see for yourself.
The second location is smaller, but it has the advantage of being located in the Seattle neighborhood of which I was once a resident. It has a pub in the basement. That might even be cooler than a food court.
What I like is that it sells used books without having that used-bookstore, musty, cat hair smell. Don’t get me wrong, I like that smell sometimes. But sometimes I want to look at books without feeling like I have to wash my hands afterward. And sometimes I want a new book right now. In that case, I can get a new book and pay the full price knowing that I’ve still supported my local, independent bookstore.
Third Place Books has a blog, which already has me excited about a book coming out next month. Things like that make me happy.