Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wandering Around Seattle Bookstores Part One--a Phoenix in the Lower Queen Anne

I'm in Seattle for a meeting with other bookstores later in the week.  I came in early with Kirk to spend a few days wandering around the city, with a side trip to see my niece and her fiance in Vancouver.  This is my first visit here with light rail available, so needless to say, we had to use it.  The Light Rail Link took us downtown, after which we elevatored to the monorail. The deserved-toued-on-Trip-Advisor Maxwell Hotel was a short distance from the Seattle Center, in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.

Off to Mercer Street Books, whose open windows siren songed me over. It's a second-hand store, pristinely organized, filled with riches. We were going to meet our friend and my former boss Carol, who recently located there from Milwaukee. I found a copy for her of Seeing Seattle, a book of walking tours, but like one of my favorite travel guides, Seeing Pittsburgh, filled with history, culture and interesting sidebars. It was also 20 years old, which I often find makes the book even more interesting, particularly in a city like Seattle with so much growth.

Wandering down the aisle, I caught eye of Nicholas Basbanes's Every Book Its Reader.  I remembered that this was the book that ruminated on the legacy of David Schwartz and the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops. Of course I had to take a picture of the two books together.  But the coincidences didn't end there.

As I was setting up my shot, Debbie (who turned out to be the owner) came over and I said, "I know you want to hear the story about why I'm doing this" and she said, "Yes, I do."  So I'm discussing how cool it is to see Carol's past and present on one bookshelf, and she (Debbie) seems unusually knowlegeable about the whole thing.

And yes, Debbie's from Milwaukee.  I know this is not unusual--Amie just went to Boston and started talking to someone in a hardware store who not only turned out to be a metropolitan Cream Citier, but also was leaving the next day to vacation in the small town where Amie's grandmother lives. But still, it was the first person I talked to on the trip where I had any sort of conversation except "I'm checking in and here is my credit card."

And to be precise, our new bookselling friend is from West Allis, where I had just been the day previously, bringing posters and a copy of The Unwanteds to the West Allis Library, who is hosting Lisa McMann with us on Thursday, September 22, 4 pm.  Catch all our library events on this earlier post, why don't you?

And what Debbie didn't tell me is that she took over the business only a year and a half ago; it was previously the larger Twice Sold Tales. She cleaned the place up, curated the selection, and added some low-key but friendly and knowledgeable service; her reviews on various websites are deservedly enthusiastic about the whole thing. I think one person said, I'll cross town to shop at Mercer Street Books, now the best used bookstore in Seattle. I paraphrase, but still.

That's a whole lotta rebirthing going on.  I guess that happens to all these midwesterners in the great northwest.  But don't worry, I'm not moving here.

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