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The Best Independent Bookstores in Seattle, Washington

Bezos might be the biggest name in publishing to come out of the Emerald City, but his operation outgrew the “homegrown bookstore” label decades ago. But all is not lost in Seattle. The more big-town-than-large-city is still home to numerous independent booksellers where you can spend an entire afternoon (or at the very least, a lunch break) wandering and browsing.

Here are the best independent bookstores in Seattle to add to your list!

Space Needle on a cloudy day
Visiting Seattle or looking for a new local bookstore? Let this list be your guide! Photo by Melissa Berry.

Magus Books

Neighborhood: U-District and Wallingford

Located in the University District, directly across 15th Avenue from the UW campus, Magus Books has been a local favorite since 1978, when it first opened its doors to the community. It is primarily a used book shop, and you can both purchase and sell your old hard and paperbacks. This also means you’re likely not going to find the latest releases or New York Times Best Sellers on the shelves here – but you might!

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However, that’s not why you visit. This bookstore feels more like your favorite corner in the library growing up or a section of your grandmother’s attic where you find buried treasure, aka a stack of books begging to be read. If you absolutely need the latest writing, head down to the Amazon Bookstore (left off this list for obvious reasons) at University Village.

I spent many breaks between lectures at Magus buying numerous “fun” books instead of reading for class. And that’s a huge part of the appeal. Ahem, apologies to my former professors. 

Magus is also the go-to place in Seattle if you’re in search of a rare or out-of-print book. Since people come here to clean out their own shelves, a diamond in the rough is much more common at Magus than elsewhere. There is also a smaller Wallingford store on 45th, should that be more convenient for you.

Elliott Bay Book Company 

Neighborhood: U-District Capitol Hill

Long an Emerald City staple, The Elliott Bay Book Company has served the city since 1973 and is one of the more famous independent bookstores in Seattle. Although the original shop was located in Pioneer Square, today the large, spacious, yet still cozy space filled with light hitting the wood accents sits in the main area of Cap Hill and is essentially a landmark up there with the Public Library, Space Needle, and Fremont Troll. You could spend hours browsing the shelves, picking out your next big read. As one of the largest independent bookstores in the region, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Elliott Bay Bookstore, inside the front of the bookstore with thousands of books on display
Inside Elliott Bay Book Company on 10th Ave. Photo by Melissa Berry.

After you’ve made your selection, chill out at the beautiful onsite cafe and enjoy your new read! It’s also the leading destination in Seattle for author and literary events. After Magus, this was another place I spent many hours studying, not studying, and reading for fun during my student days!

Nook and Cranny Books 

Neighborhood: U-District Capitol Hill

Another fabulous bookshop in Seattle, Nook and Cranny Books is the newest space on this list. It opened just this past spring and replaced the former occupant, Oh Hello Again — a different bookstore. The owner, a former chef, had wanted to open a community-oriented space for readers for a while, and when the opportunity presented itself, she opened the shop.

Now, just a few months later, it’s already a Cap Hill staple and carries the neighborhood’s quirkiness over into the interior. Instead of strict genre or topic organization, the store is divided into themes, depending on what you might be looking for. So, for example, there are general areas for “Love and Heartbreak” and “When You Need a Hero,” with novels, self-help, and illustrated books all grouped together.

The shop offers credit for used books in good condition, just email ahead of time first, and frequently hosts writer talks and book launches.

Ophelia’s Books 

Neighborhood: Fremont

Fremont is one of the quirkier neighborhoods in the city. Home to the Fremont Troll (an old art installation that has now turned into a major site to visit in Seattle and even warranted the renaming of the street it sits on to Troll Street!) Additionally, Gas Works Park (the former site of a coal and oil plant that now serves some of the best views of the Emerald City) and numerous shops and cafes dot the area. 

One of those great places to relax is cozy Ophelia’s Books, a staple in Fremont since 1997, and there’s something for everyone here.

The two-story bookstore sits between the Fremont Bridge and the Troll and feels like a cozier version of your old-school library. While initially a used shop for years where you could bring your former favorites and purchase those left by others, Ophelia’s recently began selling new books. So whether you’re looking for an out-of-print gem or that recent release on all of the best-seller lists, you can find it here!

Queen Anne Book Company 

Neighborhood: Queen Anne

This independent seller is on the newer side as it has only been around since 2013, when it replaced a previous bookstore that used to occupy the space for decades. Set in a charming building in this well-loved Seattle neighborhood, sandwiched between Howe and Blaine Street, the staff at the Queen Anne Book Company are some of the friendliest in the city and always happy to help you find whatever you’re looking for. It’s clear the staff here care about creating a comfortable atmosphere for everyone. 

The books on offer are a bit of a mix, from popular new stuff to stuff in print for a while. There is also an adorable little outdoor seating area should you want to enjoy a day of nice weather with your new purchase. It also frequently hosts author talks and lectures throughout the year.

The Best Independent Bookstores in Seattle, Washington

While Seattle may be famously associated with Jeff Bezos and Amazon, its vibrant literary scene thrives in the heart of independent bookstores. These local bookstores offer a unique, nostalgic charm that mega-retailers can’t replicate.

Magus Books, with its cozy, treasure-filled atmosphere, transports you to a bygone era. Elliot Bay Book Company, a Cap Hill landmark, beckons with its extensive selection, inviting you to linger in its bright, wood-accented space.

Nook and Cranny Books, a recent addition to the scene, carries Cap Hill’s quirkiness into its eclectic collection organized by themes. Ophelia’s Books in Fremont, a two-story haven, combines new and used books, offering a diverse reading experience.

In Queen Anne, the Queen Anne Book Company, though relatively new, shines with its friendly staff and a mix of fresh titles and classics. Seattle’s independent bookstores stand as more than just retailers; they’re community hubs, treasure troves, and literary sanctuaries. Explore these local establishments to truly immerse yourself in the city’s literary culture.

Sydney Baker

Sydney is a freelance writer from Seattle who previously worked in immigration and international education at higher education institutions. She has lived in Sydney, Montreal, and Luxembourg, traveled solo across four continents, speaks French, and a little Spanish, and is always on the lookout for her next adventure. When she isn’t sipping coffee you can find her hiking in the mountains or near the water. She writes about travel, lifestyle, and language all over the internet.


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