After some research meetings the other day, I stopped at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. Their New Fiction table and staff recommendation shelves reflect an unusually broad and sensitive reading of new book releases.
Their staff has pulled together recommendations that not only include the books that are currently getting a lot of attention, but also a rich collection of new books that I hadn’t yet heard about. I felt like the two hours I spent there were completely absorbed in taking in these tables of new titles. Being there felt like an important part of my work as a fiction writer.
They have extensive staff recommendation shelves — the largest staff recommendation section I’ve ever seen, peppered with some especially lovely and evocative description cards. And even beyond the usual sections of staff recommendations and new releases and bookclub suggestions, there are themed tables and endcaps upon endcaps of interesting selections. Elliott Bay Books’ tables and shelves feel like a cross between a great reading list and a Maureen Corrigan book review.
I was particularly taken with their Resolution Reads shelf — always an interesting concept in books. Theirs feels playful: it includes classics like Ulysses, contemporary giants such as Murakami and Tartt’s Goldfinch, mixed in with a book on personal finance, The Art of Urban Sketching and Mindy Kaling’s essay collection. Elliott Bay’s staff seems to embrace a wide picture of what, exactly, our resolutions may include (laughter, possibly?)
The bookstore is also active in supporting local and contemporary writers: Elliott Bay hosts an extensive reading series. (Even while I was there, a staff member was updating their chalkboard with details on the next night’s reading.) And augmenting this effort to promote contemporary writers, they publish two newsletters — a monthly event guide to upcoming readings and a seasonal gazette full of book recommendations.
In addition to all that, Elliott Bay has impressive selections of art magazines and literary journals, and a whole table devoted to poetry collection highlights (which I’ve found is always a hallmark of a good bookstore).
The store itself is beautiful — huge and full of rich, warm wood floors and wooden beams. There are two floors of books and a lower level just for their readings.
I wish I lived closer to this bookstore so that I could stop here more often to replenish my reading list from their selections.
And I really wish I could have picked up a handful of books here during my visit. On this research trip, I have to keep my pack light, so I really can’t carry books. It killed me though. There are at least half a dozen books from Elliott Bay I’m eager to read — and it’s so important to support independent bookstores. Fortunately, they do sell online, so an order is certainly in my future when I get back.