Lit City

In book-obsessed Seattle, it’s fun to get lost between the pages.

One of only two cities in the United States to have earned a UNESCO City of Literature designation, Seattle has dozens of independent bookstores, local author events, and literary landmarks to help you experience the city’s fierce devotion to the written word.

Seattle Central Library courtesy of Shutterstock.

Start at Seattle Central Library (1000 Fourth Ave), an architectural marvel that serves as a book culture icon. Stroll the four-level spiral bookcase at the heart of the library, or time your visit with one of the many free children’s story times or author talks. Town Hall Seattle (1119 Eighth Ave) is another must for lit lovers. The event space is dedicated to cultural, educational, and artistic programming and frequently hosts author readings, short story skits by local actors, and the Bushwick Book Club, which performs original music inspired by a piece of literature.

Prefer to wander among the bookshelves? Dozens of independent bookstores cater to every type of reader. The largest is Elliott Bay Book Company (1521 10th Ave) in Capitol Hill, an expansive wood-clad space with excellent staff recommendations. Third Place Books is another local favorite with three welcoming locations in Ravenna, Seward Park, and Lake Forest Park. Even those with niche interests can find their personal book heaven: Open Books (108 Cherry St) in Pioneer Square is all about poetry, while Book Larder (4252 Fremont Ave N) caters to home chefs with cookbooks and food-related tomes.

When it’s finally time to settle in for a long read, Seattle has found a way to make a party out of it. Silent reading parties take place every other Wednesday in Hotel Sorrento’s (900 Madison St) supremely cozy Fireside Room. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and read.

Further Reading

Experience more literary attractions, from events to bookstores, with the City of Literature map, and discover how the city has been depicted in countless stories in the Seattle Bookmarked video series.

Book Inspo

Seattle has main character energy in these Emerald City–based titles.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet mockup

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Jamie Ford’s 2009 love story about a Chinese American boy and a Japanese American girl during World War II mentions real Seattle places, like the Panama Hotel in the Chinatown-International District.

The Boys in the Boat mockup

The Boys in the Boat

Daniel James Brown recounts the legendary feat of the University of Washington men’s crew team rowing their way to gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Take a tour of the original ASUW Shell House and the newer Conibear Shellhouse. A movie adaptation directed by George Clooney came out in December 2023.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette mockup

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

In this biting comedy from Maria Semple, Seattle’s quirks are laid bare through the lens of the eccentric title character. Seattle Central Library appears in the 2019 film adaptation, which stars Cate Blanchett.


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