Sunday, February 20, 2011


Third Place Books in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood is one of those hidden treasures that should be found by visitors who are book nuts if only for its unusual amenities. This single building houses a bookstore, a restaurant and an amazing pub in the basement.

It is also, the hardest place in Seattle for an author to read but is the most rewarding as well.

Seattle is a reading city. Downtown has the legendary Elliot Bay, the Richard Hugo House writing center and Seattle Mystery Books. University Books on the colorful streets of the University District may have the largest inventory, while Ravenna’s sister store, Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, has the largest space, with not one but two author reading areas and six restaurants. Lording over all of them at the top of Beacon Hill at the intersection of I-90 and I-5 is’s corporate headquarters standing peerless, like an army preparing to swoop down and pillage the defenseless villagers.

Yet lost among all these well known stores is Third Place Books,nestled in the charming neighborhood called Ravenna at the corner of 65th and 20th Ave.

The building is surrounded by large old trees it is easy for the car passenger to miss.The parking lot is small and by now, out of city code. The neighborhood residents don’t mind store patrons parking in front of their houses at all hours. They understand the importance of this business being nearby as it keeps up home prices and unites the community. As one resident once told me, “I would just die if that place closed its doors.”

When Authors read here they are in the top floor corner thirty feet from the main entrance where people enter talking loud and twenty feet from the cashier talking to customers and ringing up sales. As an audience member it is sometime difficult to separate the sounds of the store’s business transaction mixed in with a novel being discussed. This is not for the timid author but then again selling books is tough work.

Authors are squashed into the game section of the store. Sixteen chairs are laid out so close that no one can cross their legs without kicking three people. Anyone else must stand in the isles or find other chairs to block shoppers.

Two years ago, and I swear this is true, a packed house was there for a local author and I heard a man seated on the other side of a book shelf, into the History section no less, shout at a shopper; “Lady get your butt out of my face.”

The author speaks into a microphone that has volume set with ample projection when the store is quiet. On busy nights things change.

The children’s book section is separated from the make shift stage by a book shelf. There is a fantastic Greek restaurant Vios, that shares space with this books store and on busy nights, the noise reflecting off the ceiling can tell you what kind of wine table six just ordered.

Oh let this not go on without a mentioning the occasional noise from toddle play area This too is in the back of the store near the restaurant where small toddlers can roam around in a confined safe area while parents can watch them, eating dinner or relaxing with a book without wondering where junior has disappeared. It is actually really cool, unless you are a writer easily distracted while reading aloud.

This is not for the pretentious who like their space or fear fans. The smart writer realizes this is an opportunity and that it is at places like Third Place in Ravenna, that the author and reader become one. How great would it be for a reader to say they sat next to Stephanie Meyer when she was first promoting Twilight?

After all, sympathy is a great compound to bond people. The two entities share an experience and in a strange way they work together. The author is working harder to reach the fan with their words and the fans understand working hard to hear more. This is how small upcoming authors can sell books and develop a following.

Of course even if the author has a tough night where no one shows or the book is not selling, they can take comfort knowing that the pub is just downstairs.

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