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As essential as coffee

April 02, 2006|Robin Rauzi

IF there is any doubt that Seattle is a serious book town, it is erased upon visiting the Rem Koolhaas-designed Central Library, a modern temple to literacy. Alas, out-of-towners can't take those books home. Not far away, however, are plenty of places to browse and buy.

Elliott Bay Book Co. anchors a small fleet of bookstores in Pioneer Square. It is a great place for serendipitous discoveries, with staff-written reviews tacked below many of the 150,000 titles, and a lower-level cafe.

101 S. Main St.; (206) 624-6600,

It's perfect that a shop full of books on bugs and bulbs is subterranean. Flora & Fauna Books, also in Pioneer Square, is two rooms of practical plant guides mixed with tomes for the passionate naturalist. One representative title: "An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles."

Flora & Fauna Books, 121 1st Ave. S.; (206) 623-4727,

At Peter Miller Architecture and Design Books, the shelves -- tall, narrow and varying in height like an urban skyline -- are packed with volumes on design of all types, as varied as the materialistic "Cool Shops Milan" and the abstract "The Meaning of Trees." Miller thinks his niche is secure from "I'll outlast them, because I do it better," he said. Any visitor would be hard-pressed to disagree.

1930 1st Ave.; (206) 441-4114,

The 30-year-old Wide World Books & Maps in the Wallingford neighborhood is all a travel bookshop should be. On shelves sorted by country and region, literature and nonfiction are mixed in with the travel guides. The guidebooks, too, include some nontraditional approaches -- "Schlepping Through the Alps," for instance.

4411 Wallingford Ave. N; (206) 634-3453,

-- Robin Rauzi

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