If you want to support small, local businesses, and get to know the city better, go on a book hunt in Tacoma. Tacoma has lots of local breweries and coffeeshops that get people into the community, but it also has neighborhood bookstores with quirks and character of their own. No one says you can't stop for a cup of coffee or a pint on your browsing adventure as well, so get out the door on a 7 bookstore tour of the city from Proctor all the way to the Fern Hill District. Read on for an introduction to these 7 Tacoma shops (and where to eat and drink along the way!).
1. Proctor District: Teaching Toys & Books - 2624 N Proctor St
Monday-Friday 10 am - 6 pm
Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
Sunday 11 am - 5 pm
This Tacoma Bookshop Tour runs from north to south, start at Teaching Toys & Books where you'll find a seasonally changing creative front window display outside, and a nicely curated selection of children's books, from board books for babies, up through young adult fiction inside. Classic children's books like The Snowy Day and Goodnight Moon are present beside beautiful new books thoughtfully organized by themes like "animals" or "bedtime." Teaching Toys staff are kind and helpful and will also offer complimentary gift wrapping. There are usually about 5 kinds of wrapping paper to choose from, so if you stop here for a birthday gift on the way to the party you're in good hands! Don't get back in the car when you're ready to move on, your next stop is just down the street.
2. Proctor District: Culpepper Books - 2521 N Proctor St
Monday-Friday 10 am - 6 pm
Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
Stay in Proctor for the next stop on the tour! Walk 2 blocks south, cross the street, and you're at Culpepper Books selling used, rare, and out-of-print books. On my most recent visit, greeted with an invitation to "make myself at home," I looked through the literary classics section while the proprietor and a customer discussed poetry at the checkout counter. The store is small, organized, and offers a lot of hardback editions in a low-pressure environment. If you're ready for one of those coffee stops, drop by Metropolitan Market's cafe, find a cup at Starbucks, or Top Pot, all within a couple of blocks on Proctor St. (Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. coming soon!). If it's time for a pint, head north out of the store, turn right on N. 26th and stop in at Peaks & Pints.
3. Stadium District: King's Books - 218 St Helens Ave
Open Daily, 11 am - 7 pm (later for events)
King's Books is probably Tacoma's most well-known, beloved bookstore. Home to cats, book clubs, literary readings, and artist book and letterpress events like Tacoma Wayzgoose, you'll find a huge variety of used books here. King's also presents selected new books on display tables in the front, along with some new card games, calendars, greeting cards, and even some literary themed t-shirts. Look up when you step inside to see local letterpress broadsides on display.
King's is a great bookstore choice if you're looking for reading suggestions; they even host several monthly book clubs right in the shop. There's a shelf dedicated to staff picks with handwritten, mini reviews by King's Books staff, so head there if you don't know what to read next. If you're looking for a book group, take a look at the shelf just behind the new book tables where you'll see a variety of book groups presented (groups include Banned Book, Classics, Buddhism Today, Tacoma LGBTQ, Night Owl Nature, Spanish Language, and Shakespeare) with the current month's selection for each group on display and a small flyer you can take away.
If you're a comic book fan, this destination is doubly good as Destiny City Comics is connected to King's by French doors that are often open, so you can come and go between them without stepping outside.
Of course, if you're hungry or thirsty at this point in the tour, you're just a few feet away from Doyle's Public House, and both Harmon Brewing Co's The Tap Room and The Hub. If you want to warm up with some coffee try Cosmonaut Coffee on Division. Or, for some fresh air, take a stroll through nearby Wright Park before heading downtown to our next bookshop.
4. University District Downtown: University Book Store - 1754 Pacific Ave
Monday-Thursday 9 am - 6 pm
Friday-Saturday 9 am - 5 pm
This is much more than a student bookstore stocking textbooks. In the heart of Tacoma's downtown shopping district, this bookstore offers bestsellers, general fiction and nonfiction, a nice children's section, a small poetry section, a bargain table, and a New York Times "New and Notable" shelf. You'll also find notebooks, cards, and other gifts in this shop conveniently adjoining a Starbucks and directly on the Tacoma Link light rail line. You're on Pacific just across from the old Union Station and the Bridge of Glass, so this shop is also a great starting point for a visit to the TAM, the Museum of Glass, or the WA State History Museum. Or, save that for another day and continue on to the next 3 Tacoma bookshops.
5. Dome District Downtown: Tacoma Book Center - 324 E 26th St
Open Daily, 10am - 6 pm
Located near Freighthouse Square and the Tacoma Dome, this shop has tons of used books! If you have trouble finding street parking, look for a small lot behind the shop on D Street. You know you've arrived when you see the sandwich boards announcing "Washington's Largest Used Bookstore - 1/2 Million Books" on the corner of E 26th and D.
Inside, floor to ceiling bookshelves and a quiet staff invite you to take your time here. Tacoma Book Center offers a huge variety of used books as well as some audio books and DVDs. The Classics/Modern Fiction shelves are labeled with famous author names such as Atwood, Bellow, James, Swift, and Wharton to help guide readers through the alphabetically organized section. In nonfiction, find books on crafts, music, pets, engineering, travel, religion, cookbooks, sports, etc. as well as atlases and other reference books. There's even a section just for hardback literature. Enjoy the search, then on to South Tacoma!
6. Lincoln District: Revolving Books - 3639 S G
Monday-Saturday 11 am - 5 pm
Revolving Books sells used books in Tacoma's Lincoln District. The store is organized and easy to navigate with mostly paperbacks on offer. The general fiction section is quite limited here, but other areas, such as mystery, suspense, and romance have more to offer. If you're looking for genre fiction and follow a particular author or series, this might be a good bookshop to check out. The staff have a very good idea of what is on the shelves and would like to point you in the right direction. Along with the used books, shoppers can also find some new maps of the Tacoma region up by the register. Make sure to at least glance across G Street at beautiful Lincoln High. Or stick around a little longer with a visit to a local noodle shop on S. 38th, or El Zocalo bakery just a block south on 38th and G. Then onward, to the final stop in the bookshop tour!
7. Fern Hill District: Park Avenue Books - 8304 S Park
Tuesday-Saturday 11 am - 5:50 pm
Sunday & Monday Closed
As the open hours suggest, this is a quirky spot. It's friendly, and it's packed with used books. The staff are sweet, willing to chat, and happy to help you find some treasure. I'm pretty sure an intercom or walkie-talkie was involved in helping a fellow customer locate a book on my last visit; it took some time, and team effort, but the search was a success. They have it all at Park Avenue Books: Modern Fiction, Men's Adventure, Seafaring Adventure, Regency Romance, Local Romance Authors, Historical Romance, a UFO section, a VHS collection, and children's books too, of course. If you're okay with stacks, scooting over a bit to let the next customer by, and finding books in every nook and cranny, then make a stop and delve in with good humor.
If you haven't visited the historic Fern Hill Business District, this is a great reason to get there and get to know it. There's a library, a barber, a fabric store, a cafe, a clock and watch repair shop, Little Jerry's Seinfeld themed diner, and more.
This is the last stop on the Tacoma Bookshop Tour. I hope it's also the beginning of a good read and maybe even the start of a new or renewed relationship with part of the Tacoma community.