Do you still love to curl up with a good book, and turn real pages? I do too. I especially love browsing in bookstores, either in search of a gem or with nothing particular in mind, just to see what I discover. Bellingham. WA is a book lover’s haven filled with several great spots for browsing, buying, selling and reading good, old-fashioned, real books, both new and used. This highly literate small town is home to three college campuses, thousands of avid readers, and hundreds of thousands of books.
Michael’s Books – Used, Rare and Out of Print. 109 Grand Avenue. Open Mon. – Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
My sister-in-law turned me onto this idea. Used bookstores are great places to visit while traveling, because each one has a unique selection. Looking for the next volume in a favorite old series? You might find it here. I especially love history, and often used books provide the greatest selection for history lovers, because we find classic titles that are now out of print. Recently, I decided to purchase “Profiles in Courage” by John F. Kennedy for my 8th grader to read. I popped into Michael’s Books in downtown Bellingham to see if they had a copy. They did, in paperback for only $2.50. Michael himself led me through tidy floor-to-ceiling stacks of books to the history section. Since I was there, I decided to stay and look around. And what to my wandering eyes should appear? THE Federalist Papers! (Remember, we heard about them in high school, but we never actually read them?) I had to have it. I didn’t even know it was possible to buy a copy. Shopping here is like going on a treasure hunt every time, with a myriad of subjects to choose from! Michael’s also has a cute children’s section. I’m a firm believer it’s never to early to get kids started collecting their own favorite titles.
Henderson Books – Located cross the street from Michael’s at 116 Grand Avenue. Open Wed. – Sat. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (360) 734-6855. Henderson also sells used books and some small antiques.
The sandwich board sign outside Henderson Books announces that it is an active book buyer, as are most used book stores. What strikes me immediately inside is the quantity of books, spilling off the shelves and onto the floor in every aisle.
It is easy to get lost in here for hours! I over heard another customer say that he visits here once a week for his book fix. Both Henderson and Michael’s are all about the books. Neither offers food inside. However, they are both only steps away from the Whatcom Museum, which is a great place for lunch, art exhibits and even playtime at the Family Interactive Gallery.
FAIRHAVEN HISTORIC DISTRICT
Eclipse Bookstore – Used Books. 1104 11th Street, Bellingham. (360) 647-8165
On the south side of Bellingham, in the artsy Fairhaven Historic District, is Eclipse Bookstore on the far edge of 11th Street. It is a bit of a trek to find it on foot, but well worth the effort. Walking into this space, one is immediately greeted with warm hardwood floors, cheery music playing, and bright windows overlooking Bellingham Bay.
A beautiful staircase leads to a light and airy basement, with cozy seating areas and more wall to wall shelves of unique used books. I of course loved the history section, where I plan to return and spend an entire day!
Eclipse also has great sections for literature, as well as gardening books and cookbooks. Just browsing and waiting for something unique to catch my fancy, I ran face to face into the Old Sturbridge Village cookbook, prominently displayed. What was this doing 3,000 miles away from home? I visited Sturbridge Village as a teenager on a trip to New England, which probably started my lifelong love of American history. How did this get here? And how did it know to call out to me? That is what I love about used bookstores. As I was purchasing it, I told owner, “I absolutely don’t need this, but I have to have it.” He said, “That’s one of the best reasons there is to buy it, and enjoy it.”
Village Books – New and Used Books + Cafe. 1200 11th Street, Bellingham. (360) 671-2626. Open Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
After this much book shopping, one eventually gets hungry as well. An amazing experience of used AND new books, combined with one of the best cafes in Bellingham, is Village Books, which many locals consider to be heart and soul of the Fairhaven Historic District. It is certainly an anchor on the corner of 11 Street and Mill Avenue. Although the current building was constructed in 2004, its red-brick exterior blends in perfectly with the charm of the neighboring buildings constructed in the 1890s. The interior is also warm and friendly, with more beautiful hardwood floors, and gorgeous glass art in the circular bay windows. The main lobby also features an impressive display of beautiful art books.
Village Books is the place to go to find national best sellers, local authors, and used books under one roof. The store has a unique method of mixing best selling current titles, with used classics. While I was browsing, a super helpful clerk explained to me the system of blue and yellow dots. These are bargain books, either used or surplus, on the regular shelves with the new books. When you find the title you like, look at each copy on the shelf for the best price. Sometimes a hardback of the same title might actually cost less than the paperback – another exciting discovery for the treasure hunter!
Village Books is also known for its active schedule of special events in the store, featuring authors, book clubs, writers workshops, and music.
On the second floor of Village Books is the Book Fare Cafe. This is a great spot for the book lover to purchase lunch or a latte, snuggle in, and be immersed in the Bellingham culture. The menu at Book Fare is ultra local and changes seasonally. It features soups, salads, sandwiches and small plates all homemade and highlighting local farmers and fishers. It is also one of the few places in town with a consistent selection of gluten-free options in Bellingham. The cafe’s seating area overlooks Fairhaven’s Village Green, which often features outdoor special events including the Wednesday Farmer’s Market, and a variety of annual Fairhaven Festivals.
Barnes & Noble – New Books + Cafe. 4099 Meridian Street, Bellingham. (360) 647-7018. Open Sun – Thurs. 9 a.m. – 10 p.m., Fri-Sat. 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Of course the list of book stores in Bellingham would not be complete without mentioning our familiar national chain Barnes & Noble. Ours is located on Meridian Street, near Bellis Fair Mall, at the corner of Meridian and Bakerview Road, which is also very close to many hotels. I love Barnes & Noble for its late hours and free Wi-Fi. It is a large store, with a great selection of travel books, children’s books, reference materials, foreign language books, and all the newest titles, neatly arranged in well-known sections.
I also have to admit that I love my Starbucks fix from time to time in the Barnes and Noble Cafe. This is a spot I frequently head to when I’m on the north side of town to enjoy a latte and work on my laptop. I usually end up browsing as well, and finding a brand new must have title that I didn’t know I needed, but can’t wait to take home!