As soon as I walked in the door, I knew I was in the right place. To my left, a floor-to-14-foot-ceiling wall of bookshelves. Straight ahead, a steep little staircase to a low-ceilinged loft where I could see a sofa, a coffee table, a comfy green chair, and wall-to-wall bookshelves. Below the loft, another room full of—you guessed it—bookshelves.

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And the most wonderful part? On all those bookshelves were books.

Real ones. The kind you pick up and hold in your hands. The kind you can hold to your face and inhale the aroma of ink and paper and the je ne sais quoi that is the scent of a book. The kind you can open to any page you want and begin to read at random, only to discover you’ve been standing in the bookshop for 20 minutes and didn’t realize that even a single minute had passed.

I perused the shelves to my left and found a beautiful little copy of A Grief Observed. Then I wandered through the fiction shelves beneath the loft. On one of the center half-height bays of shelves was an old bookpress…and a cat. She lay in a red velvet cushion, the picture of contentment, bliss even.

After ascertaining that there were no books by Elizabeth Goudge in the fiction section, I headed up those steep stairs to the loft, where the children’s books live. I spent a glorious hour perusing the shelves, making a stack of books I might want, and then culling them down to fit my 20 dollar limit.

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I left my precious pile o’ books on the front counter and then descended the spiral staircase to the basement, a high-ceilinged room with still more books: history, geography, economics, plays, literary criticism, science, and cooking. A cornucopia of delights. When I’d had my fill, I schlepped back up the spiraling staircase, purchased my books, and headed out into the sunshine to find a cup of tea.

Altogether a most enjoyable afternoon. Encore!

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A briefly annotated list of the books I purchased:

The King’s Equal by Katherine Paterson, illus. Vladimir Vagin. An original fairy tale with a delightful heroine. As Doug said after we read it, “Rosamund rocks.” Yep, she does.

Castle by David Macauley. I’ve begun collecting Macauley’s building books because I find them fascinating. This one chronicles the building of a castle (duh) in Wales in the year 1283.

What You Know First by Patricia Maclachlan, illus. Barry Moser. Moser’s engravings are a perfect companion to Maclachlan’s poetic rendering of a young child’s sadness at having to leave her prairie home. A truly beautiful book.

You Be Good & I’ll Be Night by Eve Merriam. I read this book of sprightly poems to Jack so many times when he was the twins’ age that I had most of it memorized. In our move seven years ago, our copy disappeared. So imagine my delight at finding a copy to share with Jane and the little guys.

The Popcorn Book by Tomie dePaola. I don’t love every book dePaola has written, but I love most of them. This one tells the fascinating history of popcorn. I don’t know about you, but I’d never thought about popcorn even having a history.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.
Rascal by Sterling North.
I bought both of these books on the recommendation of Sarah Clarkson. Rascal was a family favorite when she was growing up, and Wolves is set in an alternate timeline (England, 1832, under the reign of King James III when the wolves have crossed the Channel Tunnel) that Sarah describes as “a delightfully adventurous tale.” Sounds good to me!

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. A short but deeply moving and insightful book of reflections on life, love, loss, and the God who holds them all.

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Ophelia’s Books is located one block north of the Fremont Bridge in Seattle. If you live in the area and you’ve never visited, what are you waiting for? Le chat lunatique and her roomfuls of books await your arrival.