Well-versed in the contents of his shop and the world of books, a recommendation from David is a valuable gift. He went straight from high school to bookselling and has held his current position as caretaker of Lion Heart Book Store for 15 years. In a half-serious, half-joking tone (leaving the facts amusingly uncertain), he explained that his father offered him three choices after high school: he’d send him to vet school, send him to prison, or help him start a bookstore.
Luckily for us the third option won, and now you have a list of recommendations for autumn and an excuse not to leave home. David recommends: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, and The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. His favorite book is Candide, which, like his own life, he says, deals with finding love, disappointing young ladies, and searching for the philosophy of life.
Although Pike Place houses several amazing bookstores, Lion Heart is the crown jewel. Cared for by an involved owner and standing at the heart of the market, it pumps energy through the several crowded floors and lengthy hallways of Pike Place. Visited by locals and tourists alike, by literary aficionados and surface browsers, the shop lives in the best of all possible worlds, acting as a trading post for stories both verbal and written.
4,800 miles away, my new home in London boasts an incredible literary scene. There are several bookstores in my neighborhood and countless more in Central London. They are historic, quaint, and some even famous, yet none compare to the underground nook by Puget Sound. No owner leaps from their desk to help (elderly British booksellers can’t be bothered), no customer rambles about their life, and no one sends postcards from their travels the way people do for David. The only thing I’ve found to be on par with Lion Heart Book Store is the talk of the weather and the rustle of raincoats as people shuffle past each other in the I-want-to-look-at-the-shelf-you’re-in-front-of dance.
I walked a few miles through Central London, stopping by several bookstores — most of them on Charing Cross Road — to get my books for this semester, a Harry Potter-esque experience of walking through cobblestone alleys with bags full of school supplies (sans owl, sadly). These tiny old bookstores are majestic and breathtaking, usually full of beautiful Jane Austen editions and Shakespeare compilations. But there’s the key difference: London bookstores pride themselves in their content, while Lion Heart Book Store sees the importance of the people that visit.
London bookstores are city fixtures, impassive to the comings-and-goings of tourists, while Lion Heart changes for and with its customers. Although there is a beauty in the static existence of century-old bookstores here, Lion Heart reflects the livelihood of Pike Place Market and the changing scene in Seattle. Already the fifth incarnation of the shop since its establishment in 1961, it’s exciting to see where it will go and how it will continue to interact with the people who visit it.