originally posted April 29, 2019 by Emily Adams for her blog at svcascadia.com:
The last Saturday in April is Independent Bookstore Day across the United States. In Seattle, it is also Seattle Bookstore Day, home to the Seattle Bookstore Challenge. Each of the past four years I have taken the challenge and visited each of the participating stores, passport in hand. The first year (2015) there were 17 stores on the list (two requiring 30-minute ferry rides), and my colleagues and I thought a handful of people might actually be crazy enough to finish the whole thing. Surely the only people out there would be book industry people. Who else would spend an entire Saturday visiting bookstores? Katie, our intrepid Penguin Random House sales rep, offered to drive at the last minute, when we heard that a couple of booksellers from New Jersey were flying out to participate. We couldn’t let them show us up! Thus a tradition was born.
“…in our first year, we weren’t sure if anyone would complete the full Passport Challenge, but we crowned 42 Grand Champions. In 2017, our third year, the number of Grand Champions, all of whom visited 19 stores from Poulsbo to Kirkland to Queen Anne to Georgetown in a single day, exploded to 320, and in 2018 our total number of Champions increased yet again, to nearly 500.”
Most of the stores remain the same, but each year I have visited at least one store that was new to me and a few that were newly opened. The first four years, I traveled the route in Katie’s trusty Prius laden with booksellers and baked goods. [Ed. note: Katie is a regional Random House sales rep; the team called themselves “Snack Pack.”]
In 2019, the number of stores grew to 21 companies and 26 locations, requiring stops as far-flung as Poulsbo, Burien, Redmond, Magnolia, and Edmonds. The incentive for this epic bookstore journey? Bragging rights and an Indie Bookstore Champion card that entitles its owner to a 25% discount at all participating stores for a year.
This year, Wayne had offered to drive me all over the map on his motorcycle. I tossed and turned all night, so we both slept poorly. The alarm went off at 6:30am, just as I was finally drifting off (thanks, brain!), but we dragged ourselves out of bed and gathered our gear. The forecast called for morning rain. Peeking out the window, I saw blue sky and sunshine. As we walked up to the parking garage, ominous clouds loomed to the south. We hoped they would not catch up to us. I hoped Wayne would not regret his decision to wake at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to spend all day on a crazed marathon mission to visit an absurd number of bookstores. . .
Read the full adventures and see flashbacks to previous years’ adventures at Emily’s blog. Emily was a beloved bookseller at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Her blog chronicles her new adventures, which will continue to feature bookstores but will center around a live-aboard sailboat.