A Forray into Seattle’s Pilot Books

I returned to Washington’s coast and spent part of my rain-soaked Sunday at Pilot Books.  The bookshop is a small retail, almost loft like space in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district.

What separates Pilot Books from other bookshops is that it only sells books put out by small presses.  True, you can purchase a Copper Canyon Press poetry book here, but CCP is still a small press despite its national reputation.

There will be none of the issues that Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore mentioned in her blog post about independent bookstores at Pilot.  Better yet, Pilot isn’t afraid of chapbooks, uncategorizeable small booklets and experimental, cross-genre writing.  (Hybrid and cross-genre writing fast becoming my favorite to read.)

I had originally gone in to try and purchase Joe Wenderoth’s Letters to Wendy’s which is a collection of prose poems composed upon the fast-foot chain’s comment cards.  I so enjoyed Billeh Nickerson’s McPoems, a series of poems all centered on working at another fast-food chain, I was hoping to find another literary take on food service.  Pilot was sold out, but I was assured it was “a brilliant book” by Summer Robinson, the bookstore’s founder.  I plan on ordering it.

What I found instead was Kate Lebo’s A Commonplace Book of Pie (2010,  Iron Curtain Press) a chapbook about pie including recipes in the back.  I am going to be testing the recipes when I return to Idaho.  Ms. Lebo also happens to be the poetry editor for the lovely, handmade literary journal Filter.  

I also found that each genre had a used section (shelf) and picked up a copy of Justin Taylor’s More Perfect Depictions of Noise (2008, x-ing books).  In addition to the brilliant yellow cover and the fact that the author’s name is the same as my partner’s, the poems were quite good.  Justin Taylor also co-edits The Agricultural Reader, whose name keeps popping up in my life.

Finally, I found the exceptionally fun book Our Starland /Dear Canada Council by Emily Hurst (2008, Conundrum Press.)  This book features two illustrated novellas back to back–literally.  I can’t wait to examine my purchases in greater detail.

You won’t find John Grisham or Jodi Picoult or even Sherman Alexie on the shelves of this tiny bookshop, but you will find a range of brilliant, strange and undiscovered books that the big stores don’t have shelf space for.  Every time I visit Pilot, I have come away with something I have not heard of, but am thrilled to have discovered.  Along with the avant-garde, you will also find some great authors whose work I have talked about on this blog: Elizabeth J. Colen, Jeremy Halinen, CA Conrad, Carol Guess and Eileen Myles to name a few.

The next time you are in Seattle or online and hungry for great writing, Pilot Books is where you will want to stop.  Say hello to Summer Robinson and let her recommend a piece of writing you might not see anywhere else on the West Coast.

Posted in Billeh Nickerson, bookseller, emily holton, independent bookstores, justin tayor, kate lebo, pilot books, seattle, small press, University of Washington Press.

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