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Madison Books: Tiny but mighty

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Photo by Lindsey Anderson
Photo by Lindsey Anderson

In a beautiful neighborhood with sprawling ivy, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the waters of the Puget Sound, sits Madison Books. A self-described "micro bookstore," it's packed full of tidy rows of amazing texts and novels, from floor to ceiling.

"We don't have a lot of room here, so we don't feature stuffed animals and toys and socks like other bookstores sell," said James Crossley, who has been the general manager since the store first opened its doors a little over two years ago. "As you can see, we are very small, in terms of square footage, but we pack a lot in. We're actually kind of a medium sized store stacked into a small one."

"The shelves are neatly organized," he added, "a satisfying sight for those who find moments of calm in a neat and organized environment."

While it's faced many challenges, having opened only a few months before a global pandemic, it's now back and better than ever and ready to offer members of the community "an inviting atmosphere, and it's silly to say, but it's a bookish one," as Crossley said. The book lovers who stock the shelves every day also contribute to the specialness of the place.

From shelves to table displays, Madison Books makes good use of its small square footage, and customers seem to find exactly what they are looking for each time they step foot in the charming little store. "We cater to the people in the neighborhood... It's a place for readers of all types."

According to Crossley, some of the most popular titles are creative novels from overseas, like an Irish prose memoir, A Ghost in the Throat, which combines breathtaking poetry with Irish history and culture. Another top seller and a personal favorite of Crossley is The Summer Book, a Swedish novel about a young girl and her grandmother spending the summer together on a small island.

While Madison Books doesn't have a separate shelf for LGBTQ tomes, the store features books by LGBTQ writers on nearly all the shelves, even the children's section! "In June, Pride Month, we featured [LGBTQ] writers in our front window, and I have to say I am very pleasantly surprised that we had a very good response. People bought out of the window, frequently," Crossley told me.

The success of the window display was so significant that the store ended up ordering even more copies of some of its best Pride sellers, including Jay's Gay Agenda, a young adult novel; Loving, a photo collection of LGBTQ love; and The Art of Drag, a nonfiction collection of stories and photography detailing the colorful history of drag in the United States. While Pride Month has officially come to an end, Crossley is still watching these books fly off the shelves.

The increasing LGBTQ sales at the bookstore brings Crossley a familiar feeling. "I used to work, many years ago, at Bailey Coy Books, and a little of that legacy can be found right here," Crossley said, referring to one of Seattle most beloved LGBTQ bookstores, a place where all kinds of readers were welcome. "I want everyone's voices to be here," he said with a gleam in his eyes.

Madison Books stands as a small store with a mighty legacy, continuing to bring its Seattle neighborhood clever and worldly texts, and bringing in some of the welcoming spirit of its predecessors, like Bailey Coy. "We are an inviting place, to everyone," Crossley said. With a welcoming store manager, a delightful window display, and books piled high, it certainly has something for all readers.

Madison Books is located at 4118 E. Madison St. or online at www.madisonbks.com