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Seattle makes a perfect getaway for devoted readers

Last week, I came back from visiting my sister in Seattle. I don't want to move there, but I love that town. It's a great place for people who love books.

The libraries in Seattle are amazing. The main Seattle library, which is downtown, is one of my favorite places in the world. The building, which was designed by a really innovative architect, is hip and modern, but still really user friendly. I could stay there for days.

In addition to the impressive main library, almost every neighborhood in Seattle has its own branch. During this visit, I checked out the library in Beacon Hill, the area where my sister and her fiance just bought a house. This library is fairly small, but the building design makes it seem much, much larger. Best of all, it was just a few blocks away from my sister's house.

There are also lots of places to buy books in Seattle. My favorite is The Elliott Bay Book Company (www.elliottbaybook.com). It's everything I think a bookstore should be. The building has multiple levels and lots of rooms - so many, it's hard to walk through them all. There's a cafe downstairs that has exposed brick walls and tons of built-in bookshelves.

The store's atmosphere is incredibly comfortable. It's kind of cluttered, but in an inviting way. On the shelves in each section, there are handwritten notes from staff members recommending particular titles. The employees themselves, however, keep their distance from the customers. They're there if you need help, but they don't hover or make you feel weird because you've been in the store for hours.

I especially like the way the wood floors creak at Elliott Bay. I think creaky floors should be a requirement for all bookstores.

Even though I know I have stacks and stacks of books waiting for me at home, I can't help buying more books every time I go into Elliott Bay. This time, I picked up a copy of "The Polysyllabic Spree" by Nick Hornby (Believer Books, $14).

The book is a collection of 14 essays about Hornby's reading habits. The pieces originally appeared in the Believer magazine. You can see an excerpt from his current "Stuff I've Been Reading" column on the Believer's Web site (www.believermag.com).

Basically, his essays are like a smarter, funnier version of this column - though I swear I didn't copy the idea from the Believer. Until I saw this book, I had no idea that Hornby wrote about a column about reading, though I've obviously been missing out for quite some time. The essays in the book were originally published in 2003 and 2004.

I love Hornby's writing, so I was not surprised to find that I also like his reading habits. He has a way of making me want to pick up almost every book he writes about.

It's a good thing I didn't start reading "The Polysyllabic Spree" until I was on the plane back to Atlanta, though. While I was in Seattle, it would have been hard to resist buying at least some of the books Hornby recommends.

But as it was, my suitcases were already almost too heavy to carry, from all the books I brought from home and the reading material I bought in Seattle. What can I say? A reader doesn't travel lightly.

If there's a book you think I really ought to read or you have information about upcoming author appearances in the Atlanta area, please e-mail rachael.mason@gwinnettdailypost.com.