Today’s guest post comes by way of my husband‘s friend and photographer, Randy Kepple. Randy’s daughter, Kara Kepple, is a self-described lifelong reader who is in her third year studying Human Services, Sociology, and Women’s Studies at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.
Reading has been my passion for as long as I can remember. At the age of three, I was memorizing and reciting books for my family. During the summer, I visited the library and checked out a dozen books, returning a few days later for more. It was only natural that I would explore bookstores in my town when I left home for my first year of college.
In September 2009, I moved away for the first time to attend Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. Located near Vancouver, BC, Bellingham is a college town through and through, offering student friendly stores and plenty of opportunities to give back to the community. I never explored the town during that first year, but my second year gave me a chance to venture out of my crowded dorm and see what Bellingham had to offer. Being a Pacific Northwest native, I was used to living by bodies of water and islands, both of which Bellingham provides. However, I was pleasantly taken aback by the amount of bookstores in this area.
All photos by Kara Kepple
Historically, Bellingham was divided into four different towns: Fairhaven, Whatcom, Sehome, and Bellingham. The towns eventually combined to create the city of Bellingham, and the history still exists to this day. My preferred area of town is the Fairhaven Historical District. Conveniently, my favorite bookstore is nestled at the end of 11th Street, with proud “Eclipse Bookstore” signage to invite passersby inside.
Eclipse, which specializes in used and out-of-print books, is owned by David Carlson, who is clearly unable to control his book-buying tendencies. He treats everyone as if they were an old friend, asking about interests and following up with suggestions of new titles. Visitors are greeted with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, along with piles of books along every walkway. Rather than looking disheveled, these book piles are architecturally at home here. Even the owner’s Volvo station wagon parked outside the store is filled to the brim with paperbacks. With so many books in one place, it’s no surprise that Eclipse caters to almost any subject, whether one is looking for a specific historical title or a novel to read during rainy Washington days.
Kara’s books from Eclipse, right, show her interest in feminist literature, historical nonfiction, and biographies.
I am drawn to this particular store more than any other because of the perfect marriage of eclectic book selection and knowledgeable, friendly staff. Though I’ve set foot into almost every bookstore in Bellingham, I return again and again to Eclipse, perusing the shelves all afternoon, listening to whatever music strikes the owner’s fancy that day, and curling up in an armchair by the bay windows, never feeling rushed or pressured to purchase something.
If you ever find yourself in Bellingham, take an afternoon to stroll through Fairhaven and stop by a true Pacific Northwest book-lover’s paradise. Take in the views of sailboats and wander through the organized chaos that is the Eclipse Bookstore. Once you leave, you may need another bookshelf!