King's Books: The reading heart of Tacoma

June 10, 2021 | Lindsey Anderson-SGN
King's Books: The reading heart of Tacoma

Nestled on a quiet street in Tacoma sits a reader's paradise. As soon as one walks into King's Books, a sense of calm takes over. The quaint shop evokes home, from the friendly scent of worn pages to the quiet mews of the resident cat, Herbert.

The warmest welcome of all comes from (lowercased) sweet pea flaherty, the kind owner and manager of King's Books. flaherty took over as owner in 2010, and has been working to fill the space with inclusive texts and stories for readers of all ages ever since.

"In general, we have a little bit of every field. We have twelve book clubs, events, and a bookstore cat, so it's pretty chill."

The pandemic has left many small businesses struggling to rebuild and find new ways of normal over the last fifteen months, and King's Books is no different - trying to figure out how it, too, will move forward into a new world.

"We just opened to the public, Tuesday, for the first time in 1.25 years," flaherty chuckled, explaining how the store has been coping through the pandemic. "And so it's been interesting." As a way of keeping customers reading through the COVID-19 crisis, flaherty helped to organize many digital book clubs, to fit the needs of all participants. "We have queer book clubs: one that's a general club for adults, one that's a general club for& queer and trans youth," flaherty explained. "It's for ages 10-16, called 'Queerest Book Club Ever,' obviously. And then there's one that's focused on Latinx voices."

The book clubs are currently still meeting on Zoom because of the pandemic, which means they are accessible to anyone, especially those who might not be able to make it into the store physically. Despite their being online, flaherty has made sure the atmosphere is still lively. "I regularly attend 'Queerest Book Club Ever,'" flaherty said, "and it's still a community, and it's still really fun!"

King's Books also has an extensive online shop. Nearly any title can be ordered through the website and shipped to your home.

One thing that hasn't changed at the store, however, is the integration of Queer and Trans texts in every genre of the store, though it does have a special section dedicated to Queer and Trans theory. "I am queer and trans nonbinary, so it has always been important to me to have books that represent various parts of the community," flaherty said. "We try to make every section queer and trans& especially the children's section. It is pretty important to me, for representation," flaherty said, "since that was not around when I was a kid."

King's Books also carries many antiracist and community organizing titles, which flaherty says are flying off the shelves these days. flaherty says the antiracist genre has always been pretty popular among Tacoma's readers, but especially since last June.

Books by Queer authors are also popular at King's Books, a trend that seemed to spike once the community realized how dedicated to LGBTQ issues the store is.

flaherty embodies the heart of King's Books, putting careful thought into exactly what titles are chosen, and how readers of various backgrounds might be able to access and enjoy them. flaherty's passion for literature overflowed as I asked for a book recommendation.

"I have to go with a good romance. Who doesn't love romance?" flaherty gushed, sliding over a copy of Alyssa Cole's newest novel, How to Find a Princess, the second in the Runaway Royals collection. It puts a Queer twist on the classic love story of Anastasia and hits shelves just in time for avid readers looking for a little summer romance.

In addition to romance, horror, children's books, and the kindest bookstore owner in all of Tacoma, King's Books has an adorable cat! "About five years ago we adopted him," flaherty said as we searched for Herbert among stacks of comic books. "He's a chonky tuxedo cat. He's definitely the ruler, and the reason we do social media," flaherty chuckled as I came across the cat, who I can verify, is indeed, chonky (i.e., chunky).

It's hard to say exactly what gives King's Books its charm, whether its flaherty, Herbert, or the total integration of Queer and Trans stories into the shop, but whatever the reason, it is definitely special, and worth the drive to Tacoma.

King's Books is at 218 St Helens Ave. in Tacoma. Its website is www.kingsbookstore.com.