Bookstores in Washington, DC
Books for America calls itself a "Bookstore with a Purpose." The storefront helps to fund a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy and learning by distributing books to schools, literacy programs, shelters, correctional facilities, and other groups in need all around the DC area. Besides making you feel great about your purchase, Books for America provides a truly enjoyable used-book shopping experience. Prices are reasonable (usually around $3-4), the stock changes constantly, and the staff is friendly. The selection is as varied as the many individuals and organizations who donate books -- a broad range of nonfiction and current fiction, a smattering of classics and rarities, and movies and CDs. (No children's books, however -- those go directly into the hands of kids in need.) The store is a short walk from Dupont Circle, just off P Street.
As lifelong book lovers but relatively new parents, we've been surprised how difficult it is to choose a good kids' book. Children's books are colorful and fun, but developmental stages change quickly and little readers evaluate books on criteria baffling to the grown-up mind. Thankfully, the helpful staff at Old Town Alexandria's Hooray for Books are expert book-pickers. Give them an age and an interest or two, and they'll guide you to exactly the right book. Books range all the way from birth through young adult, plus music, games, and gifts. There are also lots of special events, like story times for the sippy cup set and book clubs for older kids.
Mourning the state of poetry and philosophy in today's grab-and-go society? A visit to Bridge Street Books should cheer you enormously. The two-story storefront is small, but the stock is carefully curated to provide a mix of both popular and academic books in ares like literature and criticism, politics, philosophy, and music and film. The poetry section is the largest in the area, and Bridge Street hosts occasional poetry readings. While the limited space means you won't find coffee drinks or overstuffed armchairs for lingering, the won't-see-these-anywhere-else selection is fantastic for aimless browsing. Conveniently located close to both Georgetown and George Washington, on the west end of Pennsylvania where it merges with M Street.