Bookstores » Washington, DC

Bookstores in Washington, DC

The Internet Age hasn't been easy for independent bookstores. Luckily, Washington, DC's local bookstores continue to thrive. Here are a few of our favorite places to browse the written word.
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Politics and Prose

Politics and Prose is a DC institution, a community gathering place built around the shared love of books. Politics and Prose is known for its knowledgable staff and famous for its author talks, which draw popular authors across many genres and an engaged audience eager to meet them. But don't let the literary cred fool you -- the atmosphere is more welcoming than snobby. The website, staff picks, and member newsletters are informative and introduce readers to a dangerous number of books that you suddenly realize you absolutely must own. There's a coffee shop (Modern Times) on the premises. In a fascinating new initiative, Politics and Prose recently installed an Espresso Book Machine (EBM), which can print and bind a self-published or out-of-print book while you wait. The location is an uphill hike from the nearest Metro (Van Ness), but city buses run regularly down Connecticut.

Books for America

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.

Hooray for Books!

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.

Bridge Street Books

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.

The Lantern

The Lantern is a quintessential used-book shop: shelves full of books ranging from recent titles to unique old editions, prices written in pencil on the first page, the slightly dusty smell of yellowed paper, pleasant retirees staffing the shop. The fact that it's located in a quaint converted rowhouse on a side street in historic Georgetown is simply the icing on the cake. The store is stocked by donation and staffed by volunteers, with proceeds benefitting a scholarship fund for young women at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. One of the few used bookstores in the area that offers children's books. If you buy four books, the fifth is free. Be sure to check the hours before your visit -- The Lantern is open afternoons only.