Independent Bookstores in Washington, D.C.

Sharon Cohen | Mar 1, 2007

Why go to a bookstore when the AHA Exhibit Hall is so comprehensive? Even historians can't live by books on history alone, and many D.C. bookstores offer the diversion of food and local color. In addition to its share of Barnes & Noble and Borders chain stores, Washington features a wide array of independent bookstores.

The newest addition is Busboys and Poets (2021 14th St. NW, Metro: U Street, 202-287-7638), named after poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel. The store offers a politically liberal selection of academic studies and children's books, with tables and couches to encourage lingering and discussion. A number of local bookstores are near the Dupont Circle Metro station. Kramerbooks & Afterwords (1517 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-387-1400) includes a restaurant as well as many paperbacks for the trip home. Local independent chain Olsson's (1307 19th St. NW, 202-785-1133) provides a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere with a wide selection of music as well as a collection of books on D.C. history. The people at Second Story Books (2000 P St. NW, 202-659-8884) claim to be a time capsule of the 1960s with their eclectic, cool, and leftist books and music.

A few blocks' walk down P Street, the innovative, community-minded, and friendly staff at Bookstore with a Purpose (1417 22nd St. NW, 202-835-2665), will take extra books off your hands to distribute to needy school children, hospitals, and shelters. They also sell used books. Lambda Rising (1625 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-462-6969), specializes in LGBT literature. Chapters, A Literary Bookstore (445 11th St. NW, Metro: Metro Center, 202-737-5553), has always been owned and run by women, who select unique and distinctive books for their loyal audience of literary women. Finally, the grande dame of bookstores is Carla Cohen's Politics and Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse (5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, about a half mile north of the Van Ness Metro station, 202-364-1919) where you can grab a quick bite or late night latte after browsing its extensive collection, including a wonderful children's room.

You don't have to brave the cold weather too much to venture out to these bookstores. They are almost all within a block or two of the Metro and close to the meeting hotels. Check their web sites for special events and winter hours.

—Sharon Cohen, Montgomery County Public Schools, is a member of the Local Arrangements Committee.



Please read our commenting and letters policy before submitting.