DC is home to one of the most educated populations in the country along with 19 colleges and universities. Their workforce is highly educated and there is a thriving entrepreneurial community. All of that means that almost everyone you meet here has a pretty hefty reading list to work on at any given time.
Maybe that’s why DC is the home to so many amazing independent bookstores and is one of the only places left where the big box bookstores show no signs of slowing down. Books are just as much a part of the social fabric here as theater, restaurants, and sports. Going out with friends–whether for brunch, dinner, or errands–often means a look-in at one of DC’s great bookstores.
Here are some of the best bookstores in DC. Check them out, if you haven’t already.
- Politics & Prose (website): With multiple locations and a steady rotation of events, classes, and author appearances, Politics & Prose is a DC institution. This fall brings new locations at Union Market and The Wharf, to make sure you’re always close to one of the best independent bookstores in the country.
- Kramerbooks & Afterwords (website): Incredible classes and events at Kramerbooks are matched by upscale locavore cuisine at Afterwords Cafe to ensure a great place to land whether you stop by at brunch, lunch, or dinner time. Looking for accountability partners to keep you reading something new? Join a book club geared toward female authors, politics, or staff picks.
- East City Book Shop (website): Opening in April 2016, East City is part of the indie bookstore renaissance and offers special events, consignment and more. East City also offers an emphasis on children and families, including school book fairs and guidance for educators and parents.
- Upshur Street Books (website): Located in the Petworth neighborhood, Upshur Street Books is a gem, focused on promoting and celebrating all that makes DC so special. They can be found staffing pop-up stalls at conferences and festivals in the area, and their knowledgeable staff is always happy to help. Events are driven by customer suggestions and requests, so if there’s an event you’d like to see, let them know!
- Second Story Books (website): With more than one million books, Second Story Books specializes in rare and out of print books and manuscripts, and owner Allan Stypeck provides on-site appraisals. This store is a treasure-trove of the hard-to-find and the unexpected, and provides books for movie sets and will even help curate entire home libraries. Second Story even has the distinction of having had a poem written about it by a former US Secretary of Defense. Be sure and check it out on the website.
- Sankofa Video, Books & Cafe (website): Housed across the street from Howard University, Sankofa was founded by filmmakers Haile and Shirikiana Gerima. SVB specializes in film, literature, and non-fiction that focuses on people of African descent around the world. The cafe has a varied menu with an emphasis on healthy foods, including a number of gluten-free and vegan options. Be sure to check out the shop’s special events calendar and annual children’s book fair.
- Busboys and Poets Books (website): With a focus on local authors and books promoting social justice, Busboys and Poets Books hosts book signings, readings, discussion groups and more to bring together the “well-read and well-written” and promote the diverse population and its impact on artistic, cultural, and political movements. The bookstore’s hours are the same as the restaurant’s; contact them if you are interested in having your book reviewed for inclusion and/or if you would like to schedule a reading or other event for a local author.
- Carpe Librum Pop Up (website): If you’re looking for bargains on used books and vinyl as well as CDs and DVDs, Carpe Librum is the place. Housed in the Farragut neighborhood (and currently looking for a new home as of December 2017), Carpe Librum is a fundraising entity for Turning the Page, a local organization that works to improve schools through community engagement. If you want even bigger savings, become a member and get discounts with gift card purchases or make a donation to provide direct support.
It’s a tribute to the amazing number of independent bookstores in DC that this list could have been even longer. What an embarrassment of riches! If you are looking for a home near your favorite bookstore, let us set up a search; we can even help you find the perfect reading nook. Sign in at our website and let’s get started!