The reading scene in DC is about as packed as the shelves in any bookstore. After visiting a handful of bookstores over the course of Spring break, I present a brief review of the best-recommended bookstores that our lovely city has to offer. From west to east (because that is how I am listing these stores, geographically) every neighborhood bookshop has something unique to offer, and I hope that you, reader, get the chance to appreciate them all, even if your wallet is as empty as mine by the end.
1. Politics and Prose is a staple of DC. Politics and Prose also hosts many online and in-person events, which you can see on their calendar. Before even moving to DC I could recognize their iconic green awning and indie bookstore font. The Connecticut Ave location (the one I am most familiar with and will be reviewing) is composed of two stories and a cafe near the parking lot entrance. Despite a fear of sounding silly, I will say that one of the most significant details of P&P is that it feels very much like a classic bookstore. It is large and well organized and can absorb hours of your day. In addition to a vast selection of books, this store also sells CDs, calendars, journals, mugs, games, puzzles, tote bags, cards, and all of the nicknacks and bookstore paraphernalia you can imagine. The tables and shelves are always a joy to sort through. In doing so you may also be able to spot their box of signed bookplates, which are free to take.
Addresses: 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW (North West Corner)
70 District Square SW (The Wharf)
1270 5th Street NE (Union Market)
2. The Lantern Bookshop is a Bryn Mawr bookshop, meaning that all proceeds are donated to Bryn Mawr College. All books in the shop are used, donations, or rare books. The bookshop is completely run by volunteers, many of whom are alumni of the college. They also accept donations of and sell other media forms such as DVDs, LPs, CDs, and books on tape. The shop itself is a narrow two-story building, with several rooms, nooks, and crannies aching to be explored. I only had a few minutes in the store but would love to spend much more time skimming the shelves and discovering all of the available works.
Address: 3241 P Street, NW
3. Bridge Street Books has a similar setup to The Lantern and is located just 0.7 miles away. However, I would argue that the feel of this bookstore is noticeably different. For one thing, it feels neater and more polished, as would sensibly come from a new rather than used bookstore. The location and setup are very inviting, and, in my opinion, make a great location for a solo adventure or a trip with friends. In one of my most recent visits, I found a new graphic novel and book of poetry, which I have since been enjoying.
Address: 2814 Pennsylvania Ave NW
4. I honestly could not tell you which I go to Kramers for more– books or brunch. With its constantly bubbly atmosphere and well-designed floor plan and traffic patterns, the store is instantly charming. Kramers is the bookstore that is bound to have any specific books you are looking for, as well as a handful of recommendations that are similar. Now, let me talk about the food. With indoor and outdoor seating, this is a fantastic place for any meal of the day and any day of the year. Their french toast is always my go-to, but anything from the all-day brunch menu is splendid. Recently, Kramers also opened up a coffee shop-esque side room that is available for a more casual experience.
Address: 1517 Connecticut Avenue, NW
5. Located along the main drag of 18th Street in Adam’s Morgan, Lost City Books cannot be missed. The first thing you notice upon entry is the massive wall of fiction and poetry stretching along the right wall, leading customers back into the store and towards children’s books as well as books by independent publishers. On the left wall, a staircase leads up and doubles back, bringing you to non-fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, and graphic novels. On both levels, the store is divided into rooms through wide doorways and different level platforms. The space feels open and welcoming, but also manageable. Excellent selections of books across all areas entice any reader. Lost City of Books also hosts several book clubs, author events, and community events in the store, which you can learn more about on their website.
Address: 2467 18th St NW
6. Located in Adam’s Morgan, The Potter’s House is a non-profit bookstore, cafe, and community space. Need I say more? It was originally opened in the 1960s and after sustaining some major renovations in 2013, has been reopened for the past 7 years. Part of their work as a non-profit has included providing free meals to those in need, a program that has increased in use since March of 2020. Patrons are welcome to make donations towards this program in addition to making purchases. The bookstore itself has a wide selection of books that span all genres. I certainly found some recognizable titles and had to resist buying new, intriguing novels. The set up of the space is open and inviting, where visitors can see the whole room but there are also enough books to demand closer attention. The Potter’s House also serves coffee (as well as teas and hot chocolate, which I appreciated as a tea drinker) and food. All of which is currently available for take-out and to be eaten on the patio outside. If I am in Adam’s Morgan I will always want to stop by The Potter’s House just for the good vibes.
Address: 1658 Columbia Rd. NW
7. When I walked into Solid State Books I fell in love. The openness of the store immediately captivated me, and I was eager to look at the tables and tables of books on display. Even though I am nineteen years old, I was still delighted by the kids’ section, which is sectioned off from the front of the bookstore by a tall shelf with a child-sized doorway, leading to a reading nook. The middle grade, YA, and graphic novel sections located nearby were also thorough. The employees who I encountered were very enthusiastic about the store and helpful. I know I will certainly be returning for the good vibes and to try the coffee, which I saw they served as I was heading out the door.
Address: 600 H St NE
8. Now is where I have to admit that I found East City Bookshop through TikTok. East City Bookshop is nestled away, partially underground, from the more busy block of Eastern Market. With a great selection spread over two floors, tables of bookish merchandise, and a wall of socks and cards, you could spend hours perusing. Located next to a game store, and just a few blocks from the Capitol, the surrounding neighborhood provides other interesting opportunities and adventures.
Address: 645 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Unit 100
9. Capitol Hill Books is a bustling bookstore located in a historic part of DC, just across the street from Eastern Market, and very close to the previously mentioned East City Bookshop. Capitol Hill Books is the tightly packed treasure of used books that any bibliophile romanticizes spending a day sorting through. Books are shelved and stacked all throughout this multi-storied building, while signs tucked here and there guide customers to their favorite authors. On the second story, in a room packed with poetry, you can also find crats of records at a reasonable price. As I said, this bookshop houses adventures ready to be made, so make sure to give yourself lots of time before you get swept in.
Address: 657 C Street SE
Bonus! Bookstores That I Recommend, But Have Not Thoroughly Checked Out Myself
10. Busboys and Poets
Address: There are multiple locations
11. Second Story Books
Address: 2000 P Street NW
12. Mahogany Books
Address: 1231 Good Hope Rd SE
13. Carpe Librum
Address: This is a wandering non-profit bookstore