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8 Independent DC Bookstores for Your Inner Bookworm

If you’re someone who thinks DC’s independent bookstores have gone the way of the 8-track, you’ll be happy to know you’re wrong. In fact, with Politics & Prose partnering with Busboys and Poets, and the new Upshur Street Books, our city's showing resilience in the face of the digital age. Here’s a look at some of DC’s hottest spots to channel your inner bookworm:

1. Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café

Location: 1517 Connecticut Ave NW

Owner: Bill Kramer

This bookstore was voted best bookstore in a 2009 DC City Paper Reader Poll. It was also the first in the country to serve breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, late supper, and have complete bar service. But its real claim to fame came from fighting a subpoena from Ken Starr to disclose books Monica Lewinsky purchased during the 1998 scandal.

2. Politics and Prose

Location: 5015 Connecticut Ave NW

Owner: Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine

This DC favorite was founded by Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade. In 2011, Washington Post journalists Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine (also a speechwriter for Hillary Clinton) bought it. Today the store is 8k SF with 14k SF of office and café space, and more than 50 employees. It’s also opening satellite locations in five DC Busboys and Poets.

3. Books for America

Location: 1417 22nd St NW, Dupont Circle

Owner: Stephen Hersey

If you want to read for a good cause, this is the place to go. Buying a book here helps raise funds to promote literacy around the nation by stocking libraries in schools, shelters, prisons and other institutions. So far more than 900,000 books have been donated to help those in need. And while you’re at it, you can donate your old books, DVDs, CDs, laptops and more.

4. Second Story Books

Location(s): Rockville, MD, Bethesda and Dupont Circle.

Owner: Allan Stypeck

This is a great place to nerd out on books if you’re a collector, but if not, you might go into sensory overload. The lower level has a wide variety of rare books, music, posters and antiques, while the two upper floors are Second Story offices. Stypeck also appraises books for free.

5. Hooray for Books 

Location: Old Town Alexandria 1555 King St

Owner: Ellen Klein

This fun children’s bookstore has about 300 events per year, with book signings, story hours and an annual Where’s Waldo scavenger hunt. Expansion to a 4k SF store is in the near future with funds from an Indiegogo campaign (which is now over but contributions are still accepted).

6. Bridge Street Books

Location: 2814 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Georgetown

Owner: Philip Levy

Levy started this store in 1980, using New York City’s St. Mark’s Bookshop and Oxford, England’s Blackwell’s Books as inspiration. He named the shop after his father’s line of suits, and he researched books to stock the store at his favorite bookstore, Olsson’s. Today it’s a 1k SF shop with two floors, 30,000 titles, and jazz background music for the ultimate experience.

7. Capitol Hill Books

Location: 657 C St SE

Owner: Jim Toole

This place is literally brimming with books. “Kindle” and “Amazon” are considered four-letter words, and the foreign language section is in the bathroom. Bottom line: Check it out if only for the experience.

8. Upshur Street Books 

Location: 827 Upshur St NW, Petworth

Owner: Paul Ruppert (also owner of Petworth Citizen and Crane & Turtle)

This newest bookshop opened its doors last November as Ruppert’s first retail venture. He started it with $100k of his own money, an $80k Great Streets Small Business Capital Improvement grant, and $20k raised from Kickstarter. The 800k SF shop has 3,300 famous and obscure titles, while events include sing-alongs and Sexy Story Night.