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The Best Bookstores in Washington, D.C.

The Best Bookstores in Washington, D.C.

Picture of Lauren Gruber
Updated: 12 December 2015
An intellectual as well as political city, Washington DC is thriving with some amazing independent new and used bookstores. Read ahead for our guide to where you can find cheap to mid-priced reads with great atmosphere and nick-nacks.

The outside view of Kramersbooks in Washington DC on a crowded evening.

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe

Open late on the weekends, Kramerbooks has a huge inventory, particularly of DC-related information and authors. Classics, new releases and obscure titles can be found here. An attached café and bar area associated with the bookstore helps to liven the mood. Throughout the store, customers will find suggestions on the shelves from staff. After purchasing books, try the pistachio or the salted caramel vanilla cheesecake. The bar also has a happy hour!

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, 1517 Connecticut Ave NW Washington DC 20036 202-387-3825

Carpe Librum

This used vintage bookstore is a favorite among DC locals. There is a large well-organized variety, but popular titles are snatched up quickly. Browse through the DVDs, CDs, and other nick-nacks. For $1-$4 it’s likely patrons will find an item they appreciate. Another added bonus is all proceeds from sales benefit a local nonprofit that supports DC public school education.

Carpe Librum, 1030 17 St NW Washington DC 20036 202-347-9841

A reading event with guest speakers are hosted frequently at Politics & Prose in Washington DC.

Books For America

Browse through this quaint store where you’ll be sure to find a classic somewhere. Books For America has a great selection from classics like The Odyssey to The Raven. They also have large sci-fi, fiction, non-fiction, literature and sports sections.This bookstore promotes literacy in underserved communities by donating books to schools and teachers in the area, while any extra profit the bookstore owns goes to donations as well. It is advised that you bring your old books here as they are dependent on donations.

Books For America, 1417 22nd St NW Washington DC 20037 202-835-2665

Politics & Prose

This bookstore has a handful of political material, hence the name. However, they also have books for children, young adults and general audiences with numerous categories. Inside is also a coffee shop with vegan food. The bookstore is active in organizing book clubs, community classes, trips and author discussion and events! Priding themselves on friendly staff and customer service, Politics & Prose is an unpretentious and helpful tool for any autodidact.

Politics & Prose, 625 Monroe St NE Washington DC 20017 202-796-8869

The outside facade of Capitol Hill Books with its towers of books seen through the windows.
©Sarah G/Flickr

Capitol Hill Books

Located in a converted three-floor townhouse, the bookstore buys and sells an array of used books. This local gem, located right by the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, is a magical hideaway. Patrons can peruse the stacks or find themselves wandering throughout the packed book towers. Be prepared to search for books, because there are so many to browse. The store has that old, musty feel of an antique library, perfect for any literary obsession. In side the depths, browsers may even be able to find 1st edition copies. Don’t forget to stop in the bathroom, because that’s also where you’ll find the foreign language section.

Capitol Hill Books, 657 C St SE Washington, DC 20003 202-544-1621

Bridge Street Books

Bridge Street Books is known to have some of the best philosophy and poetry finds in the city. They often have outside stands with popular classics. Within the narrow passageways of books, you’ll travel back to the days of the independent book shops. The service is also very helpful. If in need of suggestions, the cashiers will ask you about your reading/book preferences and help with your selection.

Bridge Street Books, 2814 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington DC 20007 202-965-5200

The outside facade of the colorful Potter's House Bookstore.
©Daniel Lobo/Flickr

Potter’s House

This cozy bookshop ticks the box for most qualities you want in a bookstore. There is plenty of seating, glass windows, a calm vibe and pour overs made with Counter Culture coffee beans. The bookstore itself focuses on local writings, ecology, cultural studies, psychology, activist writings and liberal Christianity. (Note: There’s a non-denominational Church in the back. The group frequently helps out in the local community.) The friendly atmosphere is perfect for taking the time to decide if you want to purchase a book by relaxing and reading it in a cozy chair with a great cup of coffee.

Hours: Monday-Friday 7AM-9PM, Saturday 8AM-10PM,Sunday 8AM-6PM

Potter’s House, 1658 Columbia Rd NW Washington DC 20009 202-232-5483

By Lauren Gruber

Reflective of its name, this bookstore attracts local artists, leftists, working-class patrons. The new books they sell boasts an impressive canon written by females and writers of color as well as a plentiful LGBTQA section. Conveniently, also a cafe and restaurant it hosts open mic nights as well.

Price: Mid-Range

Hours: Monday-Thursday 8AM-12AM, Friday 8AM-1AM, Saturday 9AM-1AM, Sunday 9AM-12AM

An outside sidewalk sale of books at Second Story Books and Antiques.
©Elvert Barnes/Flickr

Address & phone number: 1025 5 St NW Washington DC 20001 202-789-2227

Second Story Books & Antiques

The Dupont Circle bookshop gives used books a new revival to used and old books. Here you can also find many first edition, hard-to-find books. The collection of books seems to be finely curated with a focus on non-fiction. They have so many antique wonders here that history buffs and early-edition hunters are bound to find an interest.

Price: Mid-Range

Hours: Daily 10AM-10PM

Address & phone number: 2000 P St NW Washington DC 20036 202-659-8884