Kensington Row Bookshop
A few highly recommended local bookstores (with the exception of some university bookstores that are run by Barnes & Noble, there are no chain bookstores in DC) around the area that you might want to consider visiting in honor of Independent Bookstore Day. If you live in the area. If you don’t live in the area… well, use your phone. You can do all sorts of things with your phone these days. Google something. Or Yelp it. Don’t make this my problem.
Politics & Prose: Kind of the godfather of local indie bookstores. It’s got a really nice poetry section; second only to Bridgestreet Books, in that respect. Also, go downstairs and check out the discounted books – walk down and make a sharp left.
Bridge Street Books: I already mentioned the poetry section, which is both large and well-curated (with an eye towards promoting contemporary and conceptual poetry). It’s also really big on leftist/critical theory type stuff, filling it’s current affairs, lit crit, philosophy, and politics shelves with books in that vein. Curation, really, is the key to what makes this place great.
Kramerbooks: It’s not my favorite, in terms of the selection (not a small selection, necessarily, just not always my cup of tea), but… c’mon. This place is an institution. Gotta love it.
Busyboys & Poets: Up there with Kramerbooks and P&P in its locally iconic status. Lots of stuff on grassroots organizing, race, immigration, economics, etc. Not just liberal, but activist in nature. Technically, it’s run by Politics & Prose. For years, it was run by an awesome nonprofit called Teaching for Change and I didn’t realize that had changed until I looked up the website for the bookstore. Now I’m feeling kind of bummed out.
Capitol Hill Books: This is my neighborhood bookstore. Quintessential, piles of books in danger of collapsing on the perusers. Funky and friendly. But don’t piss off the owner.
East City Bookshop: A relatively new bookstore with some really comfy places. A little mainstream for my taste, but some excellent curation in its small poetry section.
Upshur Street Books: This place is out of the way for me, but it’s worked really hard to be both a neighborhood and citywide cultural touchstone. A focus on works by writers of color and great symbiosis with the bar next door, which regularly holds book/author themed happy hours. Selection is small, though.
Second Story Books: It’s almost big enough to get lost in and has lots of really (and sometimes pricey-ish) old tomes, as well as offering legitimately rare, antiquarian books.
Kensington Row Bookshop: Not actually in the District, but in the cool little antique row area of Kensington, Maryland. Lots of events and a great focus on kids.