The Best D.C. Bookstores (Featuring Book Recommendations!)

D.C. residents are extremely well read.

It is a must if you are living in a city with so much happening in politics, diplomacy, and social justice movements. In order to fit in with the locals, shop at these six independent D.C. bookstores. For each bookstore, I will also provide Jetset readers with a book recommendation that matches each shop’s personality. I believe that it’s really important these days to support local businesses especially BIPOC businesses!

Politics and Prose

015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

Politics and Prose
INSTAGRAM @politicsprose

Politics and Prose is easily the most famous independent bookstore in Washington D.C. and maybe even in the United States. The store was founded in 1984 and is a huge establishment showcasing two grand floors of books with a special focus on politics. Famous writers and figures, including: Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Annie Leibovitz, Bill Clinton, and more have spoken at this store. When you visit Politics and Prose, expect to spend hours browsing the shelves and talking with the staff. Since Politics and Prose is such a D.C. staple, my book recommendation is Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital by Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrov, so that you can learn more about Washington D.C.’s diverse and impactful history.

Sankofa Video Books and Cafe

2714 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

Sankofa Video Books & Cafe
FACEBOOK Sankofa Video Books & Cafe

Sankofa Video Books and Cafe was founded in 1999 by filmmakers Haile and Shirikiana Gerima. It aims to highlight the abundance of literature and movies by people of African descent. It is one of the oldest Black-owned bookstores in D.C. and its name, Sankofa, derives from the Adinkra term for “going back to our past in order to go forward.” Sankofa is a key concept for why education and history is deeply intertwined with justice and equality. For this bookstore, I am recommending the classic educational theory, Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere. This book is a great place to start learning about liberation for oppressed people around the world and how it can be incorporated into education worldwide.

Capitol Hill Books

657 C St SE, Washington, DC 20003

Capitol Hill Books
FACEBOOK Capitol Hill Books

Capitol Hill Books is the most quaint used bookstore in the nation’s capitol. The store was founded in 1991 by Bill Kerr and is now owned by Jim Toole. Here you can find rare editions and classics of all sorts that are packed to the brim of the shop. Books are stacked everywhere, so watch where you step because it can be a bit cramped. Also, be sure to not take in your cell phone because phones aren’t allowed in the store. Capitol Hill Books is quite the bookworm experience, so adding onto that, I am going to recommend a classic: Beloved by Toni Morrison. This book is a must-read that is incredibly intimate, beautiful and heart-wrenching.

Kramer and Afterwords Cafe

1517 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

Kramerbooks
FACEBOOK Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café

Andy Warhol, Maya Angelou and Monica Lewinsky, are some of the many celebrities who have visited this famous bookstore in Dupont Circle. Kramer and Afterwords was founded in 1976 and still stands strong today. It’s an extremely lively and tight space, giving it a vibrant atmosphere. At night, the cafe turns into a bar and even with this you can still shop for books. Since Barack Obama has also visited this bookstore, I thought it would be fitting to recommend a book by his amazing wife, Michelle Obama, and her incredible biography, Becoming. I think this book will also give you a deeper insight into the city and its politics.

Mahogany Books

1231 Good Hope Rd SE, Washington, DC 20020

MahoganyBooks
FACEBOOK MahoganyBooks

Mahogany Books is another incredible D.C. bookstore which focuses on African American literature. The motto on its website states: The Place Where Black Books Matter. It is also located inside the Anacostia Arts Center which further shows its mission of serving D.C.’s Black community. For this bookstore, I am going to recommend The Vanishing Half by Brit Barnett. This book is a New York Times bestseller which follows the Vignes twin sisters and their lived experience through America’s racist history.

Loyalty Bookstores

843 Upshur St NW inside of Willow

Downtown Silver Spring, MD at 823 Ellsworth Drive

Loyalty Bookstore
INSTAGRAM @loyaltybooks

Last but not least is Loyalty Bookstores. Loyalty is relatively new and has two locations in the D.C. area. It is founded by Hannah Oliver Depp, a Black and Queer bookseller who aims to diversify the book world and empower communities. Depp believes that “books are home” and successfully created an inclusive literary environment and community through Loyalty. It truly is an incredible and welcoming place. For this bookstore, I am going to recommend a new bestseller, The Death of Vivek Oji: A Novel by Akwaeke Emezi, in order to shine more light on up-and-coming Queer Black writers.

Vivian Bauer

Editor

Vivian is passionate about everything related to music, art, and language. When traveling, she loves to walk for miles, try all kinds of food, and visit every museum. She has lived in Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil while hoping to one day travel to Mongolia and East Timor.

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