Find Your Next Read at These Independent DC Bookstores
Get lost in the stacks.
There is, perhaps, no better feeling than cozying up at home with a good book to read—and we don’t mean on your phone or Kindle. Despite a societal shift to all things digital, we’re happy to report that there’s still a healthy demand for books made of good old-fashioned paper, and the romantic experience that comes with picking one out.
DC has a wide range of independent merchants, from favorites that have served their respective neighborhoods for generations to new shops devoted to cookbooks and other niche content or supporting marginalized communities and voices, such as queer bookseller Little District Books and MahoganyBooks, which specializes in books written for, by, or about people of the African Diaspora. So, if you’re on the hunt for your next page-turner, start your reading journey right here with this roundup of the best independent bookstores in DC.
A recent opening from local hospitality industry veterans, Bold Fork Books is a food-centric shop that specializes in cookbooks, foodie memoirs and biographies, and more. Besides perusing the shelves for inspiring recipes, you can also attend one of Bold Fork’s regular author talks—which, hot tip, often involve snacks and bites to enjoy.
This quintessential local bookshop opened its doors back in 1980, and it’s been a favorite ever since. Lit out front by a charming neon sign, the narrow, multi-level space at Bridge Street Books is tiny but mighty, with a wide selection of political and historical books as well as poetry, fiction, art, and more
You simply cannot talk about bookshops in DC without mentioning Busboys and Poets, which now has nine different locations across the DMV area. Its flagship location was opened on 14th and V Street NW in 2005 as a community hub for artists and progressive thinkers, and that’s still the ethos of the shops today. Besides selling books for all ages, Busboys and Poets is also a full-service restaurant and bar that regularly hosts open mic nights, readings, and other cultural events.
This charming little shop has been a fixture of its eponymous neighborhood for decades at this point. Browsing the titles within this bi-level bookstore is like a treasure hunt, and best done with patience and time to spare. Capitol Hill Books is known for its quirky signs (you’ll see what we mean) and vast selection of secondhand books, that stretch from cheap paperbacks to first editions and other very rare and expensive copies.
This indie bookstore has been a DC staple since it was first opened by Bill Kramer nearly 50 years ago. Located just north of Dupont Circle, it boasts a charming space filled with a wide range of well-curated books, from bestselling novels and cookbooks to works by local authors. The adjoining cafe, All Day by Kramers, offers up American fare and is beloved for its hearty slices of pie and cake. To add onto the all-in-one venue, the bookstore recently expanded its bar, launched a pop-up sandwich shop in collaboration with barbecue favorite Federalist Pig, and opened a barber shop upstairs.
A queer-owned bookshop that celebrates the stories of the LGBTQ community, Little District is a brand new addition to the Barracks Row neighorhood, which the shop’s website names as “ a haven for the LGBTQIA+ community over the last 50+ years.” The shop’s owner has made a point to say that Little District has books for absolutely all ages, from children’s books to novels, political nonfiction, and more.
A longtime fixture of Adams Morgan’s bustling 18th street corridor, Lost City (formerly known as Idle Time) specializes in carrying used and rare books, along with popular new releases. It’s easy to get lost in there, no pun intended, wandering around the three floors of shelves, which are packed tight with every kind of book one could imagine.
A family-run business that started out as an online shop, MahoganyBooks now has two physical storefronts to call home, one in Anacostia and another in National Harbor. The Black-owned shops are dedicated to books written for, by, and about people of the African diaspora. In each shop (and online), you’ll find a curated selection of nonfiction books, cultural literature, and books for kids.
When it comes to literary programming, Politics and Prose might just take the cake. The longstanding bookshop, which can now be found in three locations around the city, plans at least one event each day—some of which have attracted the likes of Barack Obama and other public figures. Each location has a huge selection of books to browse, political and otherwise, and the Chevy Chase location boasts a cozy basement cafe.
Another community-oriented bookshop, Potter’s House specializes in stocking a curated selection of books based around the subjects of social movements, justice and equity, cultural studies, and spiritual traditions. Besides the joy of perusing their titles and having a coffee at the cute nonprofit cafe, you can also feel good about shopping at Potter’s House thanks to their transparently fair wages and the fact that they draw electricity for the store entirely from wind power.