If you’re a devoted bibliophile you should breathe a deep sigh of relief. Washington DC is full of one-of-a-kind book spots where you can unleash your inner book nerd and let your imagination run wild.
Whether you’re hunting for new reading spots or have a visit to the capital coming up, these ten DC spots dedicated to books and literature have it all, from rare Renaissance manuscripts and used books to awesome food and serene parks.
Founded in 2007 by husband and wife Derrick and Ramunda, MahoganyBooks started as an online shop, set out to provide readers across the States books written for, by, or about people of the African Diaspora.
Ten years later, they eventually opened their storefront in Anacostia, as featured in popular publications in the likes of Forbes, Essence Magazine, TIME Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. The independent and family-run bookshop has an extensive collection of every genre, from fiction, children and young adult to non-fiction, history, art and African American studies.
📚 1231 Good Hope Rd SE.
The first library café in the District, this independent bookshop remains one of the coolest and most popular spots for book lovers in DC. Much has changed in the neighborhood since Kramerbooks opened back in 1976, but this DC classic certainly hasn’t.
Small but bold, this bookstore is packed full of books from every genre imaginable and has some not-so-average events including trivia nights, erotica slams, humor readings and book swaps. If you’re looking for a nice break from your busy schedule, make sure to grab a book and a bite at the lovely bookshop’s All Day dining space.
📚 1517 Connecticut Ave NW.
THE destination for all Georgetown bookworms, this quaint bookshop is known to carry unique books from across all disciplines. Be prepared to spend a good portion of the day exploring its two levels stacked with the best books in fiction, poetry, philosophy, cultural theory, politics and art in all of DC.
Its exposed-brick façade and the warm natural light peeking in though the shop’s many windows give it extra charm. The store is now run as a non-profit after its owner’s sudden death in 2016 and continues to hold regular poetry readings.
📚 2814 Pennsylvania Ave NW.
A trip to The Library of Congress is without a doubt something that Washingtonians (and really any tourist) should take at least once in their lifetime. It’s the oldest federal cultural institution in the States and the largest library in the world.
Boasting over 173 million items, including books, films, video and audio recordings, photographs, newspapers, manuscript and maps in 470 languages, you can explore the Thomas Jefferson Building, the John Addams Building, the James Madison Memorial Building and many other facilities. Whether you want to look around the many centuries of national and world history, do research for your next college paper, you’re sure to get inspired by the many creative endeavors surrounding this place.
📚 101 Independence Ave SE.
Behold! The biggest Shakespeare Collection in the world! If you’re a book lover and a fellow thespian like myself, you cannot miss out on this wonderful collection of all things Shakespeare. It’s basically a Shakespeare-lover’s paradise. Folger Library holds the largest collection of Shakespeare’s First Folio in the world with 82 copies of the 235 in existence. That’s about a third of the copies!
In its vaults, the library holds over 270,000 printed books, 60,000 manuscripts, 90,000 prints, drawings, photographs and paintings, and 100,000 monographs, periodicals and electronic resources. The Folger Collection is also a great resource for rare Renaissance books and manuscripts. As if that wasn’t enough, its reading room looks straight out of Hogwarts. They’re currently undergoing renovation, but the building is set to partially reopen in November.
📚 201 E Capitol St SE.
Boasting two amazing locations, a Dupont Circle store and a Rockville Warehouse store, Second Story Books is the perfect DC spot for finding rare and out-of-print books, vintage maps, prints you didn’t know you needed in your life until you run into them. The bookshop also works with government and private institutions, colleges and universities, which has contributed to the expansion of the bookshop’s extensive collection.
Some of these special collections include The Russell Collection, comprising French Revolution books and documents signed by the likes of Anne Robert Jacques Turgot and Robespierre, and the Wedgewood Family Collection, consisting of eighteen books, representing the acts passed at eleven U.S. congresses between 1791 and 1826.
📚 2000 P St NW and 12160 Parklawn Dr, Rockville, MD
With fantastic views of the waterfront, Theodore Roosevelt Island and Key Bridge, this tranquil park is not just perfect for morning jogs and afternoon walks. It’s also a great place to read or study while getting some sunshine and vitamin D. Whether you want to finish reading your latest discovery at the river steps, or near the labyrinth, there are plenty tranquil spaces at the park that don’t involve the campus if the weather allows it of course.
📚 Wisconsin and K St
Café Saint-Ex may not have walls covered in books like some of the other cafés on this list, but it is definitely a must in any book and food lover’s list. This aviation-themed bistro is named after pilot and The Little Prince author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The bistro offers craft beers and fresh American bistro-inspired dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients. This place is perfect for enjoying some great food with friends and geek out over books and literature.
📚 1847 14th St NW.
This used bookstore situated on Capitol Hill is perfect for finding rare books and excellent first editions. Books spread across walks from floor to ceiling and are thematically organized in three floors. So, if you’re looking for cookbooks your best bet is to look for them in the kitchen… on the kitchen sink. Capitol Hill Books also has a “Weird Section” dedicated to those interested in witches, dreams and the occult.
We suggest heading to this bookstore without a specific book in mind and wander around in search of something eye-catching. If you’re having a lazy Saturday, head to the bookstore to just roam around, have free wine and cheese and get a 10% discount off any in-store purchase from 5pm to 7:30pm. Sign us up!
📚 657 C St SE.
Another Capitol Hill bookshop, located one block south of Eastern Market. This indie and women-owned bookstore was founded by Laurie Gillman after her neighborhood bookstore Trover’s closed. It is a place of community, where avid readers can browse new releases and old editions and come together in celebration of their love of books. They offer author events, book clubs, virtual events and Storytime for babies and kids aged four and under. It’s an amazing spot to get inspiration and meet like-minded bookworms.