Favorite ink-and-paper places

I have a Nook. I like my Nook. But I like bookstores more.

And living in D.C., there are bookstores abound. There are Barnes and Noble chains, sure. But I prefer stores with a little more local style. And the ones you find unexpectedly that steal your heart.

One of these is Capitol Hill Books. Last Sunday I was at Eastern Market. I browsed the artists’ stands, bought a few juicy, ripe peaches and settled in a cafe to read for a little while. Then, as I was leaving, I saw it. A bookstore! A used bookstore! So I went inside, and oh was it perfection. Small, cramped, musky and full to the brim with books. Nonfiction downstairs, fiction a the top of a slim set of creaky, carpeted stairs with books piled on all sides. The books were arranged by author in some sort of alphabetical nature that caused a good kind of confusion. The authors’ names were written in black Sharpie on pieces of white paper, taped up on the shelves. Classical music wafted through the store from small clock radios set to a classical station. I spent at least an hour there, totally enamored with it all. If you live in D.C. or are visiting, go!

When going for something with newer titles; a clean, sleek and organized feel; and a coffee shop to go along with it, Politics and Prose in the Van Ness neighborhood of D.C. is an amazing spot. They have wonderful and frequent author events, a wide and carefully crafted selection, as well as a lot of cute bookish gifts (such as coffee mugs, fun bookmarks and book journals.) They tend to pick the nicest, and thus most expensive, versions of books. There is a small used book section downstairs, but the selection there is lacking. Politics and Prose is my go-to for the author events or to purchase a copy of a book that recently came out. The prices are more than Barnes and Noble for, say, my most recent read “The Art of Fielding.” They don’t have any discounts unless you get a membership to the store — and the membership discounts aren’t that vast. They sell books at the publishers listed price on the back of the book. But, I’m OK with shelling out a few extra dollars to help support a local independent instead of Barnes and Noble, and Politics and Prose has an undeniable charm.


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