Bookshops of the World, Vol. 5: Washington, D.C.

When we at the Attic head out into the world, we head to its bookshops. Bookshops of the World is our series documenting our favorite bookshops, not just in our hometowns but around the world. In this fifth edition, Olivia and Raquel browse Washington, D.C.’s bookshelves.

In our travels, we often find ourselves reserving the typical attractions for later in a trip, or sometimes not getting to them at all in the first go (sorry, White House, but you know what you did). Instead, we seek out our own attractions, usually heading there as quickly as disembarking a plane, luggage and gifts fully in tow. We seek out books, and ideally some food or coffee as well. Luckily for us, many Washington coffee shops are chameleons, with everything you could need in a single outing. So why bother going anywhere else?

As you’ll read below, Kramerbooks was not only our first meeting point as we found ourselves happily reunited in a city that was technically neither of ours, but familiar to Olivia and on Raquel’s travel list for some time, but it became a home base as well, perfectly situated between our respective stays in the Georgetown and Adams Morgan neighborhoods. The rest came from recommendations and on the spot map searches, and some were even found along the way.

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Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe
1517 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA

Kramerbooks is quite possibly Olivia’s favorite bookshop anywhere in the world. Having discovered it on her first trip to Washington many years ago, she goes back every time and loves that it not only has a wonderful and extremely browsable collection of books, but that it has a full restaurant in the back – with everything from coffee to beer to pie and Cubanos and brunch. She and Raquel visited no less than three times this trip.

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Second Story Books
2000 P St NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA

A secondhand bookshop to spend hours getting lost in… which is exactly what Olivia and Raquel did. Full of rare books, hardcovers, unexpected signed editions, prints, and a good selection of secondhand novels, Second Story Books has everything you need.

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Idle Time Books
2467 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA

Situated on Raquel’s side of town, this tiny shop nestled between the eclectic restaurants and bars covering 18th Street in hip Adams Morgan features secondhand books of all genres, including politics, out of print, and contemporary fiction. For the more vintage-inclined, the shop also features records and stacks of antique postcards. Though tiny, its walls are packed so tight you could stand searching until sunset, and never know what may pop out, as Olivia learned finding a signed copy of a title she had been seeking out back home for months.

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Busboys and Poets
Multiple Locations

Talking about the bookshop on Instagram, Raquel said “When you have a type and they open a bookshop together...” and really… it’s true. An independent bookshop that is also “a community gathering place” dedicated to activism and culture. The U Street Corridor flagship is beautifully curated and has a fantastic selection of books on race, gender, and society, as well as its founder, Andy Shallal’s mural “Peace & Struggle.” Like Kramerbooks, it also has a restaurant and café and is a fantastic place to sit and have some strong coffee.

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Bridge Street Books
2814 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA

A beautiful little bookshop somehow tucked away on Pennsylvania Avenue just before it turns into M Street. Spread over two stories, Bridge Street Books is everything you want a bookshop to be: well-curated, charming, and even boasting a staircase and mezzanine. The shop has a collection of secondhand books outside and new releases indoors.

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Special Mention:

Politics & Prose
Multiple Locations

An ultimate Washington bookshop and Lee Clark’s favorite. Known for its wonderful selection of both literary and political books, as well as its events – Lee saw Lauren Groff at the bookshop last year, Politics & Prose is an institution. Raquel and Olivia didn’t have time to make it to any of its other locations, but it is on their list for next time and is already an Attic favorite. For those of you who don’t have time to make it to Politics & Prose’s not-so-central locations, they now operate the above mentioned Busboys and Poets.

Olivia Gündüz-Willemin is Editor-in-Chief of The Attic on Eighth. She is dedicated to reading her way through the world and trying to stay as calm as possible.

Raquel Reyes is Creative Director at The Attic on Eighth. She enjoys styling photo shoots, dramatic hair accessories, and old fashioned cocktails.