Two weeks ago on an extremely cold but sunny Sunday afternoon. A friend and I were slugging our way back to the metro station after seeing the last vestiges of Eastern Market in D.C. As we were turning to leave the market — I spotted a local bookstore my friend had mentioned wanting to check out. Upon entering, a grumpy looking old man in a worn baseball cap yelled at us to shut the door behind us. Then in the same breath informed us that there was home brewed beer in the back yard.
This, Ladies and Gents, was our first introduction to Capitol Hill Books.
Amused and a little disconcerted — we took in our surroundings. The bookstore was literally in a row house and it looks as though a hoarder of used books has filled it with every volume imaginable. Complete with three floors (basement, ground floor and upstairs) — the place was entirely cluttered and disorganized with large hulking book shelves filling every nook and cranny of the building. If there wasn’t space for a shelf to fit then there would be a pile of books stacked high. No part of the shop was safe from the onslaught of books. Even the bathroom had a whole genre of books in it — French poetry or theatre, I believe.
As we made our way slowly around the cramped shop (trying not to bump into people or shelves) we started to notice the signs for some book titles. On a copy of The Little Prince was a little note over it that said “The story of a young Vladmir Putin, the self-appointed prince of Russia.” When walking over towards the coffee table book section a handwritten sign on the shelf informed us they were great for “emergency kindling, step-stools, intellectual peacocking.”
As we made our way to the back of the shop — there was sure enough a door leading to a back yard. As promised, there were two kegs of home brewed beer with several people already filling up their plastic solo cups. A coffee porter and cherry ale.
By the time we left (45-minutes later) the shop had begun to get crowded. We made our way to check out with four used books between us (including the earlier mentioned copy of The Little Prince) and having consumed four cups of the coffee porter (which was delicious).
Capitol Hill Books as I came to find out, is a known D.C. gem and it’s no wonder why. In spite of how easy it is to order books online these days or go to a Barnes & Noble — there is something special about a quirky book shop. Capitol hill Books offers tons of personality. It’s not a place to go searching for a specific book but rather a place to discover a new one.
If you’re in D.C. and love bookstores — check out Capitol Hill Books. But, claustrophobics beware — it’s a tight squeeze!