Like many people these days, I do a lot of my reading either online or on an electronic device of some sort. But every now and again, I have the urge to open up a book and thumb through the pages. I especially love the soft feel of worn pages and old cardboard—used books fit me like a glove.
When the yearning hits me, the place I go to is the Capitol Hill Books, a used bookstore located in the heart of the neighborhood of the same name. It’s a very quirky place, but it’s owned and run by people who know their books.
The store is in an old rowhouse that was never redesigned to be a retail space so when you enter the place, the first thing that you notice is that it's crammed—and I mean, floor to ceiling crammed with books. Whatever doesn’t fit on the shelves is piled up as high as it can be on the floor. There is logic to the layout madness, but there are no overhead signs to tell you which section is what. So you have to ask.
Part of the fun of coming here is just scanning through the shelves and piles of books. It’s like a treasure hunt. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a book you never knew existed but now you just have to have! I’m still hunting for my cookbook on canapés. Okay, I confess, that’s my excuse for my next trip back to Capitol Hill Books.
Metro Stop: Eastern Market (Blue/Orange Lines)
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Rare and Used Bookstore with an Opinion
Capitol Hill Books looks more like a hoarder's basement than a bookstore, and makes Barnes & Noble seem like the Library of Congress. While it might not be the best place to pick up the newest bestseller, it's exceptional for its collection of rare books, as well as its snarky, not-so-subtle opinions about various genres and authors.
For example, a hand-written sign next to A Million Little Pieces by James Frey reads, "Lies, lies and more lies. But read it anyway," and another above the Twilight series simply says, "Vampires Suck." If you're willing to do a little digging, you might come away with a first edition copy of one of your favorite books, but be sure to check the price first, in pencil on the inside cover. Don't let their reviews deter you, and take everything with a grain of salt (that is, despite the Post-It pinned to the copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sitting on the front counter, "Ron does not die at the end of the series."). Way to be, CHB.
When you finally find your way out of the maze of books—which may take hours—make your way to the Eastern Market next-door for fresh produce, meats, and handmade goods!