District of Columbia

Capitol Hill Books – Washington, D.C.

An impressive collection of new and used books, friendly and knowledgeable staff members, and a wicked sense of humor help Capitol Hill Books stand out against its Washington, D.C, contemporaries. 

Located in D.C.’s historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, the shop has been a fixture for nearly three decades, opening in 1991 by Bill Kerr, a former bookstore employee who’d been known to take his paycheck in books. Bill lived upstairs and worked downstairs in the shop, in addition to holding down a job at The Washington Post. When Kerr died in 1994, the shop was sold to Jim Toole, who ran it until last summer, when a group of the shop’s employees — Aaron Beckwith, Matt Wixon, Kyle Burk, and Shantanu Malkar — took it over. (Wixon died earlier this year, following a diagnosis of colon cancer.)

While initially occupying space on the first floor, Capitol Hill Books has expanded over the years to include the upstairs area and basement, leaving shoppers with three levels of books to explore, many shelves stacked floor to ceiling. Visitors will find books in just about every nook and cranny of the shop, as its website boasts: “fiction books in the Fiction Room, mystery books in the Mystery Room, foreign language books in the bathroom, cookbooks in the kitchen on the kitchen sink, business books in the Business Closet, and a Weird Section for those who like witches, dreams, and things that go bump in the night.”

In addition to a wealth of books on every subject imaginable, the shop is known for its witty handwritten labels and signs. Books by conservative republicans, for instance, may be found on the “Wacko Stacko” shelf, while Harry Potter readers may find the occasional humorous “spoiler” when picking up a copy.

Hmm…a Harry Potter spoiler alert?

While the current owners fully intend to keep the shop’s unique charm very much alive, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for small improvements. Plans include expanding store hours, increasing the selection of rare books, and more author events. The community-minded store already hosts a Second Saturday event each month, featuring wine, cheese, a book club discussion and a 10% discount on purchases.

If you can’t make it to D.C. right away, don’t fret. You can also check out Capitol Hill’s expansive website, featuring an online store and popular blog, as well as an active roster of social media accounts.

Capitol Hill Books is located at 657 C Street SE, Washington, DC.

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