District of Columbia

Politics and Prose at the Wharf – Washington, D.C.

Before ever visiting a Washington, D.C., bookshop, I was aware of Politics and Prose. I suppose if the city were to have a flagship indie, this would be it? (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!) The website calls itself the city’s premier indie bookshop and cultural hub, operating three locations.

The original store was opened in 1984 by Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade, staffed by the two of them and a part-time evening seller. The name was meant to evoke the feeling of the city’s political atmosphere, but the shop has never specialized in solely political books. While there are certainly plenty from which to choose, think of Politics and Prose as a general interest indie bookshop that spans the genres.

Within five years of its opening, the store was bursting at the seams and moved to a retail space across the street twice as large. The original store is now a behemoth and includes a coffeehouse, as well as the two smaller branch locations throughout the city. It’s one of those branches that I visited during my bookstore crawl. 

Located at the Wharf – a mixed-use development on the city’s Southwest Waterfront featuring shops, restaurants, parks, piers, marinas, live music, hotels and more – this Politics and Prose branch provides a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle taking place all around it – a quiet oasis to get lost for a while.

Inside, you’ll find a nice selection of new books, along with a variety of bookish gifts like socks, journals and the like. Tall shelves line the edges of the space, with various display tables peppered throughout. While not expansive in terms of retail space, the high ceilings offset any feeling of smallness. 

The browsing experience reminded me a little of being in a scaled-down version of something like a Books-a-Million or Barnes and Noble – like a mall version of a large chain. If you like the experience of that kind of shop, but with a more intimate feel, Politics and Prose is definitely work checking out. I was hoping to make it to the flagship store, but didn’t have the chance. Maybe next time!

Politics & Prose at the Wharf is located at 70 District Square SW, Washington, D.C. Other locations are in Northwest D.C. and Union Market. The Wharf branch is open daily.

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