District of Columbia

Second Story Books – Washington, D.C.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” So reads one of the many literary quotes adorning the walls of Washington, D.C.’s Second Story Books, an impressive used bookstore specializing in rare titles and boasting a massive inventory. In fact, it’s been touted as one of the best shops in the D.C. area and cited by USA Today as one of the best bookshops in the country. 

Purchased by Allan Stypeck in 1973, Second Story is D.C.’s oldest used bookshop, having grown from a small second-floor location to, at one time, six locations from Alexandria, Virginia, to Baltimore, Maryland. As online sales increased, the brick-and-mortar shops consolidated into two current locations – the Dupont Circle store I visited and a warehouse store in Rockville, Maryland. 

Upon stepping into the shop, my eye immediately landed on the large glass case of rare and valuable books. I saw several I’d love to add to my collection – but these folks know book value and, alas, my wallet held tightly closed! From there, I ventured further into the shop, exploring its tall shelves of well-organized and enticing titles. 

In addition to its inventory, Second Story is essentially a full-service book business, offering such services as appraisals, auctions, bookbinding and management of special collections. And their healthy online store brings their massive inventory to would-be shoppers who can’t physically make it to the area. 

The shop pays homage to its long history through its impressive website and even features some of its vintage advertising campaigns on YouTube, like this one:

The Dupont Circle location of Second Story Books is located at 2000 P St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20036. Open daily.

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