Politics and Prose
5015 Connecticut Avenue
Washington, DC 20008
Just ask my husband and he'll tell you that at times I can get almost as worked up about politics as I can about books. We jokingly refer to each presidential election year as yet another test of our marriage. So what more appropriate bookstore for me to visit in the D.C. area than Politics and Prose, a name which encompasses both highly charged interests. This store had come highly recommended to me by a number of people, so I was looking forward to seeing it for myself. I was not disappointed.
Politics and Prose is about a mile walk from the Metro, but worth the trip. Its long, awning-covered, glass storefront is situated on a wide sidewalk in a semi-residential area. I felt at home right away upon seeing a sign in the window stating, "We love local blogs." Barely through the door, I was greeted by a friendly staff member. As a matter of fact, the entire staff was incredibly helpful. Everywhere I turned, someone was asking if I needed any assistance.
I was immediately drawn to the basement level, which for me is the best part of the store. It houses the children's section as well as the Modern Times coffeehouse. So after a brief tour of the the main level, I headed down the stairs. Now, a basement can feel dank and gloomy, but this one is anything but. The shop has actually taken advantage of the staircase and built a clever, comfy space for kids underneath. The painted basement brick is offset by carpeting, primary colors, bean bags, and book bins providing a cozy nook for pint-sized readers. And I found the selection of children's books to be outstanding.
At the back of the basement, a walkout entrance provides additional access to the coffeehouse which offers a full range of coffee beverages as well as breakfast items. I ordered my usual, a mocha, and although the place was very busy, I managed to find a seat amidst an eclectic mix of tables and chairs. Black and white photo art adorns the walls, and the space has what I would call an artsy, literary, bohemian feel.
I finished my coffee and headed back upstairs for a more detailed look at the main level. In the fiction section near the windows, I noticed something especially intriguing, the Opus book printing machine. One of the latest advancements in publishing, this technology uses digital files to produce high quality paperback books in just a few minutes. Patrons can select from available copyright and public domain titles, and the Opus will produce a single paperback for them in 5 to 10 minutes. But even more significant is that authors have a convenient, approachable means of self-publication. Yes, you can write a book and publish it on Opus. How cool is that! (See FAQs about Opus for more details.)
Of course, Politics and Prose has a wide selection of books including one of the largest graphic novels sections that I have seen. But the store also boasts an interesting assortment of non-book items including shirts, hats, reading glasses, book bags, puzzles, planners, calendars, games, cards, mugs, socks--and this is a first for me--gardening accessories. That's right. Enhancing a display of gardening books were lovely designer gardener's gloves and matching tools.
Politics and Prose seems to be a busy place with something special going on all the time. A quick perusal of their monthly calendar told me, for example, that the store offers not just one book club, but several book groups each for a specific reading interest such as science fiction and fantasy, teen, public affairs, and travel to name just a few. The store also offers an array of classes from author studies like William Faulkner: The 1930s to a variety of writing classes such as a fantasy writing workshop for teens, a memoir writing workshop, and an intensive writing clinic. And anyone who has ever struggled through James Joyce's Ulysses, like I did during my senior year of college, will appreciate the store's celebration of Bloomsday featuring readings from the classic novel followed by festivities at a local Irish pub.
Author events abound at Politics and Prose. The June calendar showed an author visit on every day but one, and some days had two authors on the schedule. As an added service, the store podcasts these events. You will recall that during my visit to Hooray for Books! Maryam told me about attending one such event featuring John Green, a favorite author of mine. On the day of my visit, I took an interest in a title by author Simon Mawer, scheduled for an event the following evening. The book is a historic novel set in WWII titled Trapeze. I was pretty sure that I would not be able to attend the event, but decided to purchase the book anyway feeling certain that I would enjoy it. I also selected a Politics and Prose hat as a souvenir of my thoroughly enjoyable visit. Now, I have already mentioned how incredibly helpful the store staff is. Well, when I took my purchases up to pay for them, the young woman behind the counter informed me that since I could not attend the author event, I could leave my book at the store, and they would have it signed by the author for me and then ship it to me the following day. Now that's customer service.
Shortly after returning home from Washington, D.C., my signed copy of Trapeze arrived, and I began reading it almost immediately. I was right. I did enjoy it. And I thoroughly enjoyed my wonderful trip to Politics and Prose.