City Paper is not for tourists
Book blogger Maud Newton recently launched a feature on her site in which readers and writers weigh in on their favorite bookstores. This week it’s been all about D.C.: Yesterday former Post Book World Deputy Editor Chris Lehmann praised one Dupont Circle haunt, Books for America, and today Sean Carman makes a case for Kramerbooks.
Lehmann is more in the right, I think—I’m not so quick to dismiss Kramerbooks as “a yuppie pick-up venue decorated haphazardly with Times bestsellers,” but it is a frustratingly noisy place to casually browse in. And as much as I appreciate Books for America as an excellent place to pick up good fiction cheap, it’s—-how to put this?—-nowhere near disorganized enough to be one of my favorite used bookstores.
I confess I’m spoiled. My taste in used-book shopping was refined in San Francisco, where for a brief, beautiful moment in the mid-’90s there were five stores within a ten-minute walk from my apartment. (Among them were Aaben Books, Acorn Books, and A Novel Idea—-in SF, competition among bookstores to be near the top of the phone listings is apparently fierce.) All of them were untidy to some extent—-some parts of one store that shall remain nameless had book stacks that resembled (and smelled like) mulch piles, and I suspect its second floor was intermittently used as a crash pad. But with used books, the element of surprise is crucial, which is why I loved those places, and neither Books for America or Kramerbooks scratch that itch. (Stephen Elliott has blogged for Newton about another SF store, Adobe Books—-see?—-that to my mind is the all-time champion on that front.)
I haven’t been in D.C. long enough to find the slovenly bookstore of my dreams. Any suggestions?