I’m back from my recently mentioned adventure in D.C., with a sunburn, a camera half full of photos, a rather depleted bank account and a handful of new books. J and I had a lovely time tramping around the Mall, perusing American history at the Smithsonian, chasing double agents at the International Spy Museum, and wandering Old Town Alexandria with our hosts, my pen pal Jaclyn and her husband Steve. It was hot – but we took advantage of cold drinks and air-conditioning whenever we could.
The space is smallish, but it’s crammed with an extensive stock and a team of highly efficient employees who wove around customers, shelving and reshelving books. (There’s also a cafe, which we didn’t visit since we had just eaten, but it looked delectable. And I love the ampersands everywhere.) I came away with A Novel Bookstore, which I’ve been longing to read, and the lovely Penguin Threads edition of Emma, which I’ve never read.
We headed down the street to Second Story Books, a quiet, well-stocked used bookstore, where I browsed the fiction shelves for a while.
Then a familiar spine in the biography section caught my eye: the distinctive blue of As Always, Julia, the letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. Since this book inspired Jaclyn and me to become pen pals, and since I didn’t own a copy, I took it as a sign, and purchased it.
We also hit Politics & Prose, a two-story bookstore I’d read about in Shelf Awareness. It was slightly overwhelming – so many choices! – but I loved the extensive staff recommendations and the themed tables, including this Olympic Fever display:
(That’s J in the background, perusing the politics and current events section.)
We ended our bookstore crawl on Sunday afternoon with a trip to the Book Bank, in Old Town Alexandria:
On the way out (after nosing around the fiction and children’s shelves), I casually glanced into the sci-fi and fantasy section, and nearly squealed with delight. There, for just $2, was a 1965 Ballantine paperback edition of The Hobbit – the perfect match to my Lord of the Rings set. I borrowed these books from my dad as a college student (after reading his copy of The Hobbit in high school), and I have a deep attachment to that particular edition. I’ve unearthed copies of the trilogy in Oxford, Paris and Boston, and it was so fitting and fun to complete my set with a Hobbit from D.C.
My suitcase was several pounds heavier on the plane ride home, but it was totally worth it.
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