Best Indie Bookstore

East City Bookshop
645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Suite 100, (202) 290-1636
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

The book industry is walking a curious tightrope. Bookstores that used to be so ubiquitous across the U.S (Barnes & Noble, Borders, B. Dalton) have largely disappeared into a black hole created by Amazon and a shrinking brick-and-mortar economy. Yet there is still a yearning for the old-fashioned book-shopping experience.

Sometimes it’s helpful simply to be in the same space as books. The solitary act of reading can be supplemented with wandering around aisles, picking up random titles, and inhaling the scent of pages. Being in the presence of books is an act of hope—that answers can be found, that there’s a world where imagination is paramount, and that you will finally, finally pick up a copy of War and Peace.

Though so many bookstores are no longer with us, independent stores have experienced a renaissance and have become a surprising protagonist of the industry’s retail story. New, indie stores have been popping up, giving readers a renewed sense of hope that they can reclaim their sacred space.

East City Book Shop is one of those. Opening last April to excited Southeast D.C. patrons, it offers a selection of new titles in a cheery space. Its goal was to be reflective and supportive of its Eastern Market neighborhood, and in just a year the store has managed to become a touchstone for patrons and part of the community’s DNA.

Of course, to be a bookstore these days isn’t simply to open shop and allow novels to gather dust. D.C. is full of ravenous, type-A readers who long for engagement beyond shopping. So East City has created a wide variety of events that reach out to people of different backgrounds and experiences. This means hosting storytimes for children, acoustic rock shows inspired by literature, and an audiobook/crafting club, among a host of other creative offerings. Their deep love of reading and the yearning to support and spread that to others is clear. Which is one reason this indie gem has a dedicated fanbase that is only set to grow.