Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C.’s, premier independent bookstore, has been in business since the Reagan Administration—to be precise, the fittingly novelistic year of 1984. Since that time, the store has grown from two employees (the original owners, Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade) to a staff of more than 100 in three locations. Among the store’s many patrons are two local authors: Barack and Michelle Obama. We talked to Wendy Wasserman, the store’s director of marketing and communications.
ZYZZYVA: What’s the coziest spot in your store for reading?
WENDY WASSERMAN: Cozy can mean so much. For the little ones, we have a rabbit hole in our children and teens department downstairs at our Connecticut Avenue location, perfect for kids to crawl into a corner with a book. Upstairs, on the adult floor, we have a reading table where I see customers every day diving into the splay of books in front of them. My cozy go-to, however, is taking a book break in the back corner of our coffee shop, appropriately named The Den.
Z: What’s a little-known fact about your store?
Always get the last word.
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WW: Politics and Prose opened its doors nearly 40 years ago across the street from our current flagship location. Customers came out to create a conveyor belt, handing box by box from one person to the next, spanning from the old store and the new. Some of our loyals still talk about that day!
Z: How would you describe the smell of your shop?
WW: Our store smells like spring optimism.
Z: Which new book would you recommend most to readers?
WW: Local authors are a home run for us, and as we are in D.C., we like to joke that many of our customers have either written, reviewed, or been a source for a book. A hometown favorite we are pushing for presale is Do Tell by Lyndsay Lynch, a romp of a novel set in Hollywood’s Golden Age. Lyndsay is currently a buyer for Parnassus Books in Nashville. However, she hails from D.C. and jump-started her bookselling career working for us. We are always tickled when she talks about writing the first draft of Do Tell in our break room. It will be a summer sellout.
Z: Aside from your own, what’s your favorite bookstore?
WW: I’m partial to The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox, Massachusetts. The booksellers there know how to creatively curate small spaces. I love that the wine bar is so subtle that it feels like a bookshelf.