The other day I found myself in Dupont with time to spare, and I ambled down 19th St. to one of my favorite bookshops for some quality perusing. When I reached my destination, however, I discovered locked doors and a dark interior. Dumbfounded, I read the taped up notice and discovered that Olsson’s Books & Records, a 36-year-old neighborhood staple, closed for good on September 30th. I was under the impression that Olsson’s status as a DC destination came with perennial popularity, but I guess I was mistaken. I have to wonder: how many people actually buy books from independent bookstores?
While there’s nothing wrong with the average bookselling behemoth, there’s a charm to smaller shops that the big guys can’t duplicate. In DC there are bookstores where you can thumb through your new purchase with a beer, find the poetry section in a kitchen cupboard, and pet the owner’s cat while you browse. There’s Politics & Prose in Tenleytown, Lambda Rising in the heart of Dupont Circle, and Kramerbooks for the night owl crowd. Many independent bookstores also showcase up-and-coming DC, Maryland and Virginian writers that you won’t find anywhere else.
Take The Writer’s Center’s bookstore, for example. We carry books by Instructors and Staff, excellent writing and publication resources, and loads of literary journals you won’t see at any chain location. Our inventory is available online, at https://www.writer.org/store/index.asp. Plus when you visit The Writer’s Center’s bookstore, you give local business a significant boost and provide direct support to the area arts.
I consider myself lucky to live in a thoroughly literate city with plenty of independent bookstores because I think they shape the character of the community. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. There was another thing taped to the door of Olsson’s, a note in neat cursive that read: “Thanks for making the city feel like home. Tyler.”