I have found my Platonic ideal in Capitol Hill Books. This bookstore is everything a used bookstore should be.
It has mounds and stacks and piles of semi-organized books filling up its two stories in Eastern Market. It has an amiable yet prickly proprietor. It is filled with bookish customers discussing deep thoughts. It is perfect.
Even better, the second Saturday evening of every month finds the bookish customers enjoying free wine and cheese in the aisles. As I moved carefully between the stacks with a glass of Merlot in one hand and an armful of winter layers in the other, I was entertained first by the labels on the stacks, the spoiler tags sticking out of the books on display (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Ron dies, The Little Prince: Young Vladimir Putin), and the discovery that all the French books are kept in the bathroom.
Upstairs, where I found an early edition Dorothy Parker, some regulars were reading aloud from Cannery Row and drinking beer.
Open every day, Monday to Friday 11:30 to 6 and Saturday and Sunday 9 to 6, Jim is likely to be there to give you a deal and a hard time. Depending on how he thinks you did as a shopper, finding your way in his trove, he will give you a deal on your purchase: the way only an owner can. And, as only someone who just doesn’t care can, he will flay you alive.
Find the store at 657 C Street, SE, tucked away across from the Eastern Market building. I can’t imagine anyone leaving this place disappointed.