The Story of Politics & Prose

The Initial History

Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade began in a small store at 5010 Connecticut in the autumn of 1984, by themselves and a part-time employee who worked at night. Before a year was up, there were two full-time employees. By 1988-89 there were a half-dozen and the store was bursting. We moved across the street to 5015 in the summer of 1989. We now occupy more than 8,000 square feet of sales space, and almost 14,000 feet of total business space, including offices and café. We have a staff of more than 50 employees.

Click here to watch a video of Barbara and Carla conversing with E.J.Dionne about the history of the store. It was filmed during the 25th anniversary celebration.

The Merger

In 1999, Jewell Stoddard, a partner in the Cheshire Cat, the preeminent children’s bookstore in the United States, decided to move in with Politics and Prose. Since the Cheshire Cat, 10 blocks up the street, was an inspiration for our “grown up” store, it was a perfect match, and Politics & Prose Children’s Department is now larger and sells more children’s books than Cheshire Cat did.

Change of Ownership

Carla Cohen died in October 2010, and in June 2011, Politics & Prose was purchased by Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine. Brad was a longtime journalist with The Washington Post. His wife, Lissa, also worked as a Post journalist for a number of years, and then served as a speechwriter to Hillary Clinton at both the White House and the State Department. Click here to read a message from Brad and Lissa.

The Name

The name was set when there was only Carla Cohen figuring out a niche for a new bookstore in Washington. She wanted a Washington-sounding name that wasn't pretentious. The P&P name worked against Carla and Barbara in the beginning, since customers thought the store specialized—that it didn’t include cooking and children, poetry and travel. Now—well, it’s just our name.

The Goal

Here’s the goal as stated years ago by Carla and Barbara: “The bookstore will offer superior service and unusual book choices; it will serve as a gathering place for people interested in reading and discussing books.”


Today at Politics & Prose

Our staff loves books and enjoys helping customers find books they will enjoy reading. We see the store as a fun place to be, to shop, and to work in. We chat with customers. We urge them to sit down and look at books before they make a decision. We tell them what we know. We go the extra mile in trying to locate a book for a customer. We have events for play as well as to learn. We make it easy for customers, trying to move them through the line as fast as possible.

We are selective about the books that we order, offering what is important to our customers and what is important to us. We sell books about the nation and the world, about people’s lives and their ideas, and we love fiction. Our staff tries to read as much as we can so that we can recommend new books. It is the enthusiasm and commitment of the staff that make the store unique.

Our author talks and our publications are integral to everything that we do. We want to facilitate the relationship between books and authors and readers. Authors enjoy coming to P&P because the staff treats them with respect and the customers are exceptionally well informed. It’s a great chance for authors, who work in solitude on their books, to meet readers. Our customers enjoy the author talks and the constant activity of the store. It’s a lively atmosphere.

We host authors every night and often twice on weekend days. Publishers compete to place their authors at Politics and Prose because we do our homework and know the book when we introduce and because we have a great audience.

We host many book groups, some run by staff, some run by interested customers. In addition, we provide books for about 75 book groups that order their books for discussion through the store. We also have classes on literature and psychology that meet at the store and serve store customers.

Customers

Like the children of Lake Wobegon, all of our customers are above average. The store’s location on the border between Washington and Maryland presents us a very large circle from which to draw customers. We selected the neighborhood for its unusual demographic characteristics, and the store and customers are a perfect fit with one another.

Luck and Hard Work

The success that Politics and Prose has had represents the luck of being in the right place at the right time. We opened when it was still possible for a store to start small and grow bigger. We grew bigger before the chains opened. We seized every opportunity to increase our visibility and expand our business. We have tried strategies that didn’t work and we have given them up. We have been flexible and open to change, at the same time as adhering to our goals.

The Future

We will look for new ways to make books a popular entertainment to compete with other leisure activities. We will continue to explore links between books and travel and the arts, as well as books that help us understand ourselves and our world. We will be planning trips, meals together, movies, music, and other activities that enrich our lives.

We have built a community and the community has built the store.

 

Media Coverage

The New Yorker

Politics & Prose & Perfection & (I Hope) Permanence - The New Yorker

 

LA Review of Books

A Community Spine | The Los Angeles Review of Books

 

Red Tricycle

Kid Lit: The Best Indie Bookstores for Budding Bibliophiles

 

Economist

The future of the bookstore: A real cliffhanger | The Economist

 

Colbert Report

Amazon's Scorched-Earth Tactics and Edan Lepucki's 'California' - The Colbert Report - Video Clip | Comedy Central

 

Slate

Junot Diaz is Live at Politics & Prose, a new Slate podcast.

 

Politico

Hillary Clinton: Speaking my mind ‘liberating’ - POLITICO.com

 

Washington.org

Date Nights DC Itinerary: History Lovers | washington.org

 

Racked DC

The Best Beach Reads for Summer 2014 From Politics & Prose - Beach Reads - Racked DC

 

Voice of America

Despite Increased Competition, Independent Bookstores Thrive in US

 

Highbrow Magazine

Top Literary Cities in the U.S. | Highbrow Magazine

 

Minnesota Public Radio

The best books to read this summer | Minnesota Public Radio News

 

Brightest Young Things

BYT Summer Reading List - BrightestYoungThings - DC

 

Christian Scientist Monitor

Children's nonfiction is increasing in popularity, say authors - CSMonitor.com

 

Washington Business Journal

Politics & Prose to take over retail bookselling operations at Busboys & Poets - Washington Business Journal

 

POPville

Busboys and Poets Partners with Politics and Prose opening P&P book sections in new Brookland B&P in December and Takoma in January | PoPville

 

Independent Publisher

Independent Publisher: THE Voice of the Independent Publishing Industry

 

Chronicle Books

Support Your Local Bookstore and Give Books! (Part 2) | Chronicle Books Blog

 

Huffington Post

Obama Stuns Us (And Bookstore Shoppers, We Assume) In Leather Jacket, Dark Jeans

 

SFGate

Anthony Marra, David Finkel win first-ever Carla Cohen Literary Prize - Bookmarks

 

Travel & Leisure

America's Best Bookstores- Page 5 - Articles | Travel + Leisure

 

Quivering Pen

The Quivering Pen: Bookstore of the Month: Politics and Prose

 

Conde Nast Traveler

Washington, D.C.'s Best New and Used Bookstores - Condé Nast Traveler

 

Business Insider

Best Bookstores In The World 2014 - Business Insider

 

Daily Candy

Capitol City Charm | The Best Kids’ Bookstores | Everywhere

 

The Glass List

A Bookstore and a Dream Bank

 

Yelp

Bookshops For Big Readers - Washington DC | Yelp

 

Freelancers Union

America's coolest indie bookstores and cafés - Freelancers Union

 

WAMU

With National Book Festival, Politics & Prose Lands Biggest Stage Yet | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

The Art of the Political Memoir - The Kojo Nnamdi Show

 

Buzzfeed

44 Great American Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit

Hillary Clinton, Liberated - BuzzFeed News

 

Flavorwire

Peek at the Staff Picks Shelves From Indie Bookstores All Over America – Flavorwire

Indie Bookstores’ Great Business Practices – Flavorwire

45 Great American Indie Bookstores to Support This Holiday Season

 

Book Riot

Innovative Indies: Shop Independent No Matter Where You Live - Book Recommendations and Reviews | BOOK RIOT

Not all Bunnies and Birthday Cake: Experts on the State of Picture Books - Book Recommendations and Reviews | BOOK RIOT

 

Roll Call

Politics and Prose, Busboys and Poets Join Forces

Politics & Prose Gives Amazon the Business - Heard on the Hill

 

Fishbowl DC

The Ten Most Crowd-Pleasing Quotes at Hillary Clinton’s Talk at GW | FishbowlDC

Politics & Prose Highlights Thread at Union Market | FishbowlDC

 

Washington Independent Review of Books

6 Things We Learned from Our Day at Politics and Prose | Washington Independent Review of Books

Politics & Prose Calls for Submissions for New D.C.-Based Anthology | Washington Independent Review of Books

 

Bookselling This Week

Politics & Prose to Showcase Fellow Indies at National Book Festival | American Booksellers Association

Politics & Prose Named Official Bookseller for National Book Festival | American Booksellers Association

 

CNN

Liberated Hillary Clinton takes sigh of relief after first leg of book tour blitz – CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs

Obama does some ‘Small Business Saturday’ shopping – CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs

 

LA Times

President Obama shops local for books with Sasha and Malia - LA Times

Obama buys spy novel, sports and kids' books on shopping trip - LA Times

 

CBS DC

Best Children’s Bookstores in Washington, D.C. « CBS DC

Best Specialty Bookstores In Washington DC « CBS DC

Best Places To Buy Mother’s Day Gifts In Washington DC « CBS DC

 

New York Times

Honoring Small Business, Obamas Go Book Shopping - NYTimes.com

In Obama’s Book List, Glimpses of His Journey - NYTimes.com

A Rustic-Looking Respite and a Home for Authors - NYTimes.com

Bookstore in Capital Seeks Its Next Chapter - NYTimes.com

 

USA Today

Obama marks Small Business Saturday at D.C. bookstore

10Best: Bookstores around the USA

Discover DC's Libraries and Literary Landmarks in One Day: [CITY] Tours & Itineraries Article by 10Best.com

Iain Banks' final work to be a book of poetry

Nine destination bookstores worth putting on a tourist's itinerary - USATODAY.com

 

Publishers Weekly

PW and the Obamas: Meeting Up at Politics & Prose to Buy Books

Nonfiction in Picture Books: A Panel Discussion

First Carla Furstenberg Cohen Lit Prize Winners Revealed

A Better Investment Than Pizza: Discussing Picture Books at Politics and Prose

 

Washingtonian

Politics and Prose Celebrates 30 Years in Business | Books | Washingtonian

Hillary Clinton Is Candidential | Books | Washingtonian

New Carla Cohen Literary Prize, First Winners Announced | Books | Washingtonian

What I’ve Learned: Politics & Prose’s Barbara Meade | People & Politics | Washingtonian

Washingtonian Favorites: Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade | Washingtonian Favorites | Washingtonian

 

Washington City Paper

Politics & Prose to Take Over Busboys and Poets’ Bookstores - Arts Desk

District Lines, Reviewed - Washington City Paper

Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices at Lisner Auditorium - Arts Desk

Tonight is World Book Night, And You Could Get a Free Book - Arts Desk

Politics and Prose's Social Network: How Much is a Beloved D.C. Bookstore Really Worth? - Washington City Paper

Reader Poll: D.C.'s Best Book Store 2014 - Washington City Paper

Reader Poll: D.C.'s Best Book Store 2013 - Washington City Paper

Reader Poll: D.C.'s Best Book Store 2012 - Washington City Paper

Reader Poll: D.C.'s Best Book Store 2011 - Washington City Paper

 

Washington Post

Mystery: Who will Cara Black take to Paris? - The Washington Post

Authors to visit D.C. for Indies First, a campaign for independent bookstores - The Washington Post

2014: A good year for book lovers - The Washington Post

Politics and Prose will open satellite stores in Busboys and Poets restaurants - The Washington Post

Politics & Prose offers ‘a room of one’s own’ - The Washington Post

Politics and Prose wins National Book Festival contract - The Washington Post

Politics & Prose publishes ‘District Lines’ II - The Washington Post

Hillary Clinton and Lissa Muscatine: From first lady and speechwriter to author and bookseller - The Washington Post

Is your book club this fancy? - The Washington Post

New literary prize in honor of late Politics & Prose Bookstore co-owner - The Washington Post

Independent bookstores turn a new page on brick-and-mortar retailing - The Washington Post

5 bookstores recommend 5 titles for Valentine’s Day - The Washington Post

Parenting advice: How to get your kid to love to read - The Washington Post

Inspiring the reluctant reader - The Washington Post

Obama shops at well-known Washington bookstore Politics and Prose - The Washington Post

Customizable classics at Politics & Prose - The Washington Post

Politics & Prose Bookstore offers free shipping over Memorial Day weekend - The Washington Post

‘Saturday Night Live’ spoofs Paula Broadwell’s reading at Politics & Prose (video) - The Reliable Source - The Washington Post

Literary Washington: Where to get your fix when the book festival ends - The Washington Post

D.C. ranked most literate city in the nation - The Buzz - The Washington Post

Doonesbury Strip

Print your own book at Politics & Prose - The Washington Post

Thomas Heath - Bookish Doyennes Nurture D.C. Landmark

The Changing Bookstore Battle