Bookstore · Reading List · Reviews

5 Bookstores At Historic DC Sites

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By Molly Korroch

People choose brick and mortar stores over the internet for the experience. What could be a better D.C. bookstore shopping experience than finding a book at an historic local attraction? Museum and National Park Service sites often come complete with gift shops filled with books specifically pertaining to the site’s subject. Visiting D.C.? Kill two birds with one stone and visit any one of these beautiful places.

Ford’s Theatre

As the site of President Lincoln’s assassination, Ford’s Theatre is the most infamous theatre in America. The theater remained closed for over one hundred years until it reopened in 1968 as a working theater and national historic site. Ford’s Theatre is now both a place to see performances (sans Confederate sympathizers) and a museum and bookshop where you can learn so much more about that fateful Friday night.

The National Cathedral

Did you know that the National Cathedral is the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s final Sunday sermon? Learn that and more from the books at their on-site shop. Along with a variety of religious books and tokens, you’ll find several volumes documenting the history of both the area and the cathedral itself.

National Gallery

There’s nothing quite like an art museum gift shop. Especially if that museum is a particularly good one. Washington D.C.’s National Gallery is just such a museum. Here you can find prints, books on sculpture, art history, children’s books, impressionism–you name it! If you’re trying to find the perfect coffee table book or a gift for one of your artsier friends, then this bookshop is for you.

Mount Vernon

If you live in D.C. and haven’t been to Mount Vernon you are truly missing out. It’s the perfect spot for an afternoon walk in Springtime. Now, if you’re at all interested in George Washington or American history, this bookstore’s collection will knock you off your feet. “The Shops at Mount Vernon features the world’s most comprehensive George Washington-themed bookstore. Every book in this collection comes with a Mount Vernon bookplate, signed by the author.” From books about gardening and historical farming to first-rate historical non-fiction (Go read Nathaniel Philbrick. Now. Just go.) it’s impossible to leave this shop without feeling a tad more historically enlightened and perhaps a bit more patriotic.

The White House

Whether or not you go on a day where you can actually tour the White House, you can still enjoy it’s fantastic history at the bookstore. Here you can find a variety of historic guides, books, and other ephemera associated with the history of the building. Can you name which president was the first to live in the white house? Do you know why it’s white, or who started calling it “The White House”? Learn more about one of our city’s greatest monuments at this National Park bookstore.

Book · Reviews

5 Reasons to Read Orwell’s 1984

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By Joey Payton

The dystopian genre of books entertains us with extremely imaginative societies. Popular series-turned-movies like The Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Divergent not only wowed audiences with their engaging characters and exciting plot twists, but also served to deliver socially conscious messages through the lens of entertainment.

Before these New York Times bestsellers rose to fame, there was George Orwell’s 1984. Originally published in 1949 (in the wake of WWII), 1984 has ominously shot back to the top of best seller lists (in the wake of of November’s election).

In previous posts, the GU Book Crew took you on a journey exploring libraries, visiting bookstores, investing authors and even imagining our superheroes, but today we arrive at the doorstep of a dystopian world, which is eerily similar to the United States in 2017.

In 1984, Orwell shows, through his protagonist, Winston Smith, the common citizen’s experience in a society heavily influenced by fear, social constructs, over regulation and technology.

Here are our five reasons (not in any particular order) you must read 1984.

#1 Non-Stop War because “WAR IS PEACE”

Since the tragic 9/11 attacks on the U.S. homeland in NYC and DC, American military forces have been deployed either in direct combat operations or supporting combat operations. This parallels 1984 with the three major nations Oceania, where Smith is from, and Eastasia and Eurasia are constantly at war, with no clear sign of an end.

#2 Allies are enemies. Enemies are allies. Repeat.

During the Obama administration there was tension with our ally Israel, while there seemed to be a thawing of relationships with longtime enemy Iran, through the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump continued the relationship swap behavior, when he raised concerns due to his softened rhetoric toward Russia, although directing tough language toward both NAFTA and NATO allies. This back-and-forth and fluid shifting of allies with adversaries is commonplace in 1984.

#3 “Fake News” from the Ministry of Truth

In the U.S. the press as the fourth estate has become a challenged watchdog with the coining of the term “fake news.” There is debate whether the term is fairly used to characterize reputable media outlets, yet the truth is the media’s credibility has been sullied. In 1984, the government run ‘Ministry of Truth,’ is responsible for managing the version of “truth” that the powers-to-be want to portray. And they spend much time and effort reprinting and distributing propaganda to ensure that their version of the truth is what the public receives.

#4 Free Speech is Hate Speech

One of the benefits of being American is our First Amendment, which grants us protections for a few things, namely our speech. The concept of political correctness has developed into a social and, in some instances, legal policing of people’s stated opinions. This is the reality in Smith’s world because acts of self-expression, especially one that opposes the government, are unpardonable crimes.

#5 Telescreens (uhh…I mean smart devices) are Ubiquitous

We love our smart devices. They keep us connected to everything: people, places and ideas. They provide us with instant access to just about anything we need. Unfortunately, similar to the 1984 telescreens, which were TVs with two-way microphones and screens, our devices also give the powers-to-be access to us. Via our smart TVs, smart phones, tablets and laptops we turn on the camera and microphones of our lives for a Orwellian-style reality TV show.

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Whether you’re ready or not to attribute Nostradamus status to Orwell, it’s fair to say that his novel carries strong implications in the contemporary world.

Fortunately for us, it’s just fiction, right?

If you want more context and a detailed explanation of 1984’s implications, I recommend you read Michiko Kakutani’s NYT’s piece, “Why ‘1984’ Is a 2017 Must Read.”

Also, if you’re not much of a reader, but want to still enjoy the story, then it’s available in audio format.

Images courtesy of Blackstone Audio, Inc. and the Wisconsin Gazette
Events · Libraries · Library · Reviews

The Library of Congress a Historical Masterpiece

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By Molly Korroch

Living in D.C., we are incredibly lucky to have one of the most amazing and thorough research libraries at our front door. The Library of Congress is equal parts museum, architectural masterpiece, and library.

Walking through the United States Library of Congress is like walking through time. Though this point may seem moot, John Adams established the library for it’s literal purpose: to house reference books for the congress. This occurred in 1800, and of course, within fifteen years, the British had come and burned the whole thing down during the War of 1812.

Soon after, then former President Thomas Jefferson donated his personal library. This collection served as the beginning of the massive—including over 158 million pieces—library we enjoy today.

The library is actually comprised of three buildings. The grandest is the aptly named Thomas Jefferson Building. The building opened to the public in 1897, and before that the collection was housed in the Capitol building.

The architecture of the building is a monument to the volumes it houses. It borrows styles from every corner of history. The intention was to create an amalgamation of the best of the best. On your visit, pay close attention and you’ll see references to famed thinkers, writers, and historical works in every nook and cranny of the building.

The main architect, Paul J. Pelz, created a building, “Perfectly suited to a young, wealthy, and imperialistic nation in its Gilded Age. The materials—marble (15 varieties), granite (400,000 cubic feet), bronze, gold, mahogany—were expensive but would last a thousand years.”

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Fast Facts

Place: The Jefferson Building of The Library of Congress

General theme: You name it, they’ve got it. Also, marble upon marble upon marble.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years

Food/Drink: Vending machines and a little coffee shop on the cellar level

Wifi: Yes and No. Check out this list to find out where Wifi is available

Events: Amazing exhibits! Remember those books Thomas Jefferson donated? You can see them! Right now there’s an exhibit on World War I and an exhibit about the history of music in baseball

Appointment necessary: Depends on what you’re researching! Here is a list that includes the hours and whether or not an appointment is necessary for all the Library of Congress reading rooms

If this place were band: Billy Joel — Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (If ever there were an architecturally overdone American amalgamation, this is it.) 

Images via Al Jazeera and The Library of Congress
Bookstore · Events · Reviews

A Little DC Without the Bougie: Politics and Pros

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If you have lived in DC long enough, you might’ve heard of Politics and Prose. With many locations in DC, and their affiliation to Busboys & Politics, its known for a great variety of books, community place, and a good hang out spot. Not only do they have the new-est books, Politics and Prose also hosts exclusive author talks and frequent events throughout the city.

Fast Facts

Place: Politics and Pros on Connecticut Ave. NW, and including all Busboys & Poets locations

General theme: “Something that evokes Washington, but not pretentious” – owner Carla Cohen

Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

Food/Drink: Busboys & Poets has a full menu and bar. Politics and Pros location on Connecticut has a coffee shop on the lower level. 

Wifi: Busboys & Poets does!

Events: A full list of calendar events can be seen here, with info on Busboys & Poets too! 

Appointment necessary: Nope! 

If this place were band: John Lennon – Imagine 

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Bookstore · Events

A Night With Auntie Maxine

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters, or also known as Auntie Maxine, held an open-mic reception at Busboys and Poets on 5th and K St. just last Friday in anticipation of the Tax Day March. This reception was an invitation to “young writers, bloggers and all millennials who have profiled her opposition to President Trump and leading conversations on Twitter regarding what’s at stake under his administration” according to BusBoys & Poets.

GU Book Crew made a quick stop to see what the event was all about, and it did not disappoint.

For those not following Auntie Maxine, she is a leading women in the impeachment of President Trump. She has been serving as a U.S. Representative since 1991, the most senior of the 12 black women currently serving in congress, and a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

What you might see circling around the internet is her famous “We’ve got to stop his ass!”  video which took place at Busboys. Busboys and Poets is known for its safe space for community engagement and radical connections, so it’s no surprise that Auntie Maxine let it all out.

BusBoys and Poets takes pride in being a community gathering place, a place to feed your body, mind and soul, and a space where culture and politics collide. At all locations, you will find paintings from local artist and/or activists. With a full menu, full bar, and book store in every location, its a perfect spot for community engagement and fun.

Fast Facts

Place: Busboys & Poets – Locations include 5th &K, 14th & V, Shirlington, Hyattsville, Brookland, Takoma

General theme: Community, culture, art

Hours: Hours vary by location, but you can typically expect 8:00 a.m. – midnight Monday-Thursday, 8:00 a.m.-1:00 a.m. Fridays, 9:00 a.m.-midnight on weekends.

A Brief History: Established in 2005, Anas “Andy” Shallal, an activist, artist and ‘restaurateur’, wanted to create a community gathering place. The first location on 14th & V received a welcoming embrace, especially from those opposing the Iraq War. Since then six more locations have been opened in distinct DC neighborhoods.

Food/Drink: Yes. Full menu, full bar. You can check out their menu here, which includes vegetarian, gluten free and vegan options.

Wifi: Yes.

Appointment necessary: Nope! Although, if you come with a party you should make reservations.

If this place were band: Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit