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20 essential books about Washington, D.C.

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All worth a read!

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Illustration by Paige Vickers

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated with the most recent information.

For those who really want to know Washington, D.C., don’t hesitate to check out the following books. The literature listed below takes a deep dive into some of the many neighborhoods in the nation’s capital as well as the architects that built them, from James Goode’s “Best Addresses” to Scott W. Berg's "Grand Avenues.”

The main focus of this list is how D.C. came to be built, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on the city that are also worth reading. Have a favorite book that wasn’t included here? Let Curbed DC know in the comments.


“Best Addresses” by James Goode

This massive, well-researched book is the authoritative guide to every apartment building in and around Washington, D.C. Along with photography and examinations of the people who built and lived in these properties, Goode goes above and beyond when it comes to documenting the architectural wonders of the nation's capital. Goode was the winner of Washingtonian's prestigious "Washingtonian of the Year" award.

“Buildings of the District of Columbia” by Pamela Scott

Every aspect of Washington, D.C. is investigated in this publication, from the District's major government buildings to its monuments to its neighborhoods, while unearthing the myriad number of changes the city's architecture has experienced since the Revolutionary War.

“A History of Dupont Circle: Center of High Society in the Capital” by Stephen A. Hansen

Today, Dupont Circle is known for its variety of retail and restaurant options, but at one point it was full of small farms. In this publication, one can learn about its beginnings as well as how it eventually became a home for U.S. President William Taft, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and extravagant balls.

“Greater U Street” by Paul K. Williams

In the early 1900s, U Street was mostly populated by African Americans due to racial segregation in Washington, D.C. It was the site of culture, music, and later the riots of 1968. See what else causes this Northwest neighborhood to be so unique and so significant in the nation's capital.

Inside Washington, D.C.'s Most Beautiful Libraries [Curbed DC]

Hey, Bookworms! Here Are D.C.'s 10 Best Spots for Reading [Curbed DC]

This new coloring book is perfect for transit lovers in D.C. [Curbed DC]