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Politics and Prose

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Politics and Prose
Independent bookstore
Industry Bookselling
Founded 1984 (1984)
  • Carla Cohen
  • Barbara Meade
Area served
Washington, D.C., USA
  • Bradley Graham
  • Lissa Muscatine

Politics and Prose (sometimes stylized as Politics & Prose or abbreviated as P&P) is an independent bookstore located in Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C., on Connecticut Avenue. The store was founded in 1984 by co-owners Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade, who expanded the store fivefold to its current size. After a failed sale attempt in 2005, the two co-owners eventually sold the store to current owners Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine in 2011. Politics and Prose is known for its knowledgeable staff and is seen as a part of DC culture. Its author events attract a number of famous speakers, such as Bill Clinton and J.K. Rowling, and have a reputation for their astute audiences.


Founding and growth[edit]

Carla Cohen, after losing her job with the Carter administration, decided to create an independent bookstore in Washington, D.C., despite having no previous experience with running a business.[1] She partnered with Barbara Meade, whom she found through the classifieds, and who, with her previous experience of managing a bookstore, became a co-owner early on.[1] Cohen decided to name the store Politics and Prose because it was "Washington-sounding" and not pretentious, and the two co-owners founded the store in 1984.[2] Meade worried that the name was a put-off, and the store struggled at first to attract authors to speak at its events and relied on local journalists to publicize the location.[3] The store's original location in the Forest Hills neighborhood was across the street from its current spot, and in 1989, Politics and Prose moved to their present larger location after finding success.[1] Politics and Prose has over the years expanded their sections and collections. The store merged with a nearby children's bookstore, the Cheshire Cat, and incorporated its staff in 1990.[1][4]

New ownership[edit]

co-owner Bradley Graham introduces an author event.

In June 2010, Cohen and Meade announced their intention to sell the store; Cohen also became seriously ill around this time, and it contributed to the timing of their decision to sell.[5] Jim Lehrer wrote of the impending sale, "...putting Politics and Prose up for sale is like putting the Washington Monument up for sale."[5] There was considerable speculation in the media about possible buyers for the store.[6][7] There were reportedly over 50 inquiries by October into the possible purchase of the store from Meade and Cohen's husband, David, who inherited her stake in the store after her death from cancer.[1][8]

It was announced on March 28, 2011 that two former employees of The Washington Post, Bradley Graham, and his wife, Lissa Muscatine, had purchased the store from Meade and David Cohen.[9] The store was reportedly sold for $2 million, although price was not the main factor in the selection of new owners.[9] Meade fully retired from work in the store on December 31, 2012.[10]

New Developments[edit]

Since purchasing the store, Graham and Muscatine have added literary classes and trips. They have also started a joint venture with Busboys and Poets to operate the bookstores attached to the restaurant. They now have satellite bookstores in Brookland, Washington, D.C., in Takoma, Washington, D.C. and downtown. [11]

Services and reputation[edit]

Louann Lofton presents her book, Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl - And Why You Should Too, to an audience in the store.

Politics and Prose has a reputation for staff who are able to recommend books to customers.[1] The 14,000 square foot space contains an Espresso Book Machine for on demand printing of self-published and out of print books, a cafe, and a number of different book genres.[1][3][12]

The store is famous for its author events, in which writers usually read an excerpt from their book and take questions from the audience.[13] The Washington Post notes that as the talks gained prominence and the store grew more popular, Cohen and Meade, the original co-owners, "became known as literary tastemakers".[1] C-SPAN broadcasts around five of the talks a month, and the store has gained a reputation for having astute and smart audiences present at readings.[5][13] Famous readers at its author events have included politicians such as Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and former Senator Edward Brooke, authors J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie, and Amy Chua, photographer Annie Leibovitz, and investigative reporter David Halberstam.[13][14][15][16][17] Cohen in the past refused to allow some prominent writers to appear in the store, such as Matt Drudge, ostensibly because of their conservative leanings.[1][18]

Politics and Prose is often seen to be an important stop for authors publicizing their work and is regarded as being a significant part of DC culture.[5][13] New owners Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine were ranked #50 on GQ‍ '​s "The 50 Most Powerful People in Washington" because of their purchase of Politics and Prose, describing the store as "...liberal Washington's most sacred space."[19] The New Yorker‍ '​s Hendrik Hertzberg commented on the unusually intelligent questions from the audience at readings, and Slate‍ '​s editor in 2007, said: "If there's one bookstore in the city you want to read in, it's obviously the place."[13][20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brown, Emma (October 11, 2010). "Carla Cohen dies; co-founder of D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 13, 2012. 
  2. ^ Parker, Ashley (October 11, 2010). "Carla Cohen, Owner of Washington Bookstore, Dies at 74". New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Douglas, Danielle (December 13, 2010). "Politics and Prose continues search for new owner". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 13, 2012. 
  4. ^ Berg, Scott (April 30, 2004). "The Inside Scoop". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 13, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Rosenwald, Michael S. (June 10, 2010). "With sale of D.C.'s Politics and Prose, a bookstore's legacy is up for grabs". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  6. ^ Hagey, Keach (June 22, 2010). "Bookstore in Capital Seeks Its Next Chapter". New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  7. ^ Hagey, Keach (December 13, 2010). "Foer, Goldberg among Politics & Prose suitors". Politico. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  8. ^ Anderson, Tom (October 29, 2010). "Politics and Prose's Social Network". Washington City Paper. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Rosenwald, Michael S. (March 28, 2011). "Politics and Prose has found a buyer". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Barbara Meade Retires from P&P". Publishers Weekly. January 10, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2013. 
  11. ^ Charles, Ron (November 6, 2014). "Politics and Prose will open satellite stores in Busboys and Poets restaurants". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 26, 2015. 
  12. ^ Anderson, Stacy A. (July 11, 2002). "Independent bookstores embrace digital publishing". The Washington Times. Associated Press. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d e Grim, Ryan (February 28, 2007). "The Politics of Politics and Prose". Politico. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  14. ^ Hennessey, Kathleen (November 30, 2013). "Obama buys spy novel, kids' books on shopping trip". MSN News. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  15. ^ Clemetson, Lynette (February 21, 2007). "A Senator’s Ambitious Path Through Race and Politics". The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  16. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (October 11, 2010). "Politics and Prose's Carla Cohen has died". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  17. ^ Hesse, Monica (February 21, 2011). "'Tiger Mother' author faces a tough crowd at Politics and Prose". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Drudge Banned in D.C.; Politics & Prose Bookstore Calls Internet Reporter 'Dangerous', Will Not Open Doors". Drudge Report. September 12, 2000. Archived from the original on February 13, 2004. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  19. ^ Cherlin, Reid; Fischer, Rob; Horowitz, Jason; Zengerle, Jason (February 2012). "The 50 Most Powerful People in Washington". GQ. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  20. ^ Hertzberg, Hendrik (June 9, 2010). "Politics and Prose and Perfection and (I hope) Permanence". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°57′20″N 77°04′11″W / 38.955452°N 77.069669°W / 38.955452; -77.069669