Looking for a Farsi translation of "Cuba: The Evaporation of a Myth"? Revolution Books in Adams-Morgan has it.
Several blocks away, at Lambda Rising bookstore above Dupont Circle, there are books of interest to gays and lesbians -- and a barrel for food donations for victims of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
At Pyramid Book Store on Georgia Avenue NW, books such as "The Negro in Northern Brazil" are a specialty.
And in the bookstore the U.S. Government Printing Office maintains on North Capitol Street NW, the president's tax reform proposal is a best seller.
A few years ago most Washington bookstores were the staid purveyors of best sellers, classics and general interest paperbacks.
Specialty bookstores tended to be those that sold only books about religion.
But no more. Today, there are a number of specialty bookstores that mirror the face of the area.
David Marcuse, manager of the Common Concerns bookstore on Connecticut Avenue NW, a politically oriented bookstore, credited the "incredible explosion" in specialty publishing houses as the major reason for the growth in small bookstores here in the past 15 years.
"It's virtually impossible for a large, general bookstore to develop depth in every area that they cover, and a small bookstore can't compete with them on their turf," he said. " . . .If you're going to be like them, you're not going to win."
Washington, which Marcuse describes as having one of the highest per capita spending rates for books, is home to about 100 bookstores.
Most are located west of Connecticut Avenue in the Dupont Circle area, in the city's wealthier communities, such as Georgetown, and in transitional neighborhoods such as Adams-Morgan.
Revolution Books on 18th Street NW is one of several bookstores in the country operated by the U.S. Revolutionary Communist Party. The Adams-Morgan outlet has eight shelves of books by Marx, Stalin, Lenin and Engels; and because the store is located in the city's largest Hispanic community, about half of its volumes are in Spanish.
Not far away, on Mount Pleasant Street, volunteers from the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance run Militant Books in a building that also houses the party's local headquarters.
The small bookstore specializes in socialist books and periodicals, particularly those dealing with Central America and the Caribbean. It sells a number of issues of Granma, the weekly newspaper of the Cuban Communist party, said staff member Debbie Lazar.
Bookworks, a store operated by the Washington Project for the Arts, an umbrella cultural group, features original "artist-made books" that are hand-tinted, hand-printed and bound by their authors, said manager Skuta Helgason.
"Every time a local person brings in his book or record, I take them on consignment. . . .I hardly ever turn anybody away," Helgason said.
Hodari Ali, proprietor of Pyramid Book Store at 2849 Georgia Ave. NW, runs one of the city's few black-oriented book stores. "I've been here 12 years," Ali said, and in a city whose population is 70 percent black, "there should be a lot more business."
Twenty-five percent of the customers of the store, which specializes in books by and about blacks, come from Howard University, two blocks away, Ali said.
Pyramid's collection ranges from biographies of performers such as Lena Horne and Tina Turner to books such as "History Is a Weapon" by the Soledad prison poets and "Black Life in Corporate America."
But Pyramid also stocks "Heartline Romances," with blacks pictured on the covers.
Lambda Rising, on Connecticut Avenue, sees itself as "a community-oriented bookstore -- not just gay community, but also nongay community," said James M. Bennett, who owns the store with L. Page Maccubbin. "Being on Connecticut Avenue allows us to perform an educational function," exposing passersby to gay literature, Maccubbin said.
In the back of Lambda Rising, behind the books of gay studies and "history/herstory," is a community bulletin covered with notices and announcements.
A barrel for collecting canned food for AIDS victims stands in the front of the store.
The Government Printing Office bookstore north of Union Station is one of the city's oldest specialty book stores. Founded in 1947, its specialty is government publications.
It is also part of a chain. There are 20 GPO bookstores nationwide, with plans to open outlets in shopping malls.