Step inside the book: DC By the Book

Jen King, Host Committee Member

Are you one of those people who likes to read novels set in a city before visiting? If so, here’s a great website and app that use excerpts from a list of DC-based fiction to encourage exploration of the District.

DC By the Book is a crowd-sourcing database and associated app created and managed by the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL). The project was developed by the DCPL with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Studies’ Library Services and Technology Act grant program.

From the website, users may read excerpts, use the mapping feature to locate geographic locations or specific titles to see what has already been mapped, and add content to the database. There is also a comprehensive list of books currently included in the database. Here is your reading list of fiction set in DC.


The search features also allow you to use a zip code and find the books mapped for the part of the District you want to explore. For example, if you type in 20008, the zip code for the neighborhood of the Marriott Wardman Park, you can read excerpts of books that describe parts of DC near the conference hotel. Also, use the May/June Archival Outlook Host Committee suggestions for cool neighborhoods to visit and, while exploring, use DC By the Book to read descriptions of these neighborhoods found in fiction.


In addition to the ever-expanding website the project also created an app available for both iphone and android that currently has 8 walking tours of different neighborhoods or specific books with the excerpts that correspond to geographic locations. Each tour includes specific excerpts and a map for easy navigation. Some tour stops include audio and photographs to provide context and a more interactive experience. You may walk or bike (remember you can rent a bike through Capital Bikeshare) along any selected route, none more than 3 miles, and read a description while you stand on the same street corner or look at the same building the author describes.

Host Committee member John Martinez recommends the U Street corridor as a cool neighborhood to explore. While visiting this historic neighborhood consider taking the less than 1 mile tour on the app and you will find yourself reading excerpts from local authors including George Pelacanos, Connie Briscoe, Kia DuPree, and Edward P. Jones.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s