Washington Reading List

January 25, 2010

They cover everything from romance and poetry to political scandal and the supernatural, but these books have one thing in common: their D.C. setting.

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson: This compulsively readable work of nonfiction begins with the murder of Abraham Lincoln and traces the escape and capture of John Wilkes Booth and a host of conspirators. Key sites depicted in the book—including Ford’s Theatre and Peterson House, where Lincoln died—are easily accessible from GW. In addition, a Manhunt exhibition developed in conjunction with author James L. Swanson is at D.C.’s Newseum through May 31. 

All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones: A beautifully wrought collection of short stories told from the African American perspective and set in the city throughout the 20th century. The book’s Pulitzer Prize-winning author will join GW’s faculty this year as a professor of English.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty: Set in 1940s Georgetown, the horror story of demonic possession still has the power to scare readers. And the Exorcist stairs, made famous in the 1973 movie, are a little more than a mile up M Street from GW.

Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon: GW Adjunct Professor of English Thomas Mallon sets his compelling novel in 1950s Washington, D.C., where two gay men attempt to navigate double lives at the State Department at a time when “sexual subversives” are increasingly part of the McCarthy witch hunt.

The Night Gardener by George Pelacanos: D.C. detectives investigate similar murders separated by two decades. A Washington, D.C., native, George Pelacanos has written 15 crime novels set in and around the city. 

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu: The poignant story of the struggles of an Ethiopian immigrant in D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood. The author, who was born in Ethiopia, is a Georgetown graduate.

Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, D.C.: This newly released collection features more than a hundred contemporary poems with subjects ranging from D.C.’s monuments to its lawyers and half-smokes. Edited by Kim Roberts, a former visiting poet at GW, contributors include Professor of English David McAleavey and part-time faculty members Christina Daub and Ramola Dharmaraj. 

All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein: The classic page-turner chronicles the investigative reporting of its Washington Post authors from the initial aftermath of the Watergate break-in to the resignation of some of its key players. A room in GW’s Hall on Virginia Avenue, then a Howard Johnson hotel, was used as a “lookout” by Watergate burglars.

Sammy’s Hill by Kristin Gore: Soon to be a movie, this light-hearted story of life and love on Capitol Hill by Al Gore’s daughter is a fast read.