Girl holding cup of hot tea and reading in bed. Around her in bad earphones, book, smart phone. Decorative lights in background.

Get excited for your trip to DC by doing a little preparatory reading. Here are our recommendations for the books about the District.

Washington: A History of Our National CityBy Tom Lewis

This masterful history by professor Tom Lewis is a great way to learn about the development of Washington, D.C. over the past few centuries. You’ll learn about the lives of key figures like Pierre Charles L’Enfant, Charles Dickens (yes, that Dickens), and George Washington.

The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They MadeBy Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas

The Washington Post labeled this nonfiction work about Harry Truman’s efforts to rebuild post-war Europe as one of the top books about the District. Pick up a copy for some insight into how the city’s political elite navigated Cold War politics.

Lost Washington, D.C.By John DeFerrari

DC residents can get nostalgic for the days when Columbia Heights was still a little-known secret without a Metro stop and Five Guys ruled the dining scene. But this fascinating history of the city’s old neighborhoods and once-bustling urban centers will show you just how much the city has really changed over the years.

Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape
By Kirk Savage

Planning to visit DC’s monuments? Make sure to read up on the secret battles that went into shaping the National Mall with this meticulously researched look into DC’s lesser-known past. Architecture buffs will love hearing about the contentious battles over the construction of DC’s memorials.

Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Development of Washington, D.C., 1790-2004By Pamela Scott

There’s no denying that the armed forces have played a crucial role in shaping Washington’s culture, but did you know they also shaped the city’s physical look? For more, check out this intriguing book about the army’s role in designing DC.