Lambda Rising

A bookworm visits one of the world’s oldest LGBT bookstores

So you’ve got a little pocket change lying around and you want to get your partner something nice.
How about a rare book? Just $1500. Or there’s one for just under $900, if you prefer. And if neither of those are enough, well, Lambda Rising in Washington, D.C. has one for a mere $32,000. Sorry, there’s just one available. It’s rare, remember?

Was I on the lookout for a book so one-of-a-kind that it’s kept under glass? No. Was I in desperate need for a brittle, yellowed paperback printed before I was born? Not really. Don’t I have enough books? Never, but that’s not the point here.

What was I doing in a bookstore a few hundred miles from home, then? I was at a conference for something totally different, but when people heard I was going to D.C., the thing I heard over and
over was “Go to Lambda Rising.”

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So I walked in to Lambda Rising on Connecticut Avenue in the Dupont Circle area, and was assailed immediately by that fresh-book smell that book geeks live on. So far, so good.

Help was there for the asking, and I put myself into the capable hands of two of the hardest workers in D.C. What’s good? I asked. What do people like to read? If I was looking for something for a vacation or a gift, what would you recommend? They started to show me around.

The store is laid out in an easy-to-browse fashion, with sale books up front and a few nice displays of special events like Women’s History Month on the end of the rows. Best-sellers and new releases for lesbians were segregated from the best-selling and newly released books for gay men. Huge segments bulge with biographies and history, parenting and sexuality, and one entire wall is packed with rows and rows and rows of fiction. There’s a small section for children with parents who are gay, and a good selection of young adult books and books on how to come out.

What Lambda Rising is most proud of, though, is a huge and growing section of the store that’s devoted to one-of-a-kind, out of print, and signed books — some of them, first-editions. Hundreds of unique books are just sitting on the shelf and many of them were hardcover at beneath-paperback price. I had to almost slap my own hands to keep from caressing the mass market paperbacks (those little pocket books), large PBs, tons of hard covers.

And then there were those very rare, very valuable books. Lambda Rising owner, founder & president Deacon Maccubbin told me about some of them. He, personally, owns a book signed by Oscar Wilde. (I nearly swooned). He and his rare-books expert explained about how they find special owners for these unique and exquisitely impossible-to-find books.

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“If someone comes in to the store and says, ‘Do you have a book by…?’ well, we just might.” Looking for a hard-to-find book to complete your series, a signed rarity, or something really unique for the Person Who Has Everything? They’ll help you find what you need. The store does a lot of online selling and shipping, and it’s all done by hand.

I could’ve spent all day in Lambda Rising. As it was, I spent 2 hours and most of what was in my wallet. I restrained myself, like the good book geek that I am.

And that $1500 rarity? Nope. It’s still there. Got any pocket change?

Terri Schlichenmeyer is a book reviewer and literature lover. She lives in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books

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