It’s mercilessly cold outside and there’s a recession on. What better time to bury one’s head in a book? Here are the best metro area bets for walking out with an armload of reading material for $20 or less.

Capitol Hill Books

An Eastern Market institution if only for its lovable curmudgeon of an owner (no, his signs are quick to inform you, he will not the stock the works of Palin or Beck), this heavily trafficked Capitol Hill store boasts an impressive array of American politics and history (natch), mysteries and fiction — and all stacked to the ceiling in such a manner that one can’t help inevitable landslide that’s coming.

657 C St. SE, DC; (202) 544-1621;

The Old Book Company

Rare and out of print is the name of the game at this hangout for McLean bibliophiles and, unlike your run of the mill, mildewy used book store, condition and quality are at the top of the OBC’s checklist. That means no dog-eared Ann Rice or Tom Clancy remainders. Instead, they offer an impressive array of obscure tomes on everything from political philosophy to metaphysics — gems all.

6829 Redmond Dr., McLean, VA; (703) 734-0858

Friends of the Montgomery County Library — Rockville

Practically a library unto itself, the deep, deep shelves at this Rockville book depot hold high quality excisions from the county’s library stock or donations from patrons themselves — all of which adds up to more books than could ever possibly sell. Stop by on Saturdays when the kosher supermarket next door is closed and the store of especially sleepy or check out their two other locations in Gaithersburg or Wheaton.

4886 Boiling Brook Parkway, Rockville, MD; 301- 984-3300;

Second Story Books — Annex

Second Story’s Dupont Circle is location is satisfactory, even if the prices are high and the stock selective. Good thing they needn’t worry about shelf space then at their Rockville warehouse that holds more than half a million titles (and most of which always seems to be marked down 20% or more). But beware: don’t forget to bring a list or you might wind up getting lost for the better part of the day.

12160 Parklawn Dr., Rockville, MD; (301) 770-0477;

Hole in the Wall Books

Just when you thought the very last moldering comic shop dungeons of your youth had given up the ghost, here comes Hole in the Wall to reassure you of the vitality of sci-fi geekdom. A medley of new and back issue comics take up the shop’s front room, while the back is filled with, oh, about three decades worth of science fiction and fantasy paperbacks. Might we add that everything is also up for haggle? Excelsior!

905 West Broad St., Falls Church, VA; (703) 536-2511;

Books for America

The profits from this charitable bookstore just off Dupont Circle go towards the construction of children’s libraries across the country, so everything is always priced to move — and at fifty cents and up, taking home a ream of recently donated, like new books isn’t exactly a challenge. And it’s not only that they stock by the boatload — check out their CDs, DVDs and comics as well.

1417 22nd St. NW, DC; (202) 835-2665;

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