New Guidebook: Local Writer’s Take on D.C.

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Author Samantha Sault speaks at the Sept. 10 party at Cafe Milano for her new travel book about Washington, D.C. Photo by Neshan Naltchayan.

The Moon series of travel guidebooks has published “Washington DC,” a fat paperback larded with color photos, plus a set of map pages and a good-sized foldout map, attached inside the back cover — which invites would-be purchasers to “See the City with a Local.”

The series began in 1973 with Bill Dalton’s “Indonesia Handbook.” It now offers travel guides to states, cities and national parks, along with several “Road Trip” guides and seven “City Walks” itineraries in cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and Rome.

The new D.C. book is by Samantha Sault, who formerly wrote a weekly entertainment column for the Washington Times. Professing “a genuine love for ‘the swamp,’” Sault grew up in the Washington metropolitan area, studied government and politics at the University of Maryland and lived in Dupont for a decade.

The guide jumps right into the local scene with a list of “10 Top Experiences,” the only surprise being number nine: Happy Hour. “This is how business gets done in DC,” Sault clarifies. Farther along, a page recommends eight happy hour spots, including the bar at Georgetown’s Fiola Mare.

The 300-plus pages are divided into tabbed sections such as Nightlife, Arts and Culture and Shops, with the entries grouped under neighborhood headings. Each section contains entertaining mini-stories, such as “Pizza, Beer, and Fake News” and “Bust Loose: The Go-Go Sound.” “Highlights” pages point to the author’s picks — “Best Place to Party During Pride,” “Best Multiuse Trail,” etc.

Half-hour walking tours of Dupont Circle, U Street and Shaw, Navy Yard and Anacostia are a nice addition. The 35-page Daytrips section — focusing on Alexandria, Annapolis and Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Shenandoah National Park and Vicinity (including Virginia Wine Country, Middleburg and Little Washington) — is like a bonus mini-guide.

Because the book is organized by topic, you have to do a lot of flipping to cover a particular neighborhood. It’s easy to miss something important. Dumbarton Oaks Park, for instance, is in the Activities section under Greater Washington DC (Map 9). And the decision to combine Georgetown with Foggy Bottom throughout seems odd.

But, mainly, the book is fun to dip in and out of. Sault has an appealing, credible voice that takes readers beneath D.C.’s polished surface. Those who want to go deeper should check out the Suggested Reading, which includes Robert Caro’s “Master of the Senate,” Margaret Leslie Davis’s “Mona Lisa in Camelot” and Dinaw Mengestu’s “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears,” his novel about an Ethiopian immigrant who owns a Logan Circle grocery.

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