In Praise of Good Bookstores

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2021

Do we need book­stores in the twen­ty first cen­tu­ry? If so, what makes a good one? In this beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten book, Jeff Deutsch — the direc­tor of Chicago’s Sem­i­nary Co-op Book­stores, one of the finest book­stores in the world — pays lov­ing trib­ute to one of our most impor­tant and endan­gered civic insti­tu­tions. He con­sid­ers how qual­i­ties like space, time, abun­dance, and com­mu­ni­ty find expres­sion in a good book­store. Along the way, he also pre­dicts — per­haps auda­cious­ly — a future in which the book­store not only endures, but real­izes its high­est aspi­ra­tions.

In explor­ing why good book­stores mat­ter, Deutsch draws on his life­long expe­ri­ence as a book­seller, but also his upbring­ing as an Ortho­dox Jew. This spir­i­tu­al and cul­tur­al her­itage instilled in him a rev­er­ence for read­ing, not as a means to a liv­ing, but as an essen­tial part of a mean­ing­ful life. Cen­tral among Deutsch’s argu­ments for the neces­si­ty of book­stores is the incal­cu­la­ble val­ue of brows­ing — since, when we are deep in the act of look­ing at the shelves, we move through space as though we are inside the mind itself, immersed in self-reflection.

Discussion Questions