Jeff DeutschAug 8, 2023
In Praise of Good Bookstores
Princeton University Press 2023
Do we need bookstores in the twenty-first century? If so, what makes a good one? In Praise of Good Bookstores (Princeton UP, 2022), 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.
In the age of one-click shopping, this is no ordinary defense of bookstores, but rather an urgent account of why they are essential places of discovery, refuge, and fulfillment that enrich the communities that are lucky enough to have them.
Jeff Deutsch is the director of Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstores, which in 2019 he helped incorporate as the first not-for-profit bookstore whose mission is bookselling. He lives in Chicago.
- Lewis Hyde, The Gift
- Leon Forrest, Divine Days
- Toya Wolf, Last Summer on State Street
- Pierre Hadot, Don’t forget to Live
- W.B. Yates, “Words for Music, Perhaps”
- Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro as World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers.