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.
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.
Awards and Recognition
- One of Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of the Year
- Winner of the Heartland Booksellers Award in Nonfiction, Midwest Independent Booksellers Association
- Longlisted for the Non-Obvious Book Awards
- A Scholarly Kitchen Best Books Read and Favorite Cultural Creations of the Year
- A Commonweal Best Book of the Year
"An eloquent and inspiring paean to the community bookstore. . . . A deeply read and engaging guide. . . . Give this a prime spot on that Front Table."—Booklist, starred review
"Deutsch, director of the Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago, reflects on the importance of bookselling in his moving debut. . . . A resonant elegy to a changing business, this will hit the spot for literature lovers."—Publishers Weekly
"[Deutsch] ponders the ingredients that make a bookstore worth visiting….a pleasant bibliophilic excursion."—Kirkus Reviews
“Utterly fascinating.”—Dave Eggers
“Jeff Deutsch is one of the most learned and passionate booksellers in America, and this profound and poetic book yields as many untold wonders as his impeccably curated store.”—Ada Calhoun, New York Times–bestselling author of St. Marks Is Dead
“Deutsch’s long experience as a bookseller and a reader—that is to say, as someone on both sides of the counter—has allowed him to produce an entertaining, richly intelligent book on an institution that is essential to a literate society.”—Alberto Manguel, author of A History of Reading and The Library at Night
“A promiscuously erudite love letter to bookstores, books, readers, writers, and the unique community that they constitute, Deutsch’s hypnotic book is generously laced with memorable and often hilarious quotations, and offers the exquisite pleasures of browsing through the book-lined mind of an omnivorously literate reader and bookseller.”—Wendy Doniger, author of The Hindus
“A compendium of delights for the thoughtful reader. Deutsch, a gifted writer and riveting storyteller, has written a concisely elegant topography of the good bookstore that also illuminates the seemingly opaque craft of bookselling. This book is bound to be the fulcrum of discussions—among readers, booksellers, editors, and publishers—about the meaning and role of bookstores.”—Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Bookstore
“In this charming work, a revered bookseller puts into words the strong but often inarticulate feeling that many booklovers have about the importance of bookstores. Deutsch makes an eloquent case for the way bookstores educate readers as no classroom or library can. His wide-ranging reflections teach us to value the bookstore as a site not of goods but of experiences.”—Leah Price, author of What We Talk about When We Talk about Books
“Maintaining an open society requires educated citizens, book culture, and bookstores, one of the few truly democratic institutions, open to all. Infused with a deep love of his profession, bookselling, Jeff Deutsch’s reflection on reading, learning, and well-run bookstores is breathtaking. Read and share this compelling and engaging book.”—Haki R. Madhubuti, founder of Third World Press and author of Taught by Women: Poems as Resistance Language