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.
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.