cover image In Praise of Good Bookstores

In Praise of Good Bookstores

Jeff Deutsch. Princeton Univ, $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-69120-776-6

Deutsch, director of the Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago, reflects on the importance of bookselling in his moving debut. In contemporary society, Deutsch laments, there are “few spaces for conversation and meaningful encounter.” Bookstores, though, are one of the only spaces left that provides a forum for “explicit and tacit public conversation” in the form of dialogues between the bookseller and store patrons, among customers, or at literary readings. Bookstores, Deutsch writes, are an anomalous institution in an age of profit-driven capitalism, and they offer unique spaces for cultivating other values, such as friendship and community. Deutsch draws on literature, as well, bringing up insights from 19th-century art critic John Ruskin to critique Amazon’s model for bookselling, which Deutsch calls “false, unnatural, and destructive,” and readers will learn that poet James Russell Lowell used the word browse about reading for the first time in 1870 (before that, it meant to chew cud). Plenty of time is dedicated to Deutsch’s touching reflections on the Co-op, too: it “seemed as close to a spiritual home as one could hope to find.” A resonant elegy to a changing business, this will hit the spot for literature lovers. (Apr.)