Historically Thinking

Historically Thinking

Episode 259: In Praise of Good Bookstores

April 11, 2022

The sociologist Edward Shils said or wrote somewhere that one of the three principle means of education were
bookstores—preferably a used bookstore. Shils, for two generations a student and then faculty member at the University of Chicago, spent a lot of time in bookstores, and particularly in the Seminary Co-operative Bookstore, of which he was the 8,704thmember.

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. (You can get some idea of the range of the Co-Op's enterprises from Jeff's annual letter.) He is the author of In Praise of Good Bookstores, which is the subject of our conversation today. It is not only a loving tribute to an endangered civic institution, but an imagining of a future in which bookstores not only endure but thrive.

Jeff and I talk about many things, including his grandfather and my great-grandfather; how to arrange your books; types of browsing; and the need for getting lost in a bookstore.

For Further Investigation

At the back of Jeff's book, you'll find a QR code that takes you to this site: Princeton University Press has set up a page through which you can find an independent bookstore near you.
New Dominion Books: the closest independent bookshop to my house
City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco
Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, SC