In Praise of Good Bookstores

If anyone understands the struggles booksellers have faced in recent years, it's Jeff Deutsch, author of In Praise of Good Bookstores. Since 2014, he has been the director of Chicago's Seminary Co-op Bookstores. The likes of Amazon, he writes, have "helped us further devalue books," a galling development to a man who grew up among book-lined homes in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. Yet, he acknowledges, "good bookstores have never made good business sense," given that their value is in being places that "create, for the unhurried, serendipitous literary discoveries" and that they help one live "a more meaningful life." What can they do to survive? In this unabashed celebration of good bookstores, Deutsch poses the question: What exactly, in this day and age, makes a good one?

He offers many ideas and includes thoughtful reflections on the most effective ways to design a shop's space; the importance of providing "customer service for solitaires"; the paradox of creating a sense of community for people who would rather be left alone with a good book; the store's role in helping readers "slow down, ruminate, and attempt to understand the world around us"; and more. At times, In Praise of Good Bookstores reads like an advertisement for his stores, but what bibliophile could get mad at a cheerleader this passionate about something as inclusive and inspiring as a good bookstore? "Not everything need be quantified," Deutsch writes. Like-minded solitaires will agree. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

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