In Praise of Good Bookstores is a wonderful and charming reflection on the importance of bookstores, by a devoted reader and lifelong bookseller. Do we need bookstores in the 21st century? And if so, what makes a good one. In this beautifully written book, the author (who directs one of the world’s finest bookstores in Chicago), pays loving tribute to one of our most important institutions. He considers how qualities like space, time, abundance and community find expression in good bookstores. And also predicts a future where bookstores endure, and perhaps end up surpassing online ones.
In exploring the subject, the author 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, as an essential part of a meaningful life. One of his central argument is the need for browsing, so we can move through space immersed in self-reflection.
In the age of one-click shopping, this is no ordinary defence of bookstores, but more an urgent account on why they are essential places of discovery and refuge that enrich communities that are fortunate enough to have them. Ron Charles calls ‘this elegant little book the most moving justification for the survival of bookstores, I have ever read’. Jeff Deutsch is director of Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstores, which he helped incorporate as the first non-profit bookstore whose mission is bookselling. He lives in Chicago, USA.
Also read Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop, the true instpiring story of a woman who returned to the small village in the Tuscan hills where she was born, and open a tiny but enchanting bookshop on a hill, surrounded by gardens of roses. With less than 200 year-round residents, Alba’s shop seemed unlikely to succeed. But it soon sparked the enthusiasm of book nerds nearby and across Italy. After surving a fire and pandemic restrictions, her ‘Bookshop on the Hill’ soon became a refuge for a community.
Mr B’s Emporium is often voted England’s best indie bookshop. More like a comfy living room with armchairs for browsing, the Reading Spa gifts are legendary. You’re invited for a pampering in a sumptious bibliotherapy room. Then a bookseller will chat over tea cake to learn of your tastes, then you get a book voucher, mug, cloth bag and gift card to leave a happy bookworm!
If you order books online, we like Blackwell’s (much nicer than you-know-who if you don’t mind waiting a few days for your book, and runs a good affiliate program for bloggers). Bookshop is another option (books are delivered to you or your local indie shop). Although Jeff Bezos recently announced he will give most of his fortune away, Amazon has killed off thousands of local bookshops (he also allows sale of real fur on the site). Money would be better used to offer plastic-free packaging and treating workers fairly (the company also emits huge carbon).