tv About Books Jeff Deutsch In Praise of Good Bookstores CSPAN April 23, 2022 7:30pm-8:01pm EDT
nonfiction books featured on c-span's book tv. and welcome to the about books podcast and program in this episode. we're going to introduce you to jeff deutsch. he has a new book out. it's called in praise of good bookstores, and he's a director of a bookstore co-op in chicago. but first let's start with this week's publishing news. well recently in congress. there was a hearing about challenged and banned books. the house subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties heard from students parents librarians and teachers as well as author and civil rights activist ruby bridges. congressman jamie raskin a democrat of maryland is the chair of the subcommittee and here's part of his opening statement. many books are being targeted for censorship these days simply because they address racism or white supremacy as historical or
sociological realities or address human sexuality or lgbtq issues because the protagonist or author is gay or a person of color or for some other allegedly objectionable reason. the vice chair of the committee is nancy mace. she's a republican from south carolina and we want to show you a portion of her opening statement as well public universities and colleges frequently run a foul the first amendment freedom by enforcing broad or overly broad speech codes or by chilling speech across college campuses using bias response teams to investigate thought criminals. there have been disturbing campaigns on these campuses to expel students fire faculty or dis invite speakers who hold views that are considered to go against the progressive consensus or group think these universities and colleges are unlawfully stifling speech to coddle young adults at a time when they're educational careers in their educational careers where they should be exposed to a of ideas and perspectives. so that's a little bit from the
recent hearing on band and challenged books that was held in congress. now, the full hearing will be played on book tv in the near future. also in the news author jack higgins has died at the age of 92. the british thriller writer was best known for his 1975 novel the eagle has landed that was later adapted into a film of course with michael caine and donald sutherland mr. higgins was the author of close to 80 books that sold over 250 million copies worldwide. in other news the 87th annual annisfield wolf book awards that quote recognized books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and human diversity were presented last week. this year's nonfiction winners. george macari's of fear and strangers entire miles all that she carried which is won several awards.
a lifetime achievement award was also given to author and publisher ishmael reed. now according to npd book scan, which tracks these figures print book sales are down close to 9% for the first quarter of 2022 adult non-fiction sales have slipped over 10% and now we want to introduce you to jeff deutsch. he is the director of the seminary co-op bookstores in chicago mr. deutsch. what's unique about your shops? well, we actually have about a hundred thousand volumes on the shelf, which is interesting, but we also have almost exclusively academic scholarly and literary books, but what's more interesting is what we don't have which is a gift sidelines non-book items coffee wine sorts of things that most book stores today use to make their bookstores pork. so can you buy a best seller at seminary?
you certainly can if the community is interested in the best seller than we'll certainly have it on the shelf, but we only really carry the books that the community is interested in. so we are reflecting that community as well and there are plenty of bestsellers that do make make it on to our shelves. so what are some of the popular titles at seminary? well, it's interesting because the titles themselves don't sell all that quickly so we might have occasionally a book that will that will sell quickly and sell well, but most of the books that we carry our books that sit on the shelves for a long time. they sell a single copy, maybe two or three in a given year and it's actually that the sales of these broad range of titles that make up our best seller lists that said when there's a new book by wendy doniger that comes out. we sell quite a few of those then martha nussbaum book recently that the soul very well we e viewing anytime that she puts out a book. they sell very well last night. we had or two nights ago. we had ocean vong for which bull
i expect the best seller and it was the second time. we've had him and we've sold the quite a few of those as well. well, mr. george, you mentioned martha nussbaum. she's a philosopher at the university of chicago. all right. are you and are near academic sites? yeah, so we're in the hyde park neighborhood. on the south side of chicago. it's where obama setting up a presidential library and michelle obama grew up right right near the neighborhood and we are on the campus. actually. we're in a campus building at the university of chicago, but we are not part of the university of chicago. we also have a second store 57th street books, which is where president obama did the book signing for his first book dreams from my father the launch event that had maybe a dozen people or so show up and that is a neighborhood bookstore with a great children's department and quite a few best sellers and genre fiction cookbooks things like that a more traditional neighborhood bookstore. well, i think we buried the lead a little bit here.
this is a non-profit bookstore. correct? that's right. that's correct. right. we are the first and only not for profit books during the country whose mission is book selling and we're incredibly proud of it. but we also it feels important to us to stay out loud what the work that we're doing is so, you know in the 21st century. no reader needs a bookstore to buy a book and no bookstore can make a living selling new books, exclusively and our argument and even though i should say the argument of the structure of the store is that we do need bookstore still even though we don't need them to buy books necessarily. what is the product of the bookstore? well, we think it's the browse. we think it's the space that's created in a physical location to bring readers in have them discover find surprises delightful surprises on the stacks build community around the browsing activity and that that is actually a cultural endeavor and it's a civic endeavor and ours is a cultural institution. and so we are looking to find a
different way to finance the endeavor rather than a inherited retail model that we think is not really built to support the kind of work that we do. well jeff dory chin your new book and praise of good bookstores you indicate that business models are secondary to good book stores. your view well, i will say right most booksellers. do not go into bookselling in order to make a lot of money and retail can be a very profitable endeavor any retailer who wants a profitable store will not not set up a bookstore. those who do set up bookstores, whether they're for-profit not for-profit a mission driven, you know selling bestsellers or whatever the case those those booksellers for the most part are in it because they love books just like in publishing and just like the endeavors that you're doing, you know, there's a great love for not just the written word but a certain kind of book, right? so yes, if we sell bestsellers, we certainly do it's pretty rare
though that a celebrity biography. let's say or a diet book will make our bestseller list or that even would make our shells because there's a certain sort of book that is not a media title. it's not something that is ephemeral in a way that is meant to merely, you know, provide either, you know tabloid type news or other sorts of scandalous and even like there's a there's a line from edward schilless a sociologist. he calls some puffy and palate political biographies which you know, we won't we won't talk but quite a few of those either and what then is the booksellers role in building these spaces if they're not retailers. what in fact are they and one of the things that i celebrate in the book is the work of the bookseller, which is not about buying and selling if it was we would be carrying different books and we would be sending up different models. it really is about filtration looking at the 30,000 or so books that that we look at each year. they're actually quite a few more published every year about
half a million selection picking those books and deciding that those are the ones for our community an assemblage where we put them together in these bouquets of whether it's the section itself or the front displays or a staff recommendations corner and then the most important one for me, which is enthusiasm book sellers are professional enthusiasts. we are so excited about the books on our shelves and whether book that came out a week ago or a year ago or a thousand years ago, we can tell you why you must read this book why it is incredible and that it needs to be in the hands of the reader. so the it to match the book to the reader and to do it with enthusiasm and to do it in a space that feels like the confines of a browse that we would expect from a great bookstore. that really is the role of the bookseller today and in your book you write quote the work of bookselling like the work of librarianship is best practiced by those with a passion for
catalogs for sifting and selecting for filtering arranging and hopefully matchmaking. that's exactly right. that's exactly right. there's nothing more intoxicating to a book seller and getting a stack of catalogs all the news of the books that are coming out is incredibly exciting and i will say for some of us and those that carry quite a few older books, which also distinguishes our store. we carry what's called backlist books that have been out for more than a year or two. they're not driven by media attention or authors touring. those books our every day i'll look at what's sold the 200 titles that have sold that have come out over the over the century is over the decades and it's in so exciting to see what people are reading and what they're rediscovering and or rereading and there's so much that's out. there we when i wrote the book there were 20 misses in 2019. there were 20 million books published. in the history of publishing and
our books are carries a hundred thousand books and i do the math in the book of how many books i can read and i'm not a quick reader, but i'm a steady reader and i can read about 7,000 books in my lifetime if i live a nice full life. so really in thinking about all of those books the abundance of books that are out there part of the booksellers role is to help sift to help the reader figure out how they can choose their 3,000 books or their 10,000 books or 15,000 books that they'll get to in their lifetime. well before we leave the business model part of this conversation even a nonprofit has to at least break even, doesn't it and possibly make extra money so it can grow that's right. that's right. well, so we were we're six years old now and we were 58 years old we went on profit and that was right before the pandemic. however, we had been losing money for about 25 years depending on how one looks at it and by that, i mean the retail
wasn't making money. we were raising already raising money from institutions individuals other foundations places like that who felt really strongly that this was an important cultural endeavor our shift to the non-profit model was us saying, out and definitively that our role is not to make money through retail. we're really looking to afford a new path for the future of bookselling and not that every bookseller would follow this but that there would be a path that other booksellers can follow where they acknowledge that they are not in it to make money. i i didn't found it. i didn't build it. i don't own it and i'm just stewarding it now there are but there are people who came before me who did establish it. there are stores today. they're young book sellers today who would love to get into this business and build a career and serve their community in this way and it is that cultural endeavor, but there is no model to support them. the remuneration in bookselling is pitiful it's worse than in publishing. it's worse than public school teaching. i mean it really it's that it's that it's that bad and i'm not
looking to you know, just raise more money for booksellers, but i am looking to distinguish the work of bookselling and to try and acknowledge that if there is a cultural endeavor here then actually seminary co-op for 25 years wasn't losing money and we weren't getting charity. we actually were, you know, creating environment and having folks invest in and support that environment and that was a successful endeavor. it has been a successful endeavor. we want to no longer apologize for the wise and efficiencies that make our books for so special. we want to build a structure that is deliberate so that we can actually grow and do more with it and create more. careers in this in this work and feature the books that really are not featured elsewhere and you ask what distinguished the store earlier on we'll say that so many university press titles small press titles books by underrepresented authors books by you know, publishers that might not be getting much press. those find a prominent place on our shelves and the ability to
discover those titles is something that will be a thing of the past if we don't have spaces in which to discover them. so if somebody walks into source, what should they expect as far as atmosphere etc? source booksellers in detroit is that i i'm sorry in into seminary. sorry seminary. okay. no, i mean i can i'd love to talk about thorson detroit because it's a wonderful bookstore as well. yes, right. yeah and there they and they focus on nonfiction titles and you might actually expect to find a very similar thing which is a carefully selected in a intentionally assembled collection of books that are focused on what the community around them cares about especially serious nonfiction and literature. they sourced us less literature, but we will have serious nonfiction literature poetry and really focusing on the social sciences the humanities and literature throughout the ages, but also that kind of complete collections of of specific authors, so we'll always have the complete james baldwin on a
shelf for instance both fiction and nonfiction will always have the complete alice monroe or tony morrison, you know writers like that, but we're also going to keep up with the newer authors. so ocean wong is example who has two collections of poetry now and one novel we had his first volume of poetry on the shelf to begin with i mentioned eviewing earlier who published an amazing collection of poetry called electric arches with the haymarket, which is a small not-for-profit publisher and we we sold that was the bestseller for us, but then the university of chicago, press put out a book of hers about the chicago public schools closures and the failures of the city of chicago to support for the students and that was a serious book sold really well for us on our front table and then since then she's put out another collection of poetry and some marvel comics and we carry all of them and they do very well for us and i expect we'll be carrying them for years. so jeff deutschwin barnes & noble and borders were going full guns. was that distressing to you with all the retail that they did of
non-book items. well, it was but i will tell you i was an employment by barnes & noble at the time and i there were wonderful company to work for i was with them in the 90s and through the early odds, and i'm excited by what james daunt is doing actually i think that he's doing really great work with them and they are a bookstore in a bookseller and that matters to me. i remember i was in the late 90s. i was working at a barnes & noble in tucson, and it's the first time i was not happy about getting cds in even though i love music. i wanted to be just a bookstore, but i remember the first time we got up. i think it was a puzzle. maybe there's a game as a puzzle. i was furious. i was i was shaking my fist and this is a bookstore. we shouldn't have puzzles and i was much more of a purist than than i am now your viewers might be surprised to hear because i actually think a bookstore that wants to carry puzzles it wants to carry coffee that wants to carry greeting cards. that's fantastic. i i have no issues with a book seller who makes deliberate curatorial decisions about what they carry my concern and this will speak to the larger concern and then what barnes & noble and
borders brought my concern is that the business model is built so that the only way in which to make any chance of making money is to sell things other than books and that is not a good model for one of our great cultural treasures and to think that in order to do our work. we it's an economic necessity. that is the thing that i find very distressing and the corollary to that is that amazon which is the bigger issue than barnes & noble or borders ever was they are the largest seller of books in the country, but they're not booksellers, right the work that i mentioned of filtration and selection and assemblage and enthusiasm. they don't do any of that. they put the books up and you know, you can find them there. i can tell you that if you are looking for my book right now, you'll find that. it's the best seller on amazon. it's number one in the category of international finance and law now this book it has absolutely nothing to do with international finance or law.
there are the book sellers there. i guess they made a mistake whatever the case and they're also as of last week. we're discounting it by 11 cents as though that is somehow a bargain in a way that paying the 1995 price is you know is is not a good deal. so what's the issue when the largest seller of books is not a book seller. it means that the entire infrastructure of book making and book work is not supported and the remuneration that i mentioned is one thing for booksellers, but it's true for editors and authors. agents and distributors and everywhere along the way and it is incredibly precarious. endeavor right now, and i would i do not want to see what will happen if we cannot maintain this industry. well besides your own co-op books stores seminary. what are some of your favorite bookstores in the country? there's about yeah 500 independents left, right depending on any captain. yes, and and i will say they're
most communities or say most book stores are fantastic and it really should be reflecting their communities. i mentioned source booksellers and they're absolutely one of my favorites and part of it is because they are so of their of their community and the book sellers who run it's a mother and daughter team are just absolutely fantastic. i was in cambridge yesterday at the harvard book store, which is one of my favorite stores. i spent about four hours there myself just browsing and and they continue to do an incredible job. there's bookstore called point raise books and point ray station. that's run by one of the most passionate booksellers in the world and one of the best but in his partners one of the best book workers in the world as well who does other literary endeavors and they have taken a store that i used to shop at and and it was it was a good store and they've made it exceptional exceptional city lights booksellers in san francisco is going strong and they have a vision for bookselling that is
incredible and then one of my personal favorites it doesn't get a lot of attention. i'm a national scene is a books are called mo's books founded by mom moskowitz whose daughter taurus now runs it. so again another one that's stayed in the family. and as far as i'm concerned that is as wonderful and idiosyncratic a book space as i have found and i personally get lost in those stacks any chance i get to go to berkeley. well your new book and praise of good book stores was published by princeton university press is it a lamentation? it is not thank you for asking that it is a celebration book sellers a professional enthusiast. we don't need lamentations. i have want to take the 25 years. i've spent in book selling and all of that enthusiasm for single titles that i have put into the world and use that to help support the bookstores and help anyone who is not been in a bookstore recently to remind them what incredible spaces of discovery and rumination these these stores are but those who have not to try and you know
find one to go back there are plenty of people we're going to college campus and i have for 15 years. there are young folks who have never had the pleasures of browsing in a bookstore. they should it is an critical part of becoming a human being and finding oneself and building a better life. and books are very democratic in a sense, aren't they? because you and i are anybody else who can afford one or can read can go in and buy the same book. right. well, that's absolutely true. and even if one couldn't afford them and i one of the things i write about is how as a young man. i couldn't afford them and i would go into stores and i would browse and the ethos of most bookstores i think certainly today is that of course brows sit around read the books to what you need to do. we want you in the space engaging those books and the idea that in order to become educated in our society one needs a specialized degree that it's going to cost, you know, six figures seven figures depending on how far you go with
it and only in that way. we'll we become educated. well, i i advocate for and celebrate a different model where we become learned and we become of the learning kind and of the ruminating kind and we figure out the way in which we want to wander the stacks and we want to return to certain books and the reason no canon that is just that is homogeneous. i i come from an orthodox jewish background and i speak to the joys for me of finding these savings of heterodoxy and the singular book that each of us will find that create our own personal canon and ultimately our own character and at the end of in praise of good bookstores, you have a quote when a bookstore closes an argument ends throat. yeah, adam adam gopnik wrote that about a wonderful parisian bookstore that closed seven years ago. now i think and that's absolutely true. i i'm hoping to though that when a bookstore either establishes, let's say as a not-for-profit or
opens an argument begins and maybe a dialogue begins and that dialogue can help a community grow. it can help individuals within it grow and imagine possibilities that we otherwise could not have imagined. jeff deutsch is the director of the seminary co-op bookstores and the author of this book in praise of good bookstores. thank you for your time. thank you so much for having me. and this is about books book tvs podcast and program which looks at the latest nonfiction books and publishing news. well, here are some books being published this week american enterprise institute fellow matthew continenti looks at the last century of american conservatism in his new book the right. and in the many lives of andrew young atlanta journal constitution reporter ernie suggs recounts to life and political career of georgia's first black congressman carter administration ambassador to the
un and former mayor of atlanta retired air force brigadier general robert spalding has a new book out. it's called war without rules and in it he weighs in on china's military and foreign policy goals. also being published this week in jill the associated presses julie pace and darlene superville profile first lady jill biden. and financial times chief foreign affairs commentator gideon rockman offers his thoughts on the rise of authoritarian leaders around the world in his book the age of the strongman. well this weekend on our author interview program former republican congressman will heard of texas says that america needs a quote unquote reboot and he offers his thoughts on how to move the country forward. here's a preview. we are at a moment where 72% of americans think the countries on the wrong track. this is not just this the sentiment has not just existed
under this administration. this has sentiment has existed and grown over the last couple of administrations. and so the country feels like we got to do something different. yes. we are the most powerful nation that have has ever existed on this country. capitalism has uplifted people out of you know to achieve heights that were previously unimaginable and but we have to make sure that this continues and what's getting in the way is the inability to get big things done because of political gridlock within within washington dc and now it's and that is metastasizing to state capitals and city councils and such and so for us but for me this this notion that america has become exceptional when we play a role and we leave and the world is interconnected when my man george washington gave his his farewell address and said watch out about entanglement with other countries, the world was very different back then and
so so now we're so interconnected. but we have to we elected officials people in an administrations have to continue to make the case. why these things matter? we had to make the case. why does taiwan matter to the the couple that owns that coffee shop in in the midwest, right? why does the person that's selling, you know skiing attire? why should they care? why should my brother who says out to the most beautiful congressional districts? however, we have park cities. no basin some of the best ski resorts. thank you for that. no, of course, of course, you know my brother my brother says cable. why does he know and we have to make these cases and sometimes right? those of us that that are involved in these things have failed to articulate why this stuff matters and that was former republican congressman will heard on his new book a
reminder that afterwards airs every sunday at 10 pm eastern time on book tv. it's also available as a podcast. finally, here's a look at some of the current best-selling nonfiction books according to the los angeles times. topping the list is michelle's honors memoir crying in h mart, which has been on bestseller list for months. after that is atomic habits james clears advice on breaking bad habits and forming good ones. then it's amy. bloom's memoir about her husband's alzheimer's diagnosis and his decision to end his own life. it's her latest book and it's called in love. and that's followed by atlas of the heart university of houston professor bernay brown's thoughts about making meaningful human connections. and wrapping up our look at the los angeles times bestselling nonfiction books, david wenrow, and the late anthropologist.
tonight. i'm very excited. to welcome elizabeth williamson celebrating the release of sandy hook and american tragedy in the battle for truth. this is the work of a humane investigation into the tragedy that follows tragedy as people who dubbed themselves truthers, but in reality do not acknowledge the truth. try to change the narrative of events that have actually occurred and he'd further pain unto those who have already experienced too much. it also examines how the misinformation and conspiracy theories and the people who promote such things. that found space in our country after s