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Open Stacks

On Open Stacks, we bring you conversations with scholars, poets, novelists and activists on books that surprise challenge delight and impress. Here, as in our stores, the most seasoned of readers can once again feel a sense of wonder in discovering a book.
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Open Stacks
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Dec 2, 2021

On this episode of Open Stacks, the last of the fourth season, Mikki Kendall remembers a childhood at 57th Street Books and the reading that shapes her writing. We also hear from old friends Jack Cella and Colin McDonald, and from booksellers on the books they return to year after year.

For a list of books discussed, music credits, and directions for submitting your favorite passages, head to our website.

Nov 11, 2021

This time on Open Stacks, with Philip Leventhal, Elizabeth Branch Dyson, Paul Yamazaki, and Dan Wells, we ask what makes a book "serious." Booksellers Amélie, Annie, and Artemie share scholarly favorites.

We're releasing this episode during University Press Week 2021, the 10th annual celebration of these important institutions and the knowledge and culture they help to cultivate. 

Philip Leventhal is Senior Editor at Columbia University Press, acquiring titles in journalism, film and media Studies, and literary studies. He also worked at the Co-op for many years, and was the managing editor of The Front Table, the Co-op's print catalog and newsletter. You can hear him on this episode from earlier in the season.

Elizabeth Branch Dyson is Assistant Editorial Director and Executive Editor at The University of Chicago Press, acquiring titles in education, sociology, and music, especially jazz and blues studies. She's appeared a few times on this season of Open Stacks

Paul Yamazaki is the principal buyer at City Lights, where he has worked for over 50 years. He has also appeared a few times on this season of Open Stacks, and will soon be publishing with Ode Books.

Dan Wells is the founder of the publisher and bookstore Biblioasis. He also appeared on an earlier episode this season.

Thanks to listener Marie for sharing a passage from My First Thirty Years by Gertrude Beasley. If you'd like to share a piece of great writing with us, send us a voice memo.

This episode was hosted by Alena Jones and produced by Jackson Roach, and features music by Blue Dot Sessions, Los Amparito, Loyalty Freak Music, and Daniel Birch.

Find a list of books discussed in this episode here.

Oct 28, 2021

This time on Open Stacks: We explore the rabbit warren of the Co-op’s original location in the old Chicago Theological Seminary with manager emeritus Jack Cella and veteran bookseller Katy O’Brien Weintraub, then emerge from the underground with architect Margaret McCurry, who was integral in the creation of our new space in the sun. Paul Yamazaki, legendary book buyer at City Lights in San Francisco, gestures toward a spatial theory of bookstores—how the shape of the room and the number of books on a shelf can encourage the symbiosis of reader and bookseller—and Co-op manager Bryce Lucas takes an ecological (and mycological) squint at the Front Table.

Head to our website for music credits, a list of books, extra material, and directions for sending us your favorite passages from books.

Oct 15, 2021

On this episode, authors, publishers, editors and booksellers reflect on the value of their work, and what it takes to make a great bookstore thrive. Plus, an out-of-the-way reading list from our bookseller Mrittika: queer historical fiction... thrillers.

For more from the voices you hear in this episode, a list of books mentioned, music credits, and instructions for sending us audio of yourself reading writing that you love, visit us here.

Sep 23, 2021

On this episode of open stacks: a ghostly tour of the Co-op's Front Table, from the hauntings of american history to life (and death) advice from Spinoza.

For a list of books featured in this episode, music and production credits, and more, visit our website.

Sep 9, 2021

This time on Open Stacks we hear from Philip Leventhal, editor at Columbia University Press and veteran Co-opian, about the history of the famous Front Table catalog, in its print and digital forms. Then we head to the Front Table (the actual table) for some recent titles on underground transformation.

Philip Leventhal is Senior Editor at Columbia University Press, acquiring titles in Journalism, Film and Media Studies, and Literary Studies. He also worked at the Co-op for many years, and was the managing editor of The Front Table, the Co-op's print catalog and newsletter. Last year we revived The Front Table as a digital publication, featuring bookseller recommendations and notable titles, author interviews, news and numbers from the Co-op, and much more. You can read every issue of the digital Front Table here, and find many of the original print issues on display in the vestibule leading into the Co-op.

Thanks to our Children's Marketing Manager, Thulasi, for sharing a passage from Inkheart for this episode, released only a week or so after the re-opening of 57th Street Books for in-person browsing. We'd love to hear something wonderful you've read recently. Find instructions for recording yourself and sharing your reading with us here.

Open Stacks is hosted by Alena Jones and produced by Jackson Roach. This episode features music by Blue Dot Sessions, Loyalty Freak Music, Daniel Birch, Joni Void, and LJ Kruzer.

Find a list of every book mentioned in this episode here.

Aug 26, 2021

On this episode of Open Stacks with Katarzyna Bartoszyńska and Reuben Jonathan Miller, we trace paths between: academia and bookselling; Poland and Ireland; animal navigation and interpersonal knowledge; the inside and the outside of the American prison.

For a complete list of books mentioned in this episode, music credits, and supplementary materials, click here.

Want to submit a passage you've dog-eared? Click here.

Aug 5, 2021

On this episode of Open Stacks, books from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow. In the middle of the Summer, a stack of Front Table books from the heart(s) of Winter.


Thanks to bookseller Joey for sharing a favorite passage from Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives. If you want to share something you read with us (and other listeners' like you), send us a voice memo. We'd love to hear about what you're reading.


Open Stacks is hosted by Alena Jones, the director of buying and content. Bryce Lucas, the Co-op's manager, is our Front Table correspondent. Jackson Roach is the producer. This episode features music by Loyalty Freak Music, Gallery Six, and Keshco.


Find a list of every book mentioned in this episode here.

Jul 22, 2021

On this episode of Open Stacks: a prismatic exploration of new releases at the Front Table, an editorial dialogue with Elizabeth Branch Dyson and Eve Ewing, and Ann Kjellberg on a life in publishing, Joseph Brodsky, and how serious books connect us to one another and the world.

Elizabeth Branch Dyson is Assistant Editorial Director and Executive Editor at The University of Chicago Press. She also appears on the first episode of this season of Open Stacks. Eve Ewing is a sociologist, activist writer, assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, and dear friend of the Seminary Co-op.

Ann Kjellberg is an editor, publisher, writer and translator, the literary executor of the estate of Joseph Brodsky, and the creator of the book culture newsletter Book Post.

Run into some great writing lately? Read it to us! We want to know what draws you in as a reader, and we're always excited to feature listeners' voices on the show. Find everything you need to send us a passage right here.

Open Stacks is hosted by Alena Jones and produced by Jackson Roach. This episode features music by Keshco, Los Amparito, Lee Rosevere, Andrei Pohorelsky, and Loyalty Freak Music, as well as excerpts from a talk given by Kurt Vonnegut at Case Western Reserve University in 2004.

Find a list of every book mentioned in this episode here.

Jul 8, 2021

On this episode of Open Stacks, a circle around the Co-op’s Front Table: from a post-war pioneer of Afrofuturism on Chicago’s South Side to the complex communal powers of games like spades, mahjong, and pickup soccer.

Thanks to Bryce Lucas for taking us on a tour of the Front Table this time. In this episode, you hear fragments of archival recordings of Sun Ra, including brief excerpts from his film Space is the Place and the track "If You Are Not A Myth" from his album The Sub-Dwellers. You also hear Aleksandar Hemon reading at the 2012 Grand Opening of the Co-op's current location. If you'd like to hear more from Hanif Abdurraqib, you might start with his appearance on Open Stacks in May of 2019, and then check out his own podcast, Object of Sound, or his 1980-focused season of the KCRW show Lost Notes.

This episode's passage of the week comes from Philip Roth, by way of Alex at the Co-op. Have you read something recently that moved you, surprised you, made you laugh, or that you couldn't stop thinking about? Tell us about it, or just read it aloud.

Open Stacks is hosted by Alena Jones and produced by Jackson Roach. This episode features music by Daniel Birch and Blue Dot Sessions.

Find a complete list of every book mentioned in this episode on our website.

Jun 25, 2021

On this episode of Open Stacks, we celebrate the Co-op reopening its doors for in-person browsing – the first time since we closed 15 months ago. Browsers, booksellers, authors, and our own Clancey D'Isa and Bryce Lucas discuss the transfiguration of space, absence and presence, the "invisible" work of bookselling, and how reading needn't be a solo activity.

Have you read something recently (or over the last year) that moved you, that made you laugh, that you can't stop thinking about, or, simply, that changed you? We'd love to hear you reading an excerpt from the book. Click here to find everything you need to know to send us a voicemail – and you might hear yourself on the show sometime!

Open Stacks is produced by Jackson Roach and hosted by Alena Jones. This episode features music by Loyalty Freak Music, Blue Dot Sessions, Daniel Birch, Gallery Six, and Andrei Pohorelsky, as well as excerpts from virtual events co-hosted by the Seminary Co-op and our myriad community partners over the last year.

For a complete list of books mentioned in this episode, as well as details about the events you heard excerpts from, click here.

Jun 9, 2021

In this episode, Alena takes a tour around the Front Table, guided by Bryce Lucas, manager of 57th Street Books. Circling the table, they move from bald philosophy to the physics of crumpled paper, from an Icelandic fisheries museum to the shifting nature of observation itself.

Have a perspective to share? We'll be featuring listeners' voices throughout the season. This time: tell us about a book you loved on first reading, but hated the second time around – or vice versa. Share the story of your change in perspective, and your favorite (or least favorite) passage from the book. Find recording guidelines and send in your answer here

Open Stacks is hosted by Alena Jones and produced by Jackson Roach. This episode features music by johnny_ripper, Daniel Birch, and Andrei Pohorelsky.

Find a list of books mentioned in this episode here.

May 26, 2021

In this first episode of the fourth season, we sit down with Elizabeth Branch Dyson, assistant editorial director and executive editor at the University of Chicago Press, to hear how she approaches acquiring widely accessible books for an academic press. Bryce (manager of 57th Street Books) takes us on a tour around the Co-op's Front Table, checking out a few recent releases. We're then joined by poet, author, and publisher Haki Madhubuti, who talks to us about his journey through books, the founding of Third World Press, and the draw of the Front Table. Throughout, we hear "spine poems" composed by booksellers at the Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books.
 

Have something to say? We'll be featuring listeners' voices throughout the season. First up: tell us about a meaningful book you've come across accidentally in the past year. We'd love to hear the story behind your discovery or even just your favorite passage. Submit your answers through this form here.
 

Open Stacks is hosted by Alena Jones (director of buying and content) and produced by Jackson Roach.
 
This episode features music by Daniel Birch, johnny_ripperjunior85, and alright lover.
 

For a close-to-complete list of books featured in this (and every) episode, head to our website: semcoop.com/openstacks
 
May 14, 2021

A new season of Open Stacks, coming soon from the Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago, the first not-for-profit bookstores whose mission is bookselling.

This teaser features music by Blue Dot Sessions.

Mar 15, 2020

Think you know how fiction works? Think again on this episode of Open Stacks with literary theorist Jordan Alexander Stein, who joins us in the stacks for a look at When Novels Were Books. Plus, Jasmon Drain and Ben Austen discuss Drain’s novelistic collection of stories about the interconnected lives of residents of “the biggest concrete building on Chicago’s South Side,” Stateway’s Garden. And the Co-op’s Colin and Alena find humor in paying attention. You’ll never judge a book by its genre again.

This episode was produced by Elliot Ducree, Veronica Karlin, and Jackson Roach. It features music by Andrei Pohorelsky, Kevin MacLeod, and Blue Dot Sessions. 

Mar 2, 2020

From our nation’s highest office to the uncharted territories of political formalism, we trust in books to take us in and out of the bookstore on this episode of Open Stacks, with journalist and historian Craig Fehrman on presidential authorship and literary theorist Anna Kornbluh on the future of social space and the novels on which it stands. Plus, booksellers off the clock, and what’s not to like about Wuthering Heights. Find books that break ground and more reasons to dig into what might be our most meta episode yet.

Feb 17, 2020

On this episode of Open Stacks, Professor of Music Berthold Hoeckner spins a record of cultural memory made audible in films focused on the past, from Casablanca to Sleepless in Seattle in his book, Film, Music, Memory, as Leila Taylor turns over our shared, if buried, history of racism in Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul. Plus, looking back with Adam Sonderberg on his tenure at the Co-op and the books that struck a chord.

This episode was produced by Elliot Ducree, Veronica Karlin, and Jackson Roach. It features music by Andrei Pohorelsky, Kevin MacLeod, johnny_ripper, and Blue Dot Sessions,.

Feb 13, 2020

In his final hours as Manager of the Seminary Co-op, Adam Sonderberg sat down to let his favorite books speak (mostly) for themselves. Join us as we reminisce on Adam’s tenure at the Co-op, killing time with Kierkegaard, and coming to inhabit a world that books create on this week’s Front Table podcast.

Feb 3, 2020

Ahead of the Oscars, Open Stacks returns with a long red carpet full of books on Hollywood, Hitchcock, Hegel and more with scholars Sharon Marcus on The Drama of Celebrity and Robert B. Pippin’s Filmed Thought. Plus, re-viewing The Arcades Project and seeing Self-Help through the lens of Samuel Beckett. Fail better, read better on this episode of Open Stacks: The Seminary Co-op Bookstore Podcast.

This episode was produced by Elliot Ducree, Veronica Karlin, and Jackson Roach. It features music by Andrei Pohorelsky, Kevin MacLeod, Blue Dot Sessions, and johnny_ripper.

Jan 29, 2020

New year. New books. New you? The Seminary Co-op’s Colin and Alena search for Self-Help in the guise (and stacks) of literature, capitalist spirituality, ancient philosophy and more on this week’s Front Table.

Featured Books:

The Self Help Compulsion: Searching for Advice in Modern Literature by Beth Blum (from Columbia University Press)

Aristotle's Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life by Edith Hall (from Penguin)

McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality by Ronald Purser (from Repeater)

How to be a Leader by Plutarch (from Princeton University Press)

This episode features music by Kevin MacLeod

Dec 9, 2019

The pleasures of reading are often introduced at a young age, and on this episode of Open Stacks, we revisit young adulthood and the child in the 21st century, in Kim Brooks’ Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear and Julissa Arce’s Someone Like Me: How One Undocumented Girl Fought for Her American Dream. Plus Children’s Book Specialist Franny Billingsley and Colin sit down with 2019’s best picture books.

This episode was produced by Veronica Karlin and Jackson Roach, and features music by Andrei Pohorelsky.

Dec 3, 2019

Not all cities are created equal, and on this week’s Front Table we go behind the scenes and un-seens of cities near and far, from the depths of London to the extravagant annals of Pyongyang’s “model” utopias.

Nov 25, 2019

At 82, May Sarton “made a dialogue out of what had been a soliloquy,” in her journal. On this entry of Open Stacks, we take the measure of our days in diaries and diaristic units of shared sense in conversations with Kathryn Scanlan and Devin Johnston.

This episode was produced by Veronica Karlin and Jackson Roach, and features music by Kevin MacLeod, Daniel Birch, Gallery Six, and Andrei Pohorelsky. Special thanks to Co-op booksellers Adam Stern and Fred Tadrowski.

Nov 19, 2019

A planet, a republic, a meal, and a question: what is the future of food? Specifically that which comes from animals. This week’s Front Table is serving up thick cuts of scholarship on “The Meat Question” and history of our relationship to meat past, present, and beyond.

This episode features voices of the Co-op's Colin McDonald and Alena Jones, as well as music by Kevin MacLeod. It was produced by Jackson Roach.

Nov 14, 2019

From the depths of Moby Dick to the light of something like poetry in author Etgar Keret’s new collection, Fly Already, we follow a line (or is it a fuse?) running between the past and present of contemporary literature on this episode of Open Stacks, featuring Etgar Keret, Jessica Laser, and Daniel Poppick.

This episode was produced by Veronica Karlin and Jackson Roach, and featured music by Kevin MacLeod, Gallery Six, Cursor Miner, Daniel Birch, and Andrei Pohorelsky.

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