The Seminary Co-op Bookstores and Matthew Engelke, Professor of Religion and Director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life at Columbia University, are pleased to announce a publishing partnership, taking the form of Ode Books. 

Under the guidance of the stores and Engelke, Ode Books will celebrate book spaces and the book industry, publishing reflections on the cultural value of the book, analyses of the challenges that the industry faces, and ruminations on the intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic pleasures of reading. The short works will appeal to denizens of the book world, as well as bookstore enthusiasts, serial browsers, and anyone with an interest in the flourishing of the literary arts within their own communities.   

As the country’s first not-for-profit bookstores whose mission is bookselling, the Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books hope to illuminate the profound cultural value of bookselling, in turn encouraging stakeholders of all sorts to challenge accepted practices within the industry and in adjacent spheres. Their focus is the browsing experience, with both stores cultivating an inventory that encourages discovery and curiosity.

With Ode Books, the Seminary Co-op Bookstores are excited to nurture new conversations about the cultural worth of book spaces, opening up the forum to publishers, librarians, bookstore enthusiasts, authors, archivists, booksellers, and anyone with an interest in the flourishing of the literary arts within their own communities. We expect these celebrations to come in many forms, from personal reflections by life-long booksellers to critiques of financial models and proposals for radical approaches to inventory selection. Linking all of the works will be a celebration of the engaged, thoughtful reader who takes seriously the importance of spaces devoted solely to books. 

Ode Books will publish its first volumes in 2022. Authors currently under contract include Donna Seaman and Paul Yamazaki.

Donna Seaman is the Editor for Adult Books at Booklist, a member of the Content Leadership Team for the American Writers Museum, and a recipient of the Louis Shores Award for excellence in book reviewing, the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism and the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award. Seaman has written for the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. She has been a writer-in-residence for Columbia College Chicago and has taught at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Seaman created the anthology In Our Nature: Stories of Wildness; her author interviews are collected in Writers on the Air: Conversations about Books, and she is the author of Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists. Seaman lives in Chicago.

Paul Yamazaki is the Chief Buyer at City Lights Booksellers and one of the most influential booksellers of our time. Yamazaki has served on the board of directors of several literary and community arts organizations. Among them are the Council of Literary Magazines & Presses (CLMP), Small Press Distribution (SPD) and the Kearney Street Workshop (KSW). Yamazaki has served as a member of the jury for Granta’s Best Young American Writers, and has participated in national and international book festivals and conference. He served on the American Booksellers Association’s Diversity Task Force, helping establish their Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in 2019. City Lights Booksellers was named in 2010 the Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year

The project is the next stage in the evolution of Prickly Paradigm Press, started in 2002 by Engelke and the late Marshall Sahlins, which focused on short, unconventional works in anthropology, critical theory, philosophy, politics, and more. That press itself arose out of Prickly Pear, an imprint established in 1993 by the anthropologists Keith Hart and Anna Grimshaw. 

Proposals can be sent to submissions@semcoop.com