Ode Books is a publishing partnership between 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. 

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

As the country's first not-for-profit bookstores whose mission is the bookstores, the Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books 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 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. These celebrations 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 volume, Reading the Room: A Bookseller’s Tale, in 2024. Authors currently under contract include Donna Seaman and Sunny Fischer.

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 has been the principal buyer at City Lights Booksellers, the legendary San Francisco bookstore and publisher founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin, for more than 50 years. A champion for national and global literature, writers, publishers, and independent bookstores, Yamazaki received the National Book Foundation's 2023 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. He has mentored generations of booksellers across America. Reading the Room: A Bookseller’s Tale is his first book. 

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.