Most folks would agree that there is something intrinsically calming about stepping into a book shop. The meticulously well-curated shelves at Milkweed bookstore in Minneapolis are no exception. Maybe it’s the steadfast quiet found in a bookstore—that brief reprieve from the hustle and bustle of daily life. But even more than a sweet escape and the scent of freshly printed pages, it’s the treasures and worlds and sheer humanity these books contain that make them such safe havens. Sharp as a tack with a penchant for poetry, Daniel Slager, the publisher and CEO of Milkweed Editions recognizes the power of a good book. Milkweed Editions is a non-profit independent publisher located in Minneapolis, focused on publishing transformative literature, built around debut and experiential writers. A true eyeconoclast and actual author-maker, Slager understands the way language, in particular, carries all cultures—and how books can carry these very languages. It’s this concept that led to Milkweed’s fascinating Seed Bank series.
“A lot of people don't realize how quickly we're losing biodiversity on the planet,” says Daniel. “The same thing is happening with languages and human culture and literature. With each language and literature that we lose, we lose a way of seeing the world. So, in keeping with our commitment to publishing books in this area and with an eye for protecting some of this vanishing cultural diversity, we created the Seed Bank series to represent a different way of seeing the world—seeds for potential regeneration.” Milkweed actually kicked off their Seed Bank series with an ancient Mayan creation story known as Popol Vuh (named a top poetry title of the year by the New York Times.)
And while Daniel certainly isn’t blind to the state of print media since the dawn of the Internet age, he still knows that everyone, everywhere is constantly reading…something. Even if in Tweet or caption-form. So, then, what does the publishing world need according to Daniel? “I think all we need to do is get more people reading more books, but more meaningful books. It's actually been shown by many studies that people who read more are more empathetic. And it's my own personal opinion that we live in a time where we could use a little more empathy. I think if we had more of that, we would have a kinder culture and society and a more sustaining one.”
Amen to that.