Friday, February 24, 2017

John K. King Used & Rare Books - Detroit, MI

John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit, MI
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Massively overwhelming.  What I relate to you here in this brief write-up and these few pictures won't even begin to cover the totality of this incredible used and rare book store.  It is billed as the largest used bookstore in Michigan and in my experiences of visiting bookstores around the country, I would put it in the top two along with The Book Barn in Niantic, CT.  For people who enjoy bookstores, this is your haven and your "must-see."  This is definitely a destination and the customers who visit here reflect that.

When you enter King Books you'll be welcomed and greeted by Deb, the receptionist and staffer at the front counter.  She has the perfect personality for this job and I had a great time meeting her.  After she welcomes you, she'll ask if you need a store directory.  When she asks you this, your response will be "yes."  This bookstore is housed in a large, 4-story warehouse that's over 100 years old.  Finding a specific book is impossible without a directory/map.  There is no data base for the inventory but I can tell you that everyone who works here is extremely helpful and knowledgeable.  Each floor has a manager and Sarah, who is the manager on the 4th floor, found a book for me that I'd been trying to find for quite sometime.

There are vintage books located on every floor near the genre they would be associated with.  Within the store there are many non-book items of historical interest.  These can be found on every floor and along the stairways between the floors.  There is an additional building next door that houses the rare book collection but you will need an appointment or a staffer with you to visit these books.  If I were a collector I would be a regular here.  And as if four floors packed with books aren't enough, there are two other King Books stores in Detroit (although one of those is closing soon).

I was so fortunate during my visit to meet Mr. King, the founder and owner.  What a story he has of beginning the business by selling books out of the trunk of his car in 1965.  The store has been in its current location since the 1980s so it is on a great run.  And the people here couldn't have been nicer.  From Mr. King to Deb, Sarah, and all the others I talked to during my visit.  What a great indie with equally wonderful people among the endless aisles of books.

If you're a bookstore enthusiast, book lover, or even someone with just a casual interest, check this place out.  There is an obscure book here for everyone and it's just waiting for you to come here and find it.  And the search is half the fun.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, Karen Foxlee.  There is some great literature out there written for young adults and middle grades.  I encourage you to find something recommended in those categories and give it a try as I enjoy doing that occasionally.  This book would be for middle readers.  This is a bit of a fantasy, a story of a little girl and her efforts to save the world, where kindness and love will ultimately win out.   The story includes an evil queen, a magic sword, a quest, and a museum of odd and strange things.  I lost a little interest but in the end it was very good.  Certainly recommended for middle grade readers.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Fever, Megan Abbott.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant, Douglass Wallop.  Parnassus On Wheels, Christopher Morley.  Rogue Lawyer, John Grisham.  200 Years Of Detroit Booksellers, Kathryn Mackay.  

Another exterior view from the parking lot.  This warehouse used to be a glove factory.  

View of the front of the warehouse looking at the entrance.  This indie is nationally recognized.  

If you come here and need to count all the books to confirm if it's the largest in Michigan, plan on spending a few years here!  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Walk up the steps and enter through the door on the left.  Prepare to be awed.  

After entering and walking up the short flight of stairs, this is what you'll see entering the first floor, looking to the right.  

Check this out AND pick up a directory/map.   

There are lots of historical relics of interest throughout the store, such as these photos of the graduates from a local college in 1925.  

If you're only in room 4, you have a LONG way to go.  

If I took pictures of every book aisle in this store, you would need to bookmark your place on this article and come back to it.  

I found this in the music section and it is over 40 years old.  This book gave me headaches during my undergrad.  I didn't buy it.  

Antique collectors should also spend time at this store.  

I love pictures like this one.  

Throughout the store you can find old books located in the genres they're related to.  If you're looking for the Art Journals from the late 1800s, here you go.  

A great mural telling you to proceed upstairs and the 2nd floor.  For shoppers who are unable to walk upstairs, the store has an elevator that they will gladly help you with.  

Looking into the 2nd floor.  

If you can find an employee, this might be helpful  Honestly, it is very easy to find booksellers and not only are they nice, but they are very knowledgeable.  

Unavailable on Amazon.  

Shelves made with boards and cinder blocks.  

This is up on the 4th floor.  Even just one floor of books here is much larger than most indies.  

With Mr. John King on the right, the fine founder and owner at John K. King Used & Rare Books.  Thanks for a great visit. 


  1. Thanks. I went to high school in walking distance, but somehow never found it, perhaps because I'd visit the downtown public library branch a couple times a week and have no recollection of actually buying a book prior to college. I'll try to visit Kings this spring, I should pass through Detroit twice. Both my children worked in a used bookstore here in Lexington Virginia, unique but a fraction the size. I wonder what Powells in Portland OR is like, I visited once many years ago, huge...

  2. Powell's is incredible. I call it the Disneyworld of bookstores. Thanks, Michael.