wild turtle crossing

slow: writer at play

Vivian Henoch

Vivian Henoch
Northville, Michigan, USA
June 17
Writer and editor:myJewishDetroit.org
I write around. Follow me on Twitter @vivianhenoch or @myJDetroit


Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 4, 2011 10:17PM

John King's: A Storehouse for Book Hounds

Rate: 10 Flag

John K. King Used and Rare Books

901 West Lafayette Blvd. Detroit, Michigan



You can’t miss it. Visible from the freeway, it’s got BOOKS emblazoned in capital letters across the top of its four-story brick building. It’s got books illustrated and painted on its front entrance and along its staircases, books jam-packed floor-to-ceiling, books crammed wall-to-wall, books on all subjects, in all conditions, used and rare, loved and forgotten, categorized and organized in their own peculiar disarray.  



No baristas and pastries here. No comfy couches, wireless hotspots and cozy nooks. In keeping with it’s gritty downtown Detroit setting, John K. King Used and Rare Books is a warehouse with a crazy energy unlike any book store you can imagine. Think of it as a literary museum, a repository of history, a curiosity shop gone wild. Exuberant. Exhaustive. Idiosyncratic. A paradise for book hounds and hoarders.




In another life it was a glove factory. Today John King’s stands as a Detroit icon, quite possibly the nation’s largest used and antiquarian bookstore, claiming more than a million volumes. But who’s counting? Amidst the stacks there are entire collections, thousands of books still in boxes. No telling what's in store.  





Directly behind the main building stands the inner sanctum (once the Otis Elevator Building) now John King’s Rare Book Room, a fascinating oak paneled hodgepodge and labyrinth of rare books and first editions, artwork and posters, antiques and collectibles, available for purchase or browsing by special appointment. Books in the Rare Book Room (an estimated 20 to 30,000) are also available online at the store’s website.







A resource for historic books, a favorite location for photo shoots, film production and commercials, John King Books has been well documented in articles, blogs and reviews. For links, go to the website  . . . and happy book-hunting.  



John K. King


Toni (and Sophie)




For a John King book tour in photos,  go to MaidenVoyagePhotography



Photos: VHenoch and MHenoch

Happy browsing and reading... and thanks for stopping by. 

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I'm contemplating hopping a plane... but how would I get all of those books back??
Oh, the Princess stole my words. I would love to make a trip just to see this place. Your pictures are, as usual, outstanding.
the only competor I know is THE STRAND in NYC that takes advantage of the fact the book business for the most part is based here, and POWELLS in Portland, Or.

When I grew up in Detroit, if you read too many books you were "suspicious." I was and still am.
The place looks like a firetrap. I'd be afraid to go in there without a planned escape route.
Funny, Larry... that was my husband's impression, as well. In fact, he also voiced concern about floors collapsing under the weight of books. There are no smoking signs all around -- and the heat is kept low (if on at all?). The Rare Book Room is more organized, less accessible, and more secure.
This is a tempting piece. Almost like offering me a good slice of chocolate cake. I am thinking about going there. Never knew it was even there! I have a favorite haunt in Las Cruces, and someone actually wrote about it on OS for this. I was amazed! This is a bit closer by car. Thanks for sharing this.
This post has a fragrance -- books, lovely books. So many treasures.
Ab fab! If I lived there, I know where I would be all the time.
this is a wonderul place for genuine book readers and lovers of books. i wish we had such a place in my hometown
Wish I could visit--I can't even make it to NY for Gotham Book Mart.

Our New England Mobile Book Fair (a misnomer--it's a concrete building that is in no way "mobile") recently found a buyer and was saved from the wrecking ball.

You did justice to a truly amazing store! Great post and photos.
An indie bookstore that trumps ALL indie bookstores.

i get a hundred dollar fine every time i go there.

the cashier says a hundred dollars
then i say fine.

don't forget the outpost in royal oak.
Right...John king's actually has two "outposts" ... One on the Wayne State campus, on the corner of Warren and Cass (?) and the other on Woodward in Ferndale. The Ferndale store has an extensive collection in its own right.
Right...John king's actually has two "outposts" ... One on the Wayne State campus, on the corner of Warren and Cass (?) and the other on Woodward in Ferndale. The Ferndale store has an extensive collection in its own right.
In fact it's very well organized; only the scope can be confusing--a separate section for Movie/TV paperback adaptations?

Start at the top floor and work your way down; it's easier that way.

I wonder if they still tell the story of William Safire's visit. He found a book of his for $2 and said "That's too low!" and autographed it.
Well, hell -- you stole my thunder. I was going to post about John King books, a terrific place to browse. I found the Strickland sisters' Lives of the Queens of Scotland and Bachelor Princes of Britain there as well as some scarce Mary Renault titles, among other things. If they don't have it, they surely know where to find it.
Welcome, Boanerges1,
Thanks for your comment. To tell the truth, I missed the first few days of the Open Call, and was indeed surprised (and delighted) that no one beat me to the post about John King's. Really, there's no place like it.