“Largest and Strangest”: John K. King Books

John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

“Did you know one of America’s best used bookstores is in Detroit?”

I can honestly say I didn’t–not until my friend clued me in. I knew Detroit had a fantastic art museum, incredible Greek food, and a thriving underground music scene. But the best used book store? That distinction had somehow passed me by.

“Best” is in the eye of the beholder, of course. In this case, the beholder was Salon Magazine, and what they actually wrote was this:

Standing defiantly amid one of Detroit’s many surreal, post-apocalyptic ruin-scapes is a place that has to be experienced to be believed: John King Books. Converted from an abandoned 1940s glove factory, John King is a five-story wooden maze stuffed stairwells-to-ceilings with used and rare books — one of the largest and strangest collections in North America.

Having now seen John K. King for myself, I know that no single post can do it justice. It really is a maze–so much so that one of the first things the employees do when you walk through the door is hand you a map. The stacks are organized, but only roughly, with sections as specific as 50’s-era middle grade boys’ chapter books and as general as…well…

Jesus, John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

Honestly, though, the haphazard organization of the store’s estimated one million books is part of the fun. You never know what you’re going to find around the next corner. Will it be vintage adventure books with snicker-worthy titles…?

The Wailing Octopus, John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

Hee hee.

Teeny Gay, John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

HAR HAR

A Matter of Spunk, John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

*spit take*

Or perhaps something a bit more on the naughty side…?

Guide New Edge, John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

I don’t know what “techno-erotic paganism” is, but I assume it’s naughty.

“Something for everyone” is such a dull platitude, but it rings true in this case. I myself walked away with a book of 501 Japanese verbs (thrill a minute!) and a spectacularly trashy novel called The Pleasure Palace, which I’ll review in a week or two.

In the meantime, here are some more pictures:

John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

An entire shelf of Bibles.

John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit

And here’s what the store looks like from the outside. (TripAdviser)

 

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