Tag Archives: used books

“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


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:

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Mall Crawl!: A Mall-Wide Used Book Sale

Yesterday, my husband and I went to Bookstock, which bills itself as the largest used book sale in Detroit. Fortunately, I was able to pick up half of Asimov’s Foundation series for three bucks. Unfortunately, I had to go to the mall to do it. I’m not crazy about the mall. Something about the lighting makes me feel like a confused bird that flew into somebody’s house and is desperate to get out. And I can only fling myself against the windows so many times before mall security escorts me off the premises.

Anyway, aside from Asimov, I bought one of the looniest dating advice books I’ve ever seen–coming soon to a blog post near you! I also took a lot of pictures. Here are some of the more interesting volumes I encountered, divided by subject matter just as they were at the book sale. Continue reading

Guns, Sex Pots, and Falling Trees: A Day at the Kerrytown BookFest

A tree fell on a car at the Kerrytown BookFest.

I’m going to lead with the tree, since that’s probably the most conventionally thrilling thing that happened at Kerrytown BookFest 2014 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The BookFest, for those not in the know (i.e. anyone outside Southeast Michigan and/or in possession of a sex life that doesn’t involve sniffing old paper), is an annual event celebrating books and readers. In the words of its organizers, it features

authors, storytellers, publishers bookbinders, book artists, book illustrators, poets, letterpress printers, wood engravers, calligraphers, papermakers, librarians, teachers, publishers, new, used, and antiquarian booksellers and many others associated with books and their diverse forms, structure, and content.

So it’s Heaven, basically. Apart from the falling trees.

I want to make it clear that this tree fell on this Jeep in the middle of a sunny, windless afternoon. I talked to the woman on whose property the tree had fallen and found her surprisingly laid-back about the whole thing.

“Ah, well,” she said. “Hopefully insurance will cover it.”

Gosh, I thought. She’s taking this rather well.

Come to find out it wasn’t actually her Jeep; someone had just parked it in front of her house. Imagine the noise that person made when they returned from the BookFest to find their car playing not-so-Power Bottom to an oak! Truly, it must have been the Sound of Ultimate Suffering.

Anyway, now that we’ve got the tree out of the way, let’s delve into some of the things I saw in Kerrytown.

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Weird Finds: Angelic Messages as Given to Tina Michelle

I’ve had this book for over a year, but I’ve hesitated to post about it.  I was bullied as a kid, so I have a hard time picking on specific people–especially people this crazy.  The turning point for me was realizing that “Tina Michelle” is almost certainly not the author’s real name.  Also, if she gets really upset about this post and tries to end it all, we can take solace in the fact that an African American angel will save her.  Read on to learn more!

Tina Michelle-cover

I bought this book for three dollars at one of those shops that has to be a drug front.  It has no customers, yet it’s been thriving for the better part of a decade.  Kind of like the store in my old hometown that was selling Buzz Lightyear novelty telephones in 2008.

Anyway, this is a book about angels.  More specifically, about angels as they’ve appeared to an Appalachian woman with the improbable moniker Tina Michelle.  I’m not referencing the Appalachian thing to drum up any latent prejudices against “hillbillies,” by the way.  Tina Michelle herself mentions it on the back cover.  Apparently “her Appalachian humor embraces her audiences, as her teaching technique unfolds their inner knowledge.”  That’s right, this woman is a motivational speaker.

Something else she mentions on the back cover (and countless times throughout the book): Tina Michelle has almost died four times.

Four near-death experiences

Tina Michelle has been snatched from the jaws of death by her guardian angel on four separate occasions.  That sounds nice until you really think about it–her guardian angel has almost let her die four times.  Wouldn’t that be a sign that her guardian angel kind of, well, sucks at his job?

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Honorable Cats and Government Hoaxes

Last Saturday I visited Classicon, the annual pulp/paperback show coordinated by the Mid-Michigan Antiquarian Book Dealers Association (MMABDA) and the inestimably excellent Curious Book Shop.  I took so many pictures that I have no recourse but to split them between a few separate posts.  This is the second of three.  Enjoy!

Following our trip to Classicon, my friends and I decided to visit the Curious Book Shop itself.  Those of us who had been there before ensured the rest of us that it was great, plus the shop’s owner had promised me a collection of Arkham House publications.  I was not disappointed on either score.

I ultimately ended up purchasing Chaosium’s The Hastur Cycle, as well as A Samba for Sherlock, a Brazilian book about Holmes traveling to Rio de Janeiro and getting accidentally high on marijuana, amongst other things.  Here are some of the other things I saw there:

Image“For God’s Sake Do Something!” cries General Booth, silently adding: “Before I become any more worryingly turned on!”

Ah, the white slave trade, that special time in history when loads of British and American Victorian girls were apparently whisked away to serve as courtesans in the world’s most corrupt Sultanates.  To what extent were these reports accurate, and to what extent were they fuel for the sweat-soaked dreams of old white dudes?  I’m not sure.  But the sheer volume of erotica featuring white girls enslaved by foreigners ought to tell us something.

ImageWhat a confusing title!  I’m not sure if the lady in question was a wife before or after the author married her.  If it was before, then that’s a bummer.  If it was after, then the author seems a little confused about how the whole “getting married” thing works.

Worlds of Honor, featuring a six-legged sentient cat thingDo you want to know the first word that comes to mind when I see this picture?  Honor.  There is literally nothing in this world–in any Worlds–as honorable as a six-limbed cat lovingly checking the pulse of a young, hypothermic Mr. Spock.  Can you conjure up something more honorable than that?  I didn’t think so.  Stand aside, Peewee, and let the Big Cat do his job.

Honourable CatsBut wait!  You haven’t heard the last of honorable cats!  It transpires that cats are not just “honorable,” but also “honourable,” which is the same thing but with more monocles and Jaffa Cakes.

Legionnaires Disease: The Great HoaxLook, all right, no one north of the Mason-Dixon Line and south of eighty-five years old believes anything they read in the Enquirer…but really?  Legionnaires’ Disease is a hoax?  Calling thousands of Legionnaires’ sufferers “hoaxers” is pretty cold, even for a tabloid, and especially for a tabloid that purports to know how to be loved.  This just makes me pine for the Weekly World News all the more.

Weird Finds at the Used Bookstore


While in Ann Arbor for the Everything is Terrible show last Saturday, my husband and I visited the terrific Dawn Treader Book Shop.  I love Dawn Treader–I tried to work there once.  An old man encouraged me to apply; then I went to turn in my resume and a different old man told me to forget it.  I have a spotty track record with old men.  Anyway, here are some books we found at Dawn Treader.

The first was the novelization of the George Lucas film, Howard the Duck.  If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s about a duck named Howard who spends two hours trying to nail Marty McFly’s mom and then fights the principal from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by driving a golf cart into him.  It’s dire–and that’s coming from someone who’s seen Manos: Hands of Fate at least ten times.

Someone sure did make a book out of it, though!


I don’t know whether Chanur is a satyr or an Arabian prince with strange taste in head wear.  What I do know is that this book somehow threatens our planet.  Maybe it’s actually a cleverly-masked hydrogen bomb that detonates if you say “Chanur” three times while looking in a mirror.


Spider Robinson is almost perfect, Ben Bova informs us, and I’m inclined to agree.  This book could be 500 pages of nothing but the word “moist,” and Spider Robinson would still come out smelling like a daisy, because his name is Spider Robinson, for God’s sake.

What is going on in this cover picture?  The nicely-dressed woman in the foreground seems curiously unmoved by the ill-proportioned Second Life avatar raising Hell behind her.  Why is he pitching forward and screaming?  Why are there bullet holes in the garage door?  Is it exploding?  Or is the man yelling because some neighborhood kids punctured it with lawn jarts?  Only Spider Robinson knows the answers to these questions.