A Detroit Gem that is full of knowledge
This rather ordinary structure probably contains more knowledge and information than any other place in metro Detroit.
John King Books houses one million volumes – with very few duplicates. Walk inside and there are books everywhere. There are four floors of used books on education, politics, economy, fiction, science fiction, biography, the sciences and just about anything else.
In this book-lovers bonanza, you can find Charles Dickens on the same shelf as Jackie Collins.
John King always loved books and a school counselor convinced him to follow his heart. He opened the store in 1965. The building on Lafayette is the second home of the store. Over the years, the collection has filled all four floors.
John King told us, “People bring in books constantly, there are people who come in and trade their books, there are people who sell their books, there are people who inherited books and sell them to us.”
The internet has changed the way King and his staff do business. They now buy books that are more rare or obscure – books that are difficult to find on-line.
King says they also carry, “The usual stuff too like the classics like Ernest Hemmingway or To Kill a Mockingbird for example or Catcher in the Rye–Things that will never go out of style.”
And in a second building in back there’s a collection of art books and a rare book room that is open only by appointment.
In that room there are the rarest of the rare – like a first edition Book of Mormon from 1830.
“And it’s in very nice condition,” according to King, with “the original binding and we’re asking $100,000 for it.”
There’s a first edition copy of The Great Gatsby. It can be yours for $5000.
There is a volume with the doodles of Salvador Dali
But for most people who come to John King books it is about the words.
Deborah Lee has worked at the store for 16 years. She says, “The books are very much something special. Reading is an emotional experience.”
For those who cannot afford the expensive first editions, there is a cart of free books in the lobby.
Among the people who consider themselves most fortunate are the staff who spend their days surrounded by knowledge.
Toni Caron says, “I get to be a caretaker for all this stuff. I get to see things and touch stuff.”
And she gets to be part of a Detroit Gem.
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