the Little Red Reviewer

Photo Essay: John King Books (part 2)

Posted on: November 6, 2011

Yesterday was such a tease, wasn’t it?  As promised, here is part two of John King Books, with the photos you’ve been waiting for of their famous Science Fiction section.

But first things first, a map.  A terrible picture, but it is a hella cool map. I love that it has a compass in the center, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are little “Here be Dragons” in the small print (and of course, matching pictures on the walls).

Sci-fi is on the 3rd floor,  with the paperbacks oddly mushed between Self Help and Biography, and the Hardbacks found between Automotive and Gardening. Hmm, thinly veiled message? I believe I’ll interpret that as reading Scifi works better than most self help books, and after you read it, you’ll want to build a spaceship (perhaps those automotive books will come in handy) and start a Martian colony (you’ll need some gardening books to get the soil mix correct).

Also, the map doesn’t show it, but the Paperback Sci Fi section has it’s own glass showcase of vintage magazines and a handful of extra bookcases that are TV and movie tie-ins and other more contemporary goodies.

I suppose I’ve teased you long enough, here are the long awaited photos, for your viewing pleasure!

First couple bays of the science fiction section. These are just the paperbacks!

Cool close up of the poster on the bottom, made up of magazine covers and other classic imagery

A little overflow unit, organized by author

The Isaac Asimov bookshelf.  Yes, he gets his own shelving unit.  If you buy everything on a shelf, I wonder if they will cut you a deal on selling the bookcase itself?  Probably not, as the basement of the building is filled to the brim with books that need to be shelved.

Most of one side of this four sided shelving unit was Terry Pratchett.  You never again need to worry about missing a volume in your Discworld collection.  I believe the entire balance of the shelving unit was Star Trek paperbacks.  I’ve never seen so much Star Trek in my entire life, and it was good! And these were just the paperbacks!

Sorry for the bad glare and reflection in the picture, this is part of the showcase of vintage and specialty science fiction.  Tons of magazines, many in plastic sleeves.  I used to pooh-pooh science fiction magazines, but then I learned many of my favorite authors got their start there, and for obscure works, a magazine may have been the only place that particular story was published. ever.

The Science Fiction hardback section. I saw plenty of anthologies and Year’s Best. Another great way to discover new authors, and often to find early stories that were published no where else.  For example, I’ve an old “Year’s Best Fantasy” anthology from like 1987, and it has the original Steven Brust folk story that was in  parts of The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars.  Good Stuff.

That first sign reads “Science Fiction PB Anthologies are found in Aisle D”.   I love that there are signs all over the place referring you to other places, it’s like being inside a “Choose Your Own Adventure!” story.

Two more pictures for today:

I’m not exactly sure what a Warming Station is, and I never did find one, but in the cooler months of the year, be sure to bring a coat and mittens, and I am not kidding.  Everyone working there was wearing at least 3 layers of clothing, and usually a hat. The two days I was there it was probably in the 50’s outside, it was probably the same temperature inside the building except you are not in the sunlight.  This is a massive building, and as you can imagine it probably costs a fortune to heat and cool.  I was told that in the summer months they open as many windows as they can and only the first floor gets stuffy because it’s chopped up into little rooms.

But you know what?  that only adds to the old-skool awesome of this place.  If your love for warm fingertips trumps your love for books, go to Barnes and Noble. If your love for a treasure hunt of books, for discovering something incredible, for being in a store that is a treasure itself trumps your love for being warm for a few hours, this is your store.

These signs are all over the place.  but “in plant”?  I asked a clerk about it, and she told me the building had been a work glove factory once upon a time.  And yes, these are the original signs, and they are huge.

And since you have waited so patiently to see what I spent my money on,  I did come home with treasures, just not as many as I should have.  Had I been paying attention to the prices marked in the books, I would have grabbed more.

Including two unpictured history books I got for the other half, I was out the door for about $40.  My vintage SF kick knows no bounds: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Star King by Jack Vance, Mission to the Stars by A.E. van Vogt, and Space Lords by Cordwainer Smith.  Along with a beautiful Thesaurus that’s bigger than my head, and a book on Myths and Legends of Ancient Israel.

I blame Catherynne Valente for those door stopper reference books. She’d had something on her blog about her Thesaurus having a Synopsis of Categories at the beginning, that starts with Existence, and goes then to Relation. You first use the categories at the beginning to find an idea of what you’re looking for, and follow the signposts to words you want.  I’ve been in dire need of a decent Thesaurus for years, and suddenly I knew what kind I wanted!  It was the fattest thesaurus on the shelf at John King, and I shall name it Thesaurus Rex. She’s to blame for the Myths and Legends book too, just cuz.

5 Responses to "Photo Essay: John King Books (part 2)"

These pictures are brilliant – want to go!! I don’t think I’ve read a lot of Sci Fi (does Edgar a Poe count?) Need a good recommendation where to start – it’s a mind field out there!!


Lynn, I’d done something like a recommendations post a while back –

but I was thinking of doing another one, one that’s by genre/subgenre.


I’ve been waiting for this one. What a cool place!!! I’d definitely be going crazy in there. What a book lovers paradise that place must be. Wow!!!

Cool choices! I read “We” a couple of years ago and was blown away by it. And Space Lords is the collection that got me turned on to the wonder that is Cordwainer Smith. I love his short stories. They are unlike anything I have ever read and many of them are so very good. The Dead Lady of Clown town is in that collection. Wow!!!

I never thought much about SF magazines until I started reading SF short stories in earnest and I discovered that not only are some of my favorite classic stories the result of stories that were first published in the mags, but some of my favorite contemporary authors write some really good short stories that get published in mags like Asimov’s (my favorite of the current publications.

I’m going to have to look. I can’t remember if I’ve read Vance’s Star King or if it is just in a collection I own. I have read Vance and I’ve been impressed.

Good stuff.


Great pictures that really capture the essence of the place. I’ve only been once (while visiting friends in the Detroit area). We arrived twenty minutes before they closed. I have never scoured a bookshop so fast in my life. I manage to find a Doctor Who novel I was missing, and The Samurai by Shusaku Endo. I know I missed countless treasures.


Thanks, L’il Red, very interesting, as Henry Gibson used to say. I do wish there was a somewhat larger section for mysteries, especially paperback ones, especially old paperback ones…


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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