By Molly Green
On the corner of East Emerson and East 1500th in Salt Lake City sits what looks like a little house with awnings, a front garden, and an outdoor patio; the wooden sign above the door, however, reveals it to be much more. It is not simply a house, but The King’s English Bookshop: a home for books, readers, and Salt Lake City community as a whole.
When the shop opened in 1977, owners Betsey Burton and Ann Berman sent handwritten notes to their neighbors to invite them to an open house. This would be the first of the hundreds of events that the shop hosts every year including Harry Potter parties for the magically inclined, author events and book signings, and weekly children’s story time. Book clubs meet in the shop on a weekly or monthly basis, with something for everyone: SLC Lesbians, Physicians’ Literature and Medicine, YA & Wine, Gay Men’s, Las Lectoras, Arm Chair Travel Mystery; the list goes on.
The full calendar of events, clubs, and parties can be found in The King’s English’s quarterly newsletter, the Inkslinger, which has over 11,000 subscribers. Inkslinger also details community goings-on, like specials on homemade pretzels at Trestle’s Tavern or what people in the other local businesses are reading. Best of all, the Inkslinger includes all the new and upcoming releases The Kings English’s staff is excited about, as well as their lovingly curated backlist.
Since The Kings English is a small shop, they treat their shelf space as precious and see the books they stock as a part of their identity. They seek out only the very best so they can offer their customers the very best. In fact, visiting author E.L. Doctorow once remarked “Shelf for shelf, The King’s English is the best bookstore I’ve ever been in.”
The staff offers their recommendations on the front table, and throughout the shop, as well as online. Betsy recommends character-driven novels that blur the lines between reality, dream, and memory. Anne prefers historical novels and stories that bridge generations. Margret invites readers in a world of fantasy and magic. Sally finds mystery in noir and searches for understanding in memoir. With such a diverse and deep understanding of books, doubtless the Kings English family can match any reader with a book.
Their First Edition Club, which includes a newly released book every four weeks or so and has Children’s, Middle Grade, and Young Adult sections as well as adult, sums up the store’s essence with their motto. Truly, The King’s English wants to provide readers with books “from our house to yours.”