Thursday, May 14, 2009


by Emily Wing Smith
Shrinking Violet
Field Reporte

The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah looks like a converted house, and at one point it probably was. More recently, though, the building was a drugstore. In 1977, Betsy Burton bought the space in this mainly residential neighborhood so she and her friends would have somewhere to write. Additionally, she decided to have books for sale in the front area.

It soon became clear that the front area alone wouldn’t suffice. The store took over the entire building and eventually, Betsy purchased the gas station next door to create what now serves as the children’s section.

Betsy is so community-minded that the King’s English was one of the first businesses to promote the “Buy Local First Utah” initiative Betsy herself helped found. It seems to be working, too. Even with the economic downturn, the King’s English actually sold more this Christmas than last. “It’s great to find so many people who are educated about the importance of local businesses,” says Jenn Northington, Events and Managing marketer at TKE.

There’s no shortage of events for the community here. “In 2008 we had one hundred events in-store,” Jenn reports. And it doesn’t seem to have slowed down in 2009. The store works hard to make TKE a place publishers want their authors to stop on tours. Just last month, the store hosted National Book Award and Printz finalist Laurie Halse Anderson. Jenn is especially looking forward to the upcoming visit from Andre Dubus III (seriously, who wouldn’t?).

But most patrons go out of their way to shop here because of the knowledgeable staff that takes time to help customers find that certain book. It’s what sets the King’s English apart.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

EMILY WING SMITH is the author of the YA novel THE WAY HE LIVED, which was released in 2008. Her upcoming YA novel, BACK WHEN YOU WERE EASIER TO LOVE, comes out in early 2011.

Emily lives with her husband in Salt Lake City, where she writes, bakes chocolate chip cookies, and occasionally substitutes at her old high school. Visit her online at


Anonymous said...

I love that the books took over a gas station! They cannot be stopped, people. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I could have a great time in a store like that!

Mary Hershey said...

Thank you so much, Emily! You've done a marvelous job giving us a real flavor of this indie.

Oh, man, Laurie Halse Anderson. Yeah, they're bringing in the big guns!

LOL writerjenn! They can't be stopped, can they?

Adding King's to my Places I Need to See list!


tanita✿davis said...

Yay - an entirely separate building for the kids' section! Rock on!

Sarah said...

This is so weird--I just barely got back from an author event at the Kings English! I'd actually never been there (I've wanted to several times and its never worked out, to my Immense Frustration), its a really fun little bookstore!

Jennifer J. Stewart said...

I lived in Salt Lake City many moons ago, and The King's English was just a few blocks from my home. I often walked over on the weekend, and spent many happy hours browsing. Thanks for taking me back in time!

There is a memoir written about the bookstore, also called The King's English, I believe.

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