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The King's English, Adventures of an Independent Bookseller Hardcover – March 21, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith, Publisher; First Edition edition (March 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586856871
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586856878
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,358,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Burton, owner of The King's English Bookshop (TKE) in Salt Lake City, has pursued a simple objective since the store's inception in 1977: "Pick good books, pass them on. That's all that counts in the end." Indeed, the fulfillment she derives from reading is matched only by the joy and satisfaction she feels when she pairs customers with quality books. In this lively history of the independent bookstore, she recounts her experiences working with various employees and partners and adjusting to sophisticated alarm systems and computerized inventories, but her anecdotes involving well-known authors are the most engrossing. She describes how Isabel Allende pitched in good-naturedly when the dinner Burton was preparing in her honor got out of control, and how John Mortimer giggled gleefully when Burton encountered troubles getting his luggage out of the car that she had borrowed to pick him up from the airport. It's clear that Burton's life is profoundly and inextricably linked to TKE: she believes her literary recommendations to an old boyfriend, whom she later married, sparked their initial reconnection, and writes that the shop was her "necessary anchor" when her son was born with brain damage. This delightful book is largely a heartfelt "thank you" to all who have contributed to The King's English, from gracious authors to friends and colleagues. Avid readers will be charmed by this intimate look at the bookselling business and will especially appreciate the many book lists (25 Thrillers with Moral Heft, 25 Non-Fiction Titles from the West, etc.) included in these pages.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In 1977 Burton opened a bookstore called the King's English in Salt Lake City. This is a vivacious and spirited account of the ensuing years, and it encompasses a few tragicomedies, life with partners, author appearances, and the joy of reading. Burton really does love to read, and her book is chock-full of lists, not only of authors and titles but idiosyncratic lists like "25 Thrillers with Moral Heft" or "25 Books on Reading Books." She is preternaturally articulate and enthusiastic, whether she is recounting the pleasures of hosting Isabel Allende or Tony Hillerman, Mark Strand or Sir John Mortimer. The hilarious and terrifying incident of what happened when the fifth Harry Potter novel didn't arrive on time is worth the price of admission. She is also keenly aware of what has an impact on independent booksellers, from local needs to the Patriot Act. Along the way, we learn a small bit about being divorced and remarried, the life of a parent with a disabled child, and what to look for in a business partner. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Buy this book for the great lists of books from the last 25 plus years!!
ME Brennan
All the books you want to read, knowledgable booksellers who have actually read the books and can recommend others.
Betsy Burton writes a lively, humorous book about her experiences as an independent bookseller.
Elisa Devera

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Betsy Burton is the proprietor of The King's English, an independent bookstore in Salt Lake City. Since the store opened in 1977 she has had many high and low moments, and in this memoir she ably dsecribes both.

I have always had a secret hankering to run a bookstore myself, and The King's English both reassured and alarmed me. Burton has had the pleasure of dealing with many wonderful, charming people as employees, partners, authors, and customers over the years. She has also had to deal with viccisitudes like dealing with business partners she doesn't agree or get along with, authors who really prefer not to waste their time with the vulgar people who actually sell and buy their books, and employees and customers who are dishonest or outright criminals. But even the low points as described in The King's English are enjoyable to read about because Burton is naturally witty and a born writer.

Burton waxes most profoundly and enjoyably when writing on three subjects: her private struggle dealing with a handicapped child, the tendency of some people to try to censor/ban books which upset them, and the growth of the superchain bookstores and the dot-coms which have threatened her business over the years. I found this last subject particularly interesting since I am still mourning the loss of one of the great independent bookstores, Oxford Books of Atlanta, which died nearly ten years ago.

Somehow or other when I've passed through Salt Lake City I've overlooked a visit to The King's English. Now that I've met the store's proprietor through this book I intend to put it at the top of my agenda, and will hope to see the bookstore alive and well and to find Betsy Burton hard at work within.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A reader on December 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A comfy chair, your favorite warm beverage and this book makes for a very pleasurable stay indoors on a dreary day. To the author, running a bookstore is a calling, not a career. She chronicles the joys, frustrations, risks and rewards of following her dream with an avidity that effortlessly sweeps us into her world. Her passion is palpable - as if she is taking you by the elbow through her store, excitedly sharing the realization of her lifelong dream with you.

The behind-the-scenes guided tour is sure to fascinate customers of independent bookstores as well as those who aspire to own such establishments. How does the owner decide which books to buy for the store and whom to employ? How knowledgeable do the employees need to be and how do they build a rapport with customers of diverse literary tastes? What is it really like to host a famous or little-known author to conduct a reading at your bookstore? How does the management deal with controversial books? Burton addresses all these and many more issues in her book, her narrative deftly covering the intricate interplay of her professional and personal lives.

In an age of un-innocence, when writers are all too eager to unburden their existential angst and analyze yet another malaise of modern society, it is refreshing to read a book such as The King's English. It is not only the saga of a bookstore, but a story of a woman's dream brought to fruition by hard work, intuition and faith in her goal.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ann Rosen on October 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is hard to imagine that the story of an independent bookstore in Salt Lake City could be a page-turner, filled with drama and suspense, humor and tears. But "The King's English: Adventures of an Independent Bookseller" has those elements, and more. It is a delicious read, a booklover's feast.

Along with tales of the ups and downs of the bookselling business, "The King's English" is chock full of stories about authors and books. Burton whets our appetite for books with "book blurbs," and her narrative bubbles with enthusiasm as she describes authors' visits to her store. That Burton venerates authors is apparent on every page. When a friend accused her of "toadying up" to authors, she acknowledged that she worships at the feet of the best of them. Why shouldn't she? "They can craft words into sentences that make music and at the same time shed light on the human condition, can make the heart and the mind sing the same heady song. They are geniuses deserving of worship."

Her hero worship is leavened by her sense of humor, her ability to poke fun at her star struck behavior. There was the time she invited Isabel Allende home for dinner and was so distracted that the honored guest had to take over the cooking if the meal was to be served at all.

"The King's English" is also a story spiced by the David and Goliath struggle of the independent bookstore against the mammoth bookstore chains. What are we losing when chains bring us books without the personal touch of those who know and love them, who can introduce us to new authors, who sell books because they are good, even if they never become the next best seller? Though Burton does not challenge her readers explicitly, we need to ask ourselves what our role should be in that struggle.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on November 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's been almost thirty years since The King's English opened. Thirty years of books in Salt Lake City. Thirty years of competition from the big stores already there (Sam Weller's and Deseret Book, owned by the Mormon church). Thirty years of watching the big chains like Border's and Barnes & Noble move in. Thirty years of change with becomming the big guy.

Ms. Burton has created a book store, as she says, of the type in which she would want to shop, carrying the good books that she would want to read. She has used some rather inspired marketing with numerous author signings. She has published lists of good books worth buying in the original hard back version because you're going to want to read them more than once. She published a newsletter.

All this is classic marketing, but something seen all too little. This book is a classic in how to do a small specialized store that defines its market carefully and knows how to approach it. Here the subject is books, but these same fundamentals can and do work in a wide variety of companies.
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