Grab your book bag and your wallet because this list of the best Salt Lake City bookstores are full of well curated staff pics tables, quirky selections and miles and miles of books.
Salt Lake City is a literate town. Wildly successful authors such as Stephanie Meyers, Richard Paul Evans and Orson Scott Card were schooled there. Rates of bi-lingualism are fairly high and their literacy rate of 88% is one of the highest in the nation.
There is a surprisingly robust coffee culture in Salt Lake. As we all know, coffee and books are the perfect marriage. SLC is also a major tourist destination with winter skiers and summer hikers. Utah has a well-read population, a fertile literary culture and a healthy tourism economy. Given that, it’s easy to see why SLC bookstore culture is so strong.
I’m a recovering bookseller and I’m going to take you on a Salt Lake bookstore adventure to six of my favorite book shops. Be sure to read to the bottom for a bonus list of Utah authors and books set here.
6 Rad Salt Lake City Bookstores
King’s English Bookstore
The King’s English is hands down my favorite Salt Lake City bookstore…and one of my favorite in the US. This little jewel, located in the 15th & 15th neighborhood, doesn’t have the vast scale of Powell’s in Portland or the beat poet history of City Lights in San Francisco. But what it does have, is a brilliant staff and a well-organized collection of everything that you should be reading right now.
Their staff expertly guided my goddaughter, who was a very precocious reader, through her pre-teens into her adult readership, fueling her love of books and reading. They give generous real estate to their staff pics with tables, shelf talkers and a spinning display rack spitting out more than enough recommendations to keep you going for a few months.
As a former bookseller myself, I dearly appreciate the warm atmosphere and helpful staff.
After your purchases, head across the street to Caputos Market deli and have a sandwich while you dig into your finds.
King’s English address: 1511 S 1500 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84105. Map it here.
Central Book Exchange
The Central Book Exchange is the best used bookstore in Salt Lake City. It has been quietly feeding book nerds in the Sugarhouse neighborhood since 1968. It’s a small but reasonably well-stocked store with a panoply of offerings.
They have an interesting staff pics display right in entryway which usually includes a mix of fresh hot books and classics. Like many used bookstores, you don’t always find what you think that you want, but you often find what you need. Which, for me, included a copy of Jack London’s Call of the Wild. Spend time trawling the shelves there, because you never know what will fall into your hands.
You can settle down with your book either a few doors north at the Sugarhouse Coffee shop or go across the street for a beer at the Fiddler’s Elbow.
Central Book Exchange address: 2017 1100 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84106. Map it here.
(This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase, I’ll make a small commission.)
Ken Sanders Rare Books
If you are looking browse even more used books in Salt Lake, then head over to the downtown Ken Sanders bookstore. They sell general used books, antiquarian collections, art and old postcards. They seem to have a thing for Mormon history and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The store is an excellent place to browse for the bizarre. I found random tomes like The Practical Horseshoer; a reprint of a 1890 how-to book. They also had a dictionary of the “Deseret Alphabet”; a beyond bizarre special language created by Brigham Young. I also tripped over The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power; a 928 page self-proclaimed “magisterial” and “indispensable” masterwork on LDS church leadership. That last one looked riveting.
Sanders himself was the self-appointed “bibliodick” (his words, not mine), who helped author Allison Hoover Bartlett catch a book thief. You can read more about the caper in the true crime book, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much.
Pack up your purchases and head over to the Gourmandise Bakery around the corner for some cake and classics.
Ken Saunders books address: 268 200 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84111. Map it here.
Golden Braid Books
If the kooky, non-existent languages and the “magisterial” leave you feeling disoriented, then head a few blocks east to the Golden Braid bookstore. This new-age bookstore and gift shop offers up a healthy dose of centered serenity.
While in the store, start by browsing self-help, wiccan and poetry books. Then you can have your tarot read, shop for crystals, funky socks, jewelry and fun greeting cards.
Then zen-out next door at the Oasis Cafe. They offer up a truly delicious breakfast.
Golden Braid Books address: 151 500 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84102. Map it here.
This Salt Lake City bookstore is an institution. It was founded in 1929 by Gus Weller and they are still family owned and operated.
They offer rare and used books upstairs and new books on the main floor. This is the largest independent bookstore in Salt Lake and they have an expansive collection of nonfiction and smart fiction.
They also have a busy event calendar with readings and book clubs.
After you’ve plucked something from the shelves, take it upstairs to the Desert Edge Brewery. This brewery, which locals call The Pub, is one of my favorite breweries in Salt Lake. It has great beer, and grub and a sunny setting.
Weller Bookworks address: 607 Trolley Square, Salt Lake City, UT 84102. Map it here.
Salt Lake City Library, Main Branch
While not strictly a bookstore, Salt Lake City’s main branch is worth visiting.
This beautiful downtown building is awash with natural light. The multi-story atrium and exterior walls are all glass, giving the library a very inviting vibe. It’s refreshing change from the dark scary stacks that populate so many municipal libraries. The library is designed for comfort and there are a variety of living room type spaces to read and work.
They also offer rotating community art exhibits and a variety of other events including rooftop yoga. They also have a “friends of” bookstore where you can purchase used books.
You can read and drink simultaneously by grabbing a coffee at the Salt Lake Roasting Company, which is located right in the library.
Writers Who Are From or Have Written About Utah
If you aren’t visiting Salt Lake’s bookstores or libraries anytime soon, take a tour in your mind. Read some of these books about Utah and authors who have a connection to the state.
Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams
This touching book is a meditation on nature, family and human impact on our planet. Reading it will make you want to visit the locations mentioned in the book, including the Great Salt Lake and the Bear River Migratory Refuge.
Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyers
Forbidden teenage werewolf love by this graduate of Brigham Young University (BYU).
The Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Sci-fi extraordinaire as these teens play a video game with the highest stakes possible. Card also attended both BYU and the University of Utah.
France is part of the Queer Eye TV franchise. His memoir
Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans
The story of a man who walks across the US as a way to grieve and re-think his life written by the author of the Christmas Box. Rick grew up in and currently resides in Salt Lake.
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Stegner spent part of his formative years in Utah. He won a Pulitzer for fiction with this story of the hardscrabble west.
Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
A motley crew of environmental terrorists and their comic attempts to make a statement in southern Utah.
Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer
An exploration of the darkness that is modern day polygamy.
More Cool Things to do in Salt Lake City
- Figure out where to ski with this guide to the SLC resorts.
- Get discounts on ski tickets in Salt Lake and Park City.
- Take a hike in Salt Lake.
More Literary Tourism
If you are keen to indulge your inner book nerd in other cities. Please check out my literary tourism guides for the San Francisco Mission District, Denver Colorado and Dublin Ireland. You can also check out my literary travel board on Pinterest.
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