Speak Your Piece: a podcast about Utah's history

Season 3, Ep. 12: Stories by Ken Sanders: SLC's Book Trade, 1960s-70s Counterculture and Reciting Wendell Berry

January 12, 2022 Brad Westwood, Senior Public Historian, Utah Dept. of Heritage & Arts Season 3 Episode 12
Speak Your Piece: a podcast about Utah's history
Season 3, Ep. 12: Stories by Ken Sanders: SLC's Book Trade, 1960s-70s Counterculture and Reciting Wendell Berry
Show Notes

Date: 09.13.2021 (Season 3, Episode 12, 77:00 min.) To read the complete Utah Dept. of Culture & Community Engagement show notes for this episode (including topics in time, photos and recommended readings) click hereInterested in other episodes of Speak Your Piece? Click here for more episodes.

Podcast Content:

No scripts, no advanced questions, just a conversation; that’s what Ken Sanders wanted from this interview. With only the vaguest of expectations
regarding his personal life, professional history, the used and rare book trade, Utah’s 1960s - 1970s counterculture and a stint as an appraiser on the PBS TV program Antiques Roadshow (2011 to the present); this episode features the venerable, long bearded and sometimes irascible: Ken Sanders.

If you were looking for a piece of book heaven with the intention of getting lost or finding like-folk and good company, exploring Ken Sanders Rare Books (200 S & 200 E.) was the place to do such things. After twenty-five years (1997-2022) of providing a safe heaven for book lovers, Ken is now slowly moving and integrating his longtime book events and soirees into The Leonardo: Museum of Creativity and Innovation (corner of 200 E. and 500 S.). The bookstore is to be part of a campus that includes the City Library, the historic Salt Lake City & County Building, a Trax Red Line stop, and the SL County’s Public Safety (Police and Fire Depts.) Museum.

Ken Sanders is more than a bookseller; his fascination with print culture led him from comic books, to countercultural publications, to the creation of a publishing company (Dream Garden Press, est. 1980), and then into the rare book business. As a young man, he had a front seat to the birth of Utah’s counterculture and environmental movements. He started by selling both commercial and underground comics, chapter books, illustrated books, and then progressed onto Western and Utah history, Mormonism, and literature. Ken is a nationally recognized bookseller, and has served for years as the chairperson of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America’s Security Committee.

Since 1970, Sanders has also been a longtime promoter of the local arts and literature, and has hosted hundreds of book signings and art exhibitions, including the State of Utah's largest ever poetry reading through his business. Sanders was honored by the Salt Lake City Mayor's Award for Contributions to the Arts.

Sanders reading two poems by Wendell Berry, one entitled “Pieces of Wild Things” and the other, an untitled poem that is a stinging indictment of the hubris of humanity, the commodification of the earth, unchecked Capitalism and industrialization, and the destruction of the earth. Listeners please beware of one expletive in the reciting of the last Berry poem.

Bio: Ken Sanders has been a books dealer since 1970. From 1975-1981 he co-owned The Cosmic Aeroplane. He founded Ken Sanders Rare Books in 1990. He has been engaged in buying, selling, appraising and publishing new and old books, photography, cartography, and documents, for over thirty-five years. Articles by Sanders have appeared in OP and Firsts Magazine. He continues to be a full-time bookseller and owner of Ken Sanders Rare Books, now relocating to The Leonardo.

Do you have a question or comment, or a proposed guest for “Speak Your Piece?” Write us at “ask a historian” – askahistorian@utah.gov