From book nerd, to spy book scout to spy bookseller.

A message from Spybrary's John Koenig

Spybrarians, some of you know me as much for my tales of hunting for and buying books as anything else. I have a lifelong passion for reading and books, passed along by my father. I cannot remember not being able to read, nor enjoying it.

John Koenig with a haul of spy books.

At age 8 or so I wrote and “published” a little book about the Civil War. This was inspired by the Sunday newspaper comics page, where a Civil War strip ran (Topps?). As my mother used to tell me, I cut out pieces of paper, wrote on them, punched holes and ran knitting yarn through them for binding. I wish I had that artifact today!

I kinda grew up in my public library; by my early teenage years, I was haunting local used bookstores. Fond memories of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs and other science fiction and western paperbacks in mint condition, for $.50 each, run through my head (this was the late 1960s and early ‘70s). I hung around so much I was sorting books and “working” part-time in the shop through high school. 

By the age of 16, I was writing, editing and publishing a rock’n’roll fanzine titled Cowabunga. My book passions were still heavy science fiction and comics, but I would (and still will) read almost anything,

From an early age I’ve devoured history, notably military history. My father was a World War II combat veteran and sharing books on the topic was strong between us. 

Also by this time I had thousands of comics, books of all sorts, and a massive record collection.

Cowabunga ran for a half dozen years until I moved to Detroit to work full time on a record collecting magazine titled Goldmine. I spent the next nearly thirty years making my way as an editor and publisher and ad salesperson in magazine publishing, all popular culture-oriented (records, comics, toys, pop culture collectibles, antiques). If the internet hadn’t eaten my world I’d still be neck-deep in publishing; I loved all of it. 

I’ve always considered myself a collector. At times I’ve concentrated on one thing or another for a while, but books have always been nearly sacred to me, and at all times in my life, I’ve had thousands of them. Many more thousands have moved through my life; I enjoy buying and selling books almost as much as reading them! For decades I’ve gone through antique malls and used bookstores.

As the world has changed and the internet has forever altered everything we do, used bookstores have fallen by the wayside to a great extent, but at least in the midwest, have been in some part replaced by thrift stores. Library and AAUW sales have replaced antique malls as a source for books, and happily, they’re far superior. 

Spy Book Scout putting in the miles to bring you your spy book favorites. With his loyal sidekick Jack.

Over the decades I’ve sold my record collection, sold my prized Beta videotape collection, my comics, and a few years ago even my compact discs. But bookcases and books follow me through life and remain precious. As I’ve gotten older my appreciation for reading and the magic of books has increased; I love books both for the magical experience of reading and the artifact itself.

John Koenig and Spybrary Host Shane Whaley, Spybrary Meetup Summer 2019.

Spybrary changed my life. Shane Whaley helped revive my passion for spy and espionage fiction and history. When Spybrary came into being my library had lots of LeCarre and Clancy but almost no others of our favorites. I’d read many over the years but kept circulating my interests.

I’m not exaggerating about Spybrary’s effect on me – Shane hit me at the right time in my life. I’ve enjoyed directing my passion for books in this direction, have now read freakin’ hundreds of wonderful books I might have not ever known about, and made a hell of a lot of new, good friends. 

John Koenig

My life today allows me the freedom to travel to library, estate and AAUW book sales. I have a regular circuit of thrift shops and other secret places I regularly visit book-hunting.

Any week of my life can find me buying one hundred or more books – some weekends it can be a thousand. I’ve found it difficult to leave behind at a sale beautiful condition books ideal for the Spybrary world – I’ve been accumulating them in hopes someday we’d have a Spybrary convention and I’d sell them all to you at a reasonable price.

John sifts his way through these piles in order to deliver us some spy book treasures.

I’m going to add to my regular eBay sales to this page, called John Koening Books, primarily devoted to Spybrary-themed books. I’ll continually add new listings; I have boxes and boxes of books begging to be sorted and photographed and added to this page.

Hopefully, I’ll continually find books you want to buy. My guarantee as a long-time Spybrary member and friend is I’ll conservatively grade books, they will all be well-wrapped and packaged in new shipping materials, and I’ll be responsive and fair and hopefully fun. 

John Koenig Books open for business.

I’m easy to find; you can contact me through the Spybrary page, message me, email me ( I’ll take payment via PayPal to the email address, and I can take your credit card via Square (email me to do that).

Let me know what book(s) you want, I’ll respond and assure you it’s available, and we’ll take it from there. 

Keep checking my page John Koenig Books; new books will be added on a steady, continual basis.

Related Posts