Michelle Obama made a surprise stop during her visit to Salt Lake City. Here’s where she went.

The former first lady carried out a ‘secret mission’ to sign copies of her books, and posted the video on Instagram.

(Frank Franklin II | Associated Press file photo) Former first lady Michelle Obama — seen here at the opening ceremony of the U.S. Open tennis championships in New York on August 28, 2023 — made a surprise visit to The King's English Bookstore while visiting Salt Lake City in May 2024.

A distinguished author and former first lady popped into a popular Salt Lake City bookstore while visiting Utah last week.

Michelle Obama posted a reel to the social media platform Instagram late Tuesday afternoon, chronicling the journey — which she called a “secret mission” — to The King’s English Bookshop.

Anne Holman, the store’s co-owner, said Wednesday she was informed of Obama’s visit a week in advance, because of security preparations.

“When she actually gets there, it’s really happening, it’s just so cool because she’s Michelle Obama, but she’s also someone that you could really be friends with,” Holman said.

On the Instagram reel, Obama is first shown in the back of an SUV, on her way to the bookstore, sharing her playful disguise of big sunglasses. She shares her plan to secretly sign copies of her own books.

Once in the store — which she called “charming” in the post’s caption — she finds copies of her latest book, “The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times.” According to its Goodreads summary, the book is a collection of “practical wisdom and powerful strategies for staying hopeful and balanced in today’s highly uncertain world.”

Antonia Squire, an employee at the store, said Wednesday there are no longer any signed copies of Obama’s books available.

Holman, who was in the store when Obama arrived, said customers at first didn’t recognize the former first lady, because she came in the back door.

In the video, Obama is shown flipping through a copy of “Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity” by Michele Norris, the Washington Post opinion columnist and former “All Things Considered” host. Obama calls Norris “my dear friend.”

The former first lady walked around with a couple of the booksellers, and even took book recommendations. She is seen in the video browsing through the store, then taking a few books and a silk robe to the checkout counter. Onlookers watch and record her as she looks around.

At one point, Obama finds a framed photo of her husband, former President Barack Obama, hanging on a wall.

The photo was from 2009, Squire said, when TKE’s now-former owner, Betsy Burton, was president of the American Booksellers Association, a national trade organization for bookstores. Burton, Squire said, was in D.C. for the ABA’s annual education conference, and the board was invited to the White House.

(Anne Holman) Co-owner of The King's English Bookshop Anne Holman hugs former First Lady Michelle Obama. Obama visited the Salt Lake City bookstore on Thursday May 2, 2024 and signed copies of her latest book.

Burton, Squire said, got to go and “actually hand President Obama a book that the board had selected from that year.”

Holman, the co-owner of TKE, said that Burton gave several books to former President Obama, but the main one was “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese, an urban fiction novel.

“It was a fun time,” Holman said, “because most of the other people on the ABA board gave him books about American history, biographies of politicians, and Betsy gave him some great fiction, which is what we like to be known for.”

The photo of the Oval Office visit, Squire said, has “pride of place” in the bookstore.

Michelle Obama was in Salt Lake City last week for Qualtrics’ annual X4 Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center, where she gave an off-the-record keynote address about leadership.

The visit to TKE isn’t the first time Obama has made a video like this. On April 19, she posted an Instagram reel of her visit to a Target in St. Louis; the paperback edition of “The Light We Carry” was released on April 16.

The King’s English’s account left a comment on the newest video: “Thank you so much for visiting us! We are honored and so appreciate your incredible support of bookshops and literacy.”

Holman said what was gratifying about Obama’s visit was that “a lot of the people that were in there were young women. I’d like to think it’s life-changing, and she interacted with them. She talked to them. She gave them hugs.”

(Palak Jayswal | The Salt Lake Tribune) The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, in December 2023.

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