A good book can make hours spent on the road that much more enjoyable. A great book takes you on a journey, introducing you to a whole new world, without living the comfort of your home.
Here’s a list of places to go hunting for affordable and local books, eat and be surrounded by books, catch up with a friend in a bookish environment, attend a book launch, take yourself on a reading date with a wonderful book in hand or make new literary friends.
Most of these places specialise in second-hand books and antiques – I love second-hand bookstores because they are incredibly affordable and it’s in these joints that one truly appreciates the smell of an ageing book (call it dust if you must).
The places that aren’t second-hand bookstores – like African Flavour Books, David Krut Bookstores and Skoobs Theatre of Books – pride themselves on their heavy focus on South African and African literature. This offers locals a great sense of where the literary scene in South Africa is today and exceptional curation of local literature.
1. Stock up on local literature and attend book launches at African Flavour Books
Where: 20 Melle Street (entrance on De Korte St next to Once in Joburg), Braamfontein and they also have another branch in Vanderbijlpark.
Contact: 0634607815, africanflavourbooks.com
Located in the heart of culturally vibrant Braamfontein and launched in September 2017, African Flavour Books is home to a wide variety of local and contemporary book titles. The bookstore was founded by couple Fortiscue and Nokuthula Helepi who saw a demand in Braam for a literary space that was not only a bookstore, but an event space – it even hosts book clubs. The Braamfontein branch is their second store, they also have another branch in Vanderbijlpark which specialises in African books. The bookstore also sells music and movies – most of which emanate from Africa. It’s spacious and open so you can easily amble through books and is located right across from The Immigrant, where you can order coffee or wine after some book shopping. Follow them on Facebook for event updates.
2. Visit the largest second-hand bookstore on the continent at Collectors Treasury
Where: 44 Commissioner Street, Joburg Central.
Contact: 0113346556, antiqbook.com/bookdealers/collectorstreasury
This bookstore is located in an eight-storey building on the east side of the Joburg CBD and was founded in 1974. It’s said to be the largest bookstore in the southern hemisphere, hosting over one million books in stock,as well as maps, artworks, antiques and over 300000 vinyl records. If you’re collecting, this is unequivocally your spot to visit.
3. Catch up with a friend about that book at EB Social Kitchen & Bar
Where: Store 30, Hyde Park Corner, Jan Smuts Ave & William Nicol Dr.
Contact: Find EB Social Kitchen & Bar on Facebook and call 0112686039, and for Exclusive Books visit exclusivebooks.co.za and call 0113254298.
This stunning restaurant is located inside the Hyde Park Corner Exclusive Books and guaranteed to be a hit with any book-lover. This branch of Exclusive Books was shortlisted for the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in the category of The Bookstore of the Year, so the vibe is brilliant if you’re looking to browse or purchase. They also host a variety of book launches and events.
The best thing about visiting this branch of Exclusive Books, or Hyde Park Corner for that matter, is the EB Social Kitchen & Bar. The restaurant has wonderful views of Joburg, offers great food and coffee all while surrounded by books, I honestly couldn’t dream up a better idea myself. It’s fantastic to catch up with a friend (especially to on that book you’re both reading) and if they haven’t tried out this spot before, they’ll love you for it! They’ve now put together a seven-course romance novel-inspired menu for Valentine’s Day for R560 per person. If your lover is also a book-lover, book pronto.
4. Collect local artsy books at David Krut Bookstores
Where: 151 Jan Smuts Avenue in Parkwood and 264 Fox Street in Maboneng Precinct.
Contact: 0118805646, davidkrutbookstores.com
The bookstore is located on Jan Smuts near the Goodman Gallery, CIRCA and a lovely restaurant called Collection on Bolton where you could have coffee or a cocktail after a book shopping mission. The trendy location of this bookstore means there’s more than one reason to visit, plus they sometimes host book launches. This delightful bookstore specialises in South African titles with a focus on art and art-related subjects, South African culture and politics, as well as biographies, poetry, literature, design, architecture, Johannesburg and other local histories, and collectables. If you’re into the local art scene, then look out for their David Krut Workshops in Maboneng at Arts on Main where artists, curators, and other bookstores get together in a collaborative attitude to promote the local arts.
5. Find good deals and classics at Bookdealers
Bookdealers has branches around the city, but I visited and loved their Melville store. There was never a moment I walked into this bookstore and left without a few classics for the price of one decent bottle of wine. I loved their wide selection of book and the atmosphere, both inside the bookstore and outside Joburg’s hippy central. Almost across the bookstore is the lovely Bread & Roses where you can enjoy a lovely lunch, coffee with a friend or your own company with a book in hand and one of their freshly-pressed juices. The bookstore closes at 21:00. Another good branch I visit is inside The Colony Centre on Jan Smuts, not too far from Hyde Park Corner.
6. Give back by buying books at Wits Hospice Store
The Wits Hospice Store was established in 1979 and proceeds made from the sales go towards assisting people suffering from life-limiting illness. So feel free to shop without reservation knowing that every cent you spend will go a long way to helping those in need. The store has a wide range of new and old items ranging from furniture, antiques and books so you definitely guaranteed a great find at the fraction of a price. You can also donate old books, furniture and other items that could be sold to at the store.
7. Collect rare finds at Rick’s Bookshop
Where: The one in Craighall Park on Jan Smuts Avenue; the one in Parkhurst on one of the trendiest streets in Parkhurst 37 4th Avenue. Check out more details about the other branches.
Contact: 0114422709, ricksbookstore.yolasite.com
Located on 4th Avenue, Rick’s Bookshop is located on one of the trendiest streets in Parkhurst and hosts a variety of interesting second-hand books worth your exploration. The beauty of visiting this bookstore is that it also comes with the responsibilities of exploring the coffee shops, restaurants and stores located in this pretty northern Johannesburg hub. At Rick’s, you’ll find old and rare books with well-aged spines that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
8. Buy books on the streets and find writing workshops at Bridge Books
Where: 85 Commissioner Street, City Central; 274 Fox Street, Maboneng.
Contact: 0797084461, bridgebooks.co.za
Bridge Books sells books in a unique and far-reaching way by working with independent booksellers across downtown Johannesburg who sell books on the streets. Bridge Books is ensuring that books are sold in as many places as possible, to as many people as possible by people who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to publishers because of bureaucratic red tape. Their main store is on Commissioner Street, which is also very African Literature focused and they’ve also just recently opened a new store in Maboneng next to Babette’s Bread. They host book events, writing workshops and other events that should excite any literati, follow them on Facebook for event updates.
9. Collect children’s books (and other genres) at Chapter 1 Books
Where: 67 Grant Avenue, Norwood.
Contact: 0114831899, chapter1.co.za
Chapter 1 Books has a wide variety of children books and also specialises in second-hand rare finds. If there’s a specific copy you’re looking for, they’re more than happy to assist and in the event that they don’t have it, they’ll keep an eye out for you in their collections. They also have a good online search function, but I much prefer to search through the actual bookstore, where I can touch and smell books.
10. Collect rare finds and antiques at Booklovers Paradise
Where: Beyers Naudé Dr & Milner Ave, Waterval Estate in Randburg.
Contact: 0118883280 or 07274 66847, booklovers.co.za
This bookstore is another collectors paradise because it specialises in books that are out of print across a variety of genres ranging from history, fiction and non-fiction. They also have a vast collection of antiques, paintings and maps as well as travel guides. Their book restoration department can also revive old rundown books into healthier manuscripts with mature spines. There’s also an online search portal for those who know exactly what they’re collecting. Otherwise, pop in, amble through the aisles and you might make a surprising discovery.
11. Visit the unique L’Elephant Terrible and linger at 44 Stanley
Where: East part at 44 Stanley located at 44 Stanley Avenue in Braamfontein.
Contact: 0114821871, 44stanley.co.za
This is a charming and unique bookstore at 44 Stanley in Milpark – Joburg’s quaint courtyard that’s made of an eclectic mix of coffee shops, restaurants and stores. The bookstore is located right next to Bean There Coffee, so you can grab a coffee before immersing yourself in their wonderful and vast collection of fiction and non-fiction.
12. Bookshop before theatre time at Skoobs Theatre of Books Montecasino
Where: Shop 74 in Montecasino, Montecasino Boulevard, Fourways.
Contact: 0115132800, find Skoobs Theatre of Books on Facebook.
This bookstore nearby the Montecasino theatre, which means you can combine your book shopping with some theatre time. The bookshop has an in-house coffee shop, champagne bar and balcony for readers and book shoppers to relax. Their books range from fiction, biographies, and classic genres. In addition to the champagne bar, they also have a gamers section that includes PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 for gamers. It’s open seven days a week from 10:00 to 23:00 Sundays to Thursdays, on Fridays and Saturdays they close at midnight. They also have a variety of reading accessories and gifts, plus they host book launches.
13. Collect popular authors of the past at Kalahari Books
Where: 2 Dunnotar Street, Orange Grove
Contact: 0826788619, kalaharibooks.co.za
Kalahari books is located on the first-floor of a warehouse above an automotive garage in Orange Grove and has a wide variety of books. It’s run by Richard Welch who’s been running the sore for over three decades and is always happy to assist customers in making good discoveries. The store has over 700000 books from all genres including fiction, plays and poetry and a comprehensive non-fiction collection. They also have an interest in ‘popular authors of the past’, which means they’re likely to be even more useful in helping you find an old book that was once popular.
14. Read at Reading Room
Where: 1 Fox Street, Johannesburg Central.
Located on the historic and now trendy Fox Precinct is a book lover’s delight. Purchase or sit down and read new, second-hand or rare finds bought at Reading Room. The Fox Precinct was the first part of the mining camps that emerged when gold was discovered in the 1880s. This historic area is now one of the trendy cultural hubs in Johannesburg – with markets, theatre, various stores and restaurants – making a visit here worthwhile. A visit to the Reading Room might not result in a discovery of gold, but there’s a good chance you’ll unearth a literary gem.
15. Find wine, friends and reads at Love books
Where: 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville.
Contact: 0117267408, lovebooks.co.za.
It’s a wonderful bookstore that’s popular with Melville’s book-lovers, well known for their book launches and events. Just across from the store is Service Station where you could also enjoy lunch or coffee with a friend. Even the New York Times fell in love with this place and listed the quaint spot in an article on Where to Go in Melville, Johannesburg. After falling in love with this spot, which I am sure you will, make sure to get their Love Books Literary Punch Card. For every 10 punches, you get a 10 percent discount to use in your purchase of a brand new book. Punches are collected for every R300 spent, attending their book launches (another punch if you buy a book) and for attending storytime on Saturday mornings when stories are read out to children. They also sell great wines produced by Joostenberg.