Kalahari Books: My New Favorite Quirky Place in Joburg

by | Sep 4, 2014 | Arts and Culture, Johannesburg, Markets/Shopping, Sandton and Surrounds | 19 comments

Several months ago I wrote an article featuring my top ten favorite quirky places in Joburg. Kalahari Books wasn’t on the list because I didn’t know about it back then. But if I had, it totally would have been.

Kalahari wide

Kalahari Books.

Kalahari Books has nothing to do with Kalahari.com, the South African online shopping giant. Kalahari Books came into existence long before Kalahari.com did; in fact Kalahari Books came into existence long before the internet did. Richard Welch, Kalahari Books’ owner, can’t remember exactly how long ago he started the business but he thinks it was about 30 years ago. (When you visit Kalahari, ask Richard to tell you the story of his legal skirmish with Kalahari.com.)

Richard Ben Franklin

I like this shot of Richard. He looks like Ben Franklin.

I first learned about Kalahari in April while working on the “Norwood and Surrounds” chapter of the SandtonPlaces book. I followed Google Maps to 2 Dunottar Street, just off Louis Botha Avenue in Orange Grove. I saw a small sign for Kalahari and squeezed my car into a cramped parking lot shared by a garage and a medical supply company. (Look for the flag pole with a wheelchair at the top.) I spotted another Kalahari sign, with an arrow indicating that I should walk to the other side of the building. I followed and found yet another sign pointing up a cement ramp.

Kalahari sign

Kalahari is tricky to find but don’t be deterred. Just follow the signs.

I found myself in an entry hall of sorts, a pavilion with a corrugated iron roof. The entry hall was filled with books.

Kalahari entrance2

The Kalahari entrance.  

I followed the final sign. At last, I entered book Nirvana.

Kalahari wide2


Secret Garden

Books Books Books.


Quirky man reading books.

Joburg has a lot of second-hand bookstores and I’ve visited many of them. But Kalahari is special. The warehouse-sized room is stuffed with books but it somehow doesn’t feel cluttered or cramped. Soothing classical music filters through the room. Richard will make you coffee and the coffee is good. There’s plenty of fresh air, light, and comfortable seating. Best of all, Richard is delightful. And if you’re looking for a book — any book — odds are he’ll find it for you.

I could say more but really, what else needs to be said? Kalahari Books is a must-visit for anyone who likes books, for anyone who likes quirkiness, for anyone who likes Joburg. There aren’t many places like this on the earth. So, go.

Kalahari Richard

A man and his books.

Kalahari is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 to 4:30. If you want to meet Richard (trust me, you do), it’s best to call before visiting because he pops in and out. His number is 082-678-8619.


  1. semper

    Looks like a wonderful place!

  2. Optimistic Kid

    What a beautiful picture. I wouldn’t mind spending a couple days a week in there.

    • 2summers

      You certainly could. Maybe even an entire week straight.

  3. Sunshinebright

    If I lived in Joburg, I certainly would make it my business to visit Kalahari Books. Sounds fabulous.

    • 2summers

      You would love it!

  4. amelie88

    Richard should consider opening a second branch in NYC. So I can go too. Just my two cents.

    • 2summers

      Haha, I’ll pass on your recommendation the next time I see him 🙂

  5. Net Ek

    I’ll definitely go and visit Richard!

    • 2summers

      That’s great, I hope you enjoy.

  6. Ang Lloyd

    I have to go here, looks amazing!

  7. emilydb13

    love the the post. follow my blog: liznsong

  8. Firefly - Jonker

    Always an interesting book to discover in a place like this

  9. Claudz (@Claudz)

    I’ll definitely go check out this little hidden gem!

    • 2summers

      Please do. Richard deserves more visitors 🙂

  10. Sine

    I wish I’d known about them back when living there. Books were so expensive in South Africa, I guess that is why used bookstores are so abundant there. Richard sounds like a great guy to meet and talk to. I love the convoluted approach with all the signs, so typical of many of my own forays into finding stuff. Every time it’s an adventure. Maybe not as convenient as ordering from Amazon, but so much more interesting!

  11. theworldiswrong2013

    I first came to interest in South Africa after watching Blue Crush 2 a few years ago. I am a traveller at heart but circumstances leave me rarely outside of my home turf of New England. You have renewed my interest in Africa(and travel in general). If ever I make it to Joburg I will be certain to put in a visit to Kalahari Books.

    • 2summers

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment! I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog and I hope you make it to Joburg someday.

  12. Dafydd Gwylon

    I was looking for a different Richard Welch when I came across Kalahari Books! This other Richard also had connections with South Africa & Botswana. I’d like to make contact with him! This other Richard Welch lived in Brighton [England] when I met him and he enjoyed writing himself as well.


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