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 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.)
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 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.
The Kalahari entrance.
I followed the final sign. At last, I entered book Nirvana.
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.
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.
Looks like a wonderful place!
It really is.
What a beautiful picture. I wouldn’t mind spending a couple days a week in there.
You certainly could. Maybe even an entire week straight.
If I lived in Joburg, I certainly would make it my business to visit Kalahari Books. Sounds fabulous.
You would love it!
Richard should consider opening a second branch in NYC. So I can go too. Just my two cents.
Haha, I’ll pass on your recommendation the next time I see him 🙂
I’ll definitely go and visit Richard!
That’s great, I hope you enjoy.
I have to go here, looks amazing!
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Always an interesting book to discover in a place like this
I’ll definitely go check out this little hidden gem!
Please do. Richard deserves more visitors 🙂
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!
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.
Thanks so much for the lovely comment! I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog and I hope you make it to Joburg someday.
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.