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.