I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things post-Trumpocalypse. I know that blogging about Joburg is the best thing I can do to pull myself out of this mental morass, but the struggle is real. For the first time in a while, I woke up today with no idea what to write about.
In desperation, I opened up a list of potential blog topics I made several months ago when my brain was less encumbered. There, I found my inspiration: Jozi Top Fives, bookstore edition.
Joburg has tons of great bookstores — new bookstores, used bookstores, small bookstores, huge bookstores — so narrowing down the field to just five is kind of unfair. I have many other favorites that didn’t make the list. But anyway, here are the five I came up with:
My Five Favorite Bookstores in Joburg
1) Bridge Books
85 Commissioner Street, Johannesburg
I’ve written about Bridge Books tons of times and you’re all probably sick of hearing about it. Really though. Bridge Books is great, and if you have any affinity for books whatsoever you will love it.
Bridge Books on its opening weekend.
Cute kid reading at Bridge Books.
In addition to selling a fascinating selection of new and used, mostly African books, Bridge Books hosts lots of interesting events, including poetry readings, storytelling hours, and my #2SummersBlogClass. They also recently opened a beautiful outdoor roof deck. Stay up to date on what’s happening by following Bridge Books’ Facebook page.
2) Love Books
Bamboo Centre, Melville
I love Love Books (haha, look what I did there) because: 1) It’s in Melville; 2) It’s connected to the Service Station, which appears in my Jozi Top Fives breakfast post; and 3) It’s such a peaceful, pleasant place to browse for books. Love Books sells all new, mostly local books, which means they tend to skew toward the expensive side, but for me it’s worth the cost knowing that I’m supporting a local business and local authors. Love Books has a particularly great selection of children’s books.
A very old photo of Love Books.
Love Books hosts regular books launches with very tasty free wine and snacks.
3) Kalahari Books
2 Duntottar Street, Orange Grove
Kalahari Books, which I’ve also written about before, is a special Jozi place, for its amazing used and rare book collection, its quirky atmosphere, and its charming proprietor, Richard Welch. Kalahari is a true booklover’s bookstore, with stacks and stacks of used books piled floor to ceiling and that wonderful old-book smell.
Stacks and stacks of books at Kalahari.
Richard himself, surrounded by books.
It’s worth taking an entire afternoon off to visit Kalahari, so you have plenty of time to browse the books and sit down for a cup of tea with Richard.
4) Skoobs Theatre of Books
Skoobs is an unconventional choice for this list, due to its location in the center of the fake Tuscan monstrosity that is Montecasino. Bear with me though. Skoobs is an independently owned bookstore with an interesting theatrical vibe that matches Montecasino in the most charming possible way. Skoobs is, by far, the best thing about Montecasino, and if you happen to be going there for dinner or a show then a quick stop into Skoobs is a must.
Looking down on Skoobs. The upstairs part has a grand piano and a wine bar.
My favorite pastime at Skoobs is to find a good book or magazine (the selection is similar to what you’d find at Exclusive Books), go upstairs to the fake-outdoor balcony overlooking the fake-outdoor Tuscan street, and recline on the hammock. I know it sounds weird but…just try it.
5) Collector’s Treasury
244 Commissioner Street, Johannesburg
I must admit that the Collector’s Treasury, which I wrote about in my Quirky Joburg post, is a bit too much for me. Located a couple of blocks from Maboneng, the Collector’s Treasury purports to be the largest used bookstore in the Southern Hemisphere with more than a million books, records, and other collectibles. The Collector’s Treasury is eight storeys tall, housed in an old downtown office building, and filled to the brim with stuff.
Books and other stuff in the Collector’s Treasury.
A girl called Vanessa, holding an ancient camera called Vanessa.
I confess that I’ve never made it past the first floor of the Collector’s Treasury. But even if you don’t buy anything (I never have), it’s a store that everyone should see at least once. It deserves a place in this list simply for its weirdness.
[UPDATE: A reader pointed out to me that the Collector’s Treasury has recently received complaints of racial profiling on its Facebook page. I checked out the Facebook reviews and there are several troubling complaints, and I’ve heard before that the Collector’s Treasury owners are pretty salty characters. I’m not going to remove the store from the list because I still think the place is too amazing not to check out. But I do want to say that racial profiling — i.e., following people of color around the store and acting like they might steal something — is not acceptable.]
Speaking of weird, there has never been a better time than now to break from reality and lose myself in a good book. Let me go do that.
Got any other favorite Jozi bookstores? Leave them in the comments below.
These book stores have such great amenities. Wine bars? Grand pianos?
If you’re lucky, there might be a coffee shop with mass produced pastries in LA.
Haha, yeah that place is pretty amazing.
Fantastic list, Heather! I’ll be sure to check these out. However, Collectors Treasury has a racial-profiling issue, as can be seen from their Facebook reviews.
Hi Michael. I just looked at the reviews – how disappointing. I will make a note of this in my post.
David Krut Bookstores. There are two of them at David Krut Projects at Arts on Main in Maboneng and the other exquisite bookstore at 151 Jan Smuts Avenue Parkwood.
Yes, I love David Krut!
My two favorite worlds: Expats and books:-) Thank you for this, will be sure to share with my readers.
Skoobs is such an experience – I am from Pretoria but will certainly visit some on your list
I know this post is about jhb bookstores and that’s great but can you also do a pretoria list please? 😉
Haha. I’ll get right on that!
If the owners of Collector’s Treasury have a problem with shoplifting (not surprising as SA has a massive petty crime problem) then I would think it is in their rights to keep an eye on things. It is their property after all. However, if they are being deliberately rude about it then that is a problem. If there weren’t so many nooks and crannies they could use a thorough camera system so security could be unobtrusive. Still if people have a problem with the store then don’t shop there. The market is a beautiful thing. Let it work.
I don’t have a problem with the owners keeping an eye on things to prevent shoplifting. I do have a problem with the owners treating customers differently due to their race. Obviously I’m relying on other people’s experiences in reporting this, because I myself will never be racially profiled. But as there is more than one complaint about it on the Collector’s Treasury Facebook page, I felt it was important to add.