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books

Heather #Gauteng52 book cover

The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Book: Frequently Asked Questions

After many years of threatening to do so, I’m finally publishing a book. The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge is being printed as we speak and will be for sale in mid-to-late November. What the actual book will look like. It’s soft-cover and 216 pages. A sample page of the book. I’m really excited about the design.  I’m anticipating a lot of questions. Let me try to answer them in advance with some handy FAQ. Frequently Asked Questions about the #Gauteng52 Book Q1: What is the book about? A2: The book is a compilation of the 52 blog posts I wrote in 2017 as part of my #Gauteng52 Challenge, when I visited 52 places in Gauteng province I’d never been to before. The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge is part coffee table book, part guidebook, part quirky blogging nonsense, with beautiful photos and design and text kept as close as possible to what I wrote in my blog in 2017. To get a feel for what the real book looks like, click the thumbnail below and flip through a few virtual pages. (This link is sometimes slow to open.) Q2: Who is the publisher of the book? A2: Me. (Note: I’ve never published a […]

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People studying at Joburg library

Long Live the Johannesburg City Library

I keep reading articles about gentrification in downtown Johannesburg. These articles — usually written by foreign journalists, or Capetonians — proclaim the city of Joburg remains blighted, crime-ridden, and poverty-stricken with the exception of a few pockets of upscale hipsterdom, like Maboneng and Braamfontein. I dispute this proclamation. As proof, I present the Johannesburg City Library. A typical Tuesday morning at the Johannesburg City Library. The Johannesburg City Library is a huge, beautiful building on Albertina Sisulu Road (formerly Market Street), overlooking Beyers Naude Square (formerly Library Gardens) in the center of the Joburg CBD. Originally opened in 1935, the library closed for three years between 2009 and 2012 as it underwent a major renovation and expansion. The library’s imposing front steps. I poked my head into the library once or twice after the renovation was completed. But I never got around to exploring it properly until last week, when I went with Marie-Lais Emond to take photos for the Citizen “Other Side of the City” column. I couldn’t believe: 1) how nice this library is; 2) how many amazing things are contained inside of the library; 3) how many people use this library; and 4) that people still go to libraries at all. I confess […]

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Blog class jumpstagram

#2SummersBlogClass: A Really Good Saturday

Yesterday I held my first #2SummersBlogClass, with nine fabulous bloggers/aspiring bloggers, at Bridge Books in downtown Joburg. It was one of the best Saturdays I’ve had in a while. Yes, I gave my blog class a hashtag. I’ve become one of those people. My blog class and me, in front of the beautiful Faith47 graffiti mural just off Gandhi Square. The First #2SummersBlogClass We spent the day in the Bridge Books meeting room at 87 Commissioner Street, talking about why to start a blog, tips on creating a strong, readable blog, how to promote a blog on social media, and how to shoot great photos for a blog. We took a photowalk around the CBD, visiting one of downtown Joburg’s best rooftop apartments, meeting people in shops and on the street, and exploring historic landmarks. Merishia shoots the city from the Apprentice Penthouse balcony, owned by Urban Ocean, on Albertina Sisulu Street. View of downtown Joburg through the porthole-shaped window in the Apprentice Penthouse bathroom. We wandered into a shop called Nombini Christine Fashion Design at the corner of Harrison Street and Albertina Sisulu. We had to do some negotiation to gain permission to take photographs, which was good practice for […]

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Bridge Books: A New Bookshop in Downtown Johannesburg

Remember Griffin, my fellow American Joburger who cruises the streets selling books from a suitcase? Well, he’s not just selling from a suitcase anymore. Griffin now has his own bookshop, Bridge Books, right in the middle of downtown Joburg. I visited the shop last weekend and it’s awesome. Bridge Books on its opening weekend. I love this guy’s shoes. I am so excited about this shop. It’s on one of downtown Joburg’s most iconic streets, Commissioner Street, just around the corner from the Johannesburg Public Library. The shop is located in a beautiful building, 85 Commissioner Street, which used to be the headquarters of Barclay’s Bank and will soon house a trendy food court (to be called the City Central Food Hall) and a high-end restaurant. This is an exciting, historic, and very safe section of downtown Joburg. Bridge Books is on a balcony overlooking the ground floor of the building, with floor-to-ceiling windows and great light. Looking up at Bridge Books from the ground floor. Looking at Bridge Books from the balcony on the other side of the building. My friend Veronica (left), who works at Bridge Books, ringing up a sale. I was too shy to talk to this man dressed in […]

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Cruising Jozi’s Streets, Selling Books From a Suitcase

A few weeks ago I came across a News24 article called The cut-throat world of the Joburg street book trade. I clicked on it immediately because: 1) I did realize Joburg had a cut-throat street book trade; and 2) The article was written by a friend of mine — an American journalist-turned-entrepreneur named Griffin. Griffin’s article was about guys who make a living selling books at outdoor markets and informal shops in Joburg’s chaotic central business district (CBD). Apparently there is a huge market for both new and used books in downtown Joburg, where there is not a single retail bookstore. If you live in the CBD and want to buy a book — whether it be a school book, a religious book, a children’s book, a biography of Steve Biko, or a romance novel — your only options are to take a costly trip to the Jozi suburbs or buy from an informal vendor. These informal vendors aren’t just scraping by. Some of them make decent livings, despite that fact that their book collections are often raided by thieves or the police. Books of all shades for sale at an outdoor market near Park Station. I had coffee with Griffin last week and […]

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Richard Welch at Kalahari Books

Kalahari Books: My New Favorite Quirky Place in Joburg

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. 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, […]

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The Joburg Expat Climbs Kilimanjaro

*Photo above courtesy of Eva Melusine Thieme. Some of you will probably feel cheated when you open this, thinking that I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro myself. Sorry to disappoint you. While I am an adventurous person and I think Kilimanjaro is beautiful (I’ve seen it from afar), I’m not particularly interested in climbing it. I’m content with hiking up smaller mountains, as I did in Lesotho. Me on a mountain called Fukufuku in Lesotho. Not Mount Kilimanjaro. (Photo: Michelle Stern) Anyway, this particular Joburg expat (or Joburg migrant, if you will) did not climb Mount Kilimanjaro. But another Joburg expat — my friend Sine — did. I first met Sine (professionally known as Eva Melusine Thieme) through her blog, the Joburg Expat. Sine and I moved to South Africa from America at around the same time, and we both started blogs about it. Sine (who is originally from Germany but every bit as American as I am) moved back to the States in December 2012 and renamed her blog “the Ex-Joburg Expat”. I still read it faithfully. Sine and I only saw each other occasionally when she lived in Joburg. We lived far apart and our lives were drastically different. Sine is a busy mother […]

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Jozi Loves Books

Welcome to 2Summers blog post #200! Thanks for reading. ♦       ♦       ♦       ♦       ♦       ♦ New books are expensive in South Africa. Walk into an average retail bookstore and an average paperback will set you back R150-R200 ($20-$26). Hardbacks and new releases cost much more. So when I heard that Friends of Johannesburg Public Libraries was putting on a huge sale of used books at the Mark’s Park Sports Club, just around the corner from Melville, I decided to check it out. The book sale began this morning at 9:00 a.m. I arrived a few minutes before 10:00, and drove around for 10 minutes before finding a parking space.

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