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bookstores

Heather #Gauteng52 book cover

The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Book: Frequently Asked Questions

UPDATE (August 2019): The first and second editions of The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge are nearly sold out — I have about 15 copies left. If you’d like to order a copy, click the button below or contact me for details on how to pay via EFT:

Pay

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.

Heather #Gauteng52 book cover
Printed book

What the actual book will look like. It’s soft-cover and 216 pages.

#Gauteng52 book sample page

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.)

Heather Mason | The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge

Q2:
Who is the publisher of the book?

A2:
Me. (Note: I’ve never published a book before and haven’t a clue what I’m doing.)

Q3:
How much does the book cost?

A3:
R400 (about $28)

Q4:
Where/How can I buy the book?

A4:

  1. The book will be available at Bridge Books, which has two locations in downtown Joburg. You can also buy it online from Bridge Books and there is a pre-order option available.
  2. Once the book is printed, it will be available at Mwanawasa Art at 27 Boxes in Melville.
  3. The book will be for sale at Breezeblock, a café in Brixton that is featured in the #Gauteng52 Challenge.

You can also buy the book directly from me, but only after 12 December. In a stroke of exceptionally bad timing, I will be in the United States from 16 November to 11 December and unable to distribute the book myself during that period. If you’re in a rush to get the book in time for Christmas, I recommend ordering through Bridge Books.

Several people have already gotten in touch to say they want to buy the book. If you are one of these people, don’t worry: You’ll hear from me soon. I’ll make sure you receive the book in whichever way is easiest for you.

Q5:
How many copies of the book will be available?

A5:
I am printing only 250 copies of the book, at least for the first edition. This isn’t because I’m trying to be all exclusive and precious about it, but rather because…duh, it turns out printing books is freaking expensive.

Q6:
Can I buy the book if I’m not in Joburg?

A6:
Yes. If you live overseas or elsewhere in South Africa, you can order The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge from Bridge Books.

If you live in America and want to order the book, please message me privately. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring some copies with me when I come to the U.S. and can get your book to you that way.

Q7:
Will there be a book launch?

A7:
I’ll be holding a launch on the evening of 13 December at the Bridge Books shop in Maboneng. Mark your calendars and please stay tuned for more details.

Q8: 
Is The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge available as an e-book?

A8:
No, not for now.

Flyer for #Gauteng52 book


Flyer for the book.

I’m really, really excited about this book. I worked with an incredibly talented book designer, Matthias Löcker of arte.fakt, who has turned my words and photos into a beautiful work of art. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

I’ll post more details once I have them.

Fortiscue Help of African Flavour Books

#Gauteng52, Week 43: African Flavour Books

Welcome to Week 43 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit African Flavour Books, with locations in Vanderbijlpark and Braamfontein.

Word of new local bookstores travels fast in Johannesburg. I started hearing about African Flavour Books, which sells primarily African literature with a hint of African-American mixed in, the moment they opened their shop in Braamfontein.

I visited the new Braamfontein shop for the first time a couple of weeks ago and scored a copy of Lauren Beukes’ Moxyland for the rock-bottom sale price of R80. (That’s about $5.75 for a brand-new paperback!) The shop is bright and cheerful, with a fantastic selection of books and an adorable section for kids to sit and read. I fell in love instantly.

African Flavour Books in BraamfonteinThe new African Flavour shop in Braamfontein, right across from the Once in Joburg Hotel.

Books at African Flavour Braamfontein
Books.

More books at African Flavour BraamfonteinMore books.

Kids reading at African FlavourCute kids reading books.

Kid reading at African Flavour BraamfonteinYou get the idea.

The Story of African Flavour Books

As I was making my purchase I fell into conversation with Fortiscue (aka Fort) Helepi, the owner, and learned that while the Braamfontein shop just opened, African Flavour itself is not new. Fort and his wife, Nokuthula (aka Eve), actually started their business a few years ago when they opened the first African Flavour shop in Vanderbijlpark.

As soon as those words came out of Fort’s mouth, I started planning my journey. Marie-Lais and I trekked to Vanderbijlpark a few days later.

Vanderbijlpark (don’t ask me to pronounce it aloud) is in the Vaal, about an hour south of Joburg, in a part of Gauteng that Americans would refer to as “the boonies”. It’s certainly not the first place one would expect to find an independently owned, all-African bookshop.

But Fort and Eve are from the Vaal and they had a dream to encourage a love of books and reading in their own community. So they opened their store in a nondescript shopping center in Vanderbijlpark and refused to listen to their landlord when he predicted they would close down within six months.

The landlord was wrong. In fact, African Flavour in the Vaal became so popular, so quickly, that people started traveling there from Joburg to buy books. Within a few years, the Helepis were doing well enough to open their second shop in Braamfontein. The couple quit their day jobs (Fort used to be an engineer) and now pursue book-selling full time.

Fort at African Flavour in the VaalFort outside the shop in the Vaal.

Fort describes the Vaal shop as more of a “beginner” store than the Braamfontein shop, with more books available for new readers. There are more school books, business books, and nonfiction in the Vaal, compared with a larger selection of literary fiction in Braamfontein. The Vaal shop also has a selection of local music and films, a larger children’s section, and a special spot called “Eve’s Corner” with all of Eve’s personal recommendations.

Books at African Flavour in the VaalA mix of business, self-help, and religious books in the Vaal.  

Children's section at African FlavourThe children’s section.

Nelson Mandela children's bookNelson Mandela in Afrikaans.

Shopping in the business sectionBrowsing the business section.

African literature booksClassic African literature.

Eve's Corner at African Flavour
Eve’s Corner. I appreciate that Eve reads about the Kardashians along with the A to Z of Amazing South African women.

I love everything about this story. Also, books aren’t dead. Please support these beautiful bookstores and the beautiful people who own them.

Fortiscue Help of African Flavour Books

African Flavour’s Vaal store is at Shop 16, Vaal Walk Shopping Centre, Corner DF Malan & F W Beyers Street, Vanderbijlpark. African Flavour’s Joburg store is at 20 Melle Street, Braamfontein. Call +27-16-931-0068 (Vanderbijlpark) or +27-86-538-2548 (Braamfontein).

Read all of my #Gauteng52 posts and check out the interactive #Gauteng52 map.

Read This: Jozi’s Five Best Bookstores

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 and author
Bridge Books on its opening weekend.

Bridge Books young readerCute 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.

love 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.

Kalahari Books stacksStacks and stacks of books at Kalahari.

Richard Welch at Kalahari BooksRichard 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
Montecasino, Fourways

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 Theatre of BooksLooking 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.

Collectors Treasury stuffBooks and other stuff in the Collector’s Treasury.

Vanessa in the Collectors TreasuryA 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.

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.

Blog class and meMy 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 on Apprentice Penthouse balconyMerishia shoots the city from the Apprentice Penthouse balcony, owned by Urban Ocean, on Albertina Sisulu Street.

View through the window in the Apprentice Penthouse bathroomView of downtown Joburg through the porthole-shaped window in the Apprentice Penthouse bathroom.

Nombini Christine Fashion Design shopWe 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 my class. I can’t believe I’ve never noticed this shop before — the clothes are spectacular. Ms. Nombini was there, holding court in the middle of the shop and consulting with a number of eager clients. These ladies were trying on their bridesmaids dresses for an upcoming wedding — note the little girl peaking out from underneath the dress hems.

Taxi driver portraitA friendly taxi driver who asked to be photographed while sitting at a traffic light.

Gandhi SquareThe statue of Gandhi in Gandhi Square — one of my favorite statues in Joburg.

We strolled over to One Eloff Street, a short walk from Bridge Books, and had lunch at Joziburg Lane. Joziburg Lane was holding a weekend festival, providing the perfect excuse for a tasty off-site lunch. We took photos of our food and discussed the important of hashtags. We also enjoyed exploring the One Eloff development and discovered some hidden spots.

Drinks at Joziburg LaneDelicious cordials, which we used to wash down deli sandwiches and cheese platters from the Joziburg Lane deli. The deli is now open permanently, Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00-5:00, so give it a try if you find yourself in town for lunch. (Disclaimer: Our lunch at Joziburg Lane was complimentary. Negotiating complimentary lunches is another important blogger skill.)

Awkward selfie at One EloffWe walked up to the top floor of One Eloff and found this secret little area next to the parking garage. We decided it was a good spot for an awkward group selfie.

We then returned to Bridge Books for some one-on-one time and further discussion of what makes a good blog. The day ended with a fantastic poetry reading, wine, and book-shopping.

Thandokuhle Mngqibisa poet and physicianPoet and physician Thandokuhle Mngqibisa (what a surname — four consonants in a row!) reads some of her stunning and bad-ass poetry. Thando brought tears to my eyes, and I wasn’t the only one.

Blog Class-2951
I couldn’t leave without a new book and neither could Ntokozo. As I’ve said before, the books at Bridge are really affordable. If you haven’t gone to check it out yet, please do. 

I was really nervous about yesterday’s class. I’ve never taught a blogging class — or any class, for that matter — and I was terrified about everything that could go wrong. But the class went better than I could have imagined. I really think everyone (including me) learned a lot and had a lot of fun.

Above all else, I discovered yesterday that I love teaching people about blogging. Starting a blog was a transformative experience for me, and I see blogging as an immensely powerful communication medium and an art form. I want to help other people discover the power of this medium and use it to change their lives.

Blog class jumstagramThanks to my wonderful first group of students: Tamara, Kim, Roslyn, Kate, Merishia, Ntokozo, Josef, and Lesley. You guys are the best.

If you were interested in yesterday’s #2SummersBlogClass but couldn’t make it, don’t worry. There will be more. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog already, please do (there’s a link in top-right corner of this page) so that you don’t miss any updates.

Thanks again to Bridge Books, Urban Ocean, and Joziburg Lane for making yesterday awesome.

A Day in the Life of a Quirky Melville Tourist

A few months ago, I promised to write periodic posts about Melville guesthouses, restaurants, and shops. I’ve strayed from that commitment — the majority of my posts these days are about the Joburg city centre or more far-flung places outside of town.

So today I’m getting back to my roots. Melville is one of Joburg’s wackiest neighborhoods; it straddles a divide between tree-lined suburbia and urban grittiness. Melville is constantly changing — there are always quirky new places to visit, along with well-loved old standbys.

I’m not a Melville tourist, but I’ve just spent a few days wandering around pretending I am. Here is a recommended itinerary for a one-day visit to the place I call home in Jozi.

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