SA’s literary hotspots

2011-02-25 09:40

Those who love to read would agree with CS Lewis, who said, to paraphrase, that there isn’t a cup of tea or a good book long enough to suit him. I wonder if he’d read War and Peace.

For those who love to read, part of the pleasure of reading is choosing what to read. A lot of the pleasure of that lies in where you go to buy your books.

Bookstores after all are so much more than soulless shops full of stuff.

They are places where knowledge resides and where ideas are constantly threatening to be spread, debated and new ones thought up.

Those who sell books know that the process of buying them is about so much more than browsing, choosing and paying, which is why Mzansi’s full of quirky places to get something to read.

Here are a few places around the country that offer a lot more than just a place for ­bibliophiles to shop.

Nice Café in Parkhurst’s 4th Avenue is a haven for lovers of fine cakes and books alike.

The kitchen produces an array of cakes and biscuits to die for and you can savour these surrounded by the comforting smell of paper in the establishment’s secondary premises, which doubles as a bookstore.

For the incurable bookworm Xarra Bookshop in Newtown is the place to go for those looking for local and African writers.

The store often hosts book launches and poetry sessions, and has succeeded in making it very hip and happening to know your local authors and poets.

On the border of Melville and Auckland Park lies Boekehuis, an intimate bookstore that specialises in books by local and other African ­authors.

There are shelves and shelves of cookbooks too and in the petite coffee shop part, patrons can enjoy pukka hot chocolate, which comes with a lump of chocolate to melt in your hot milk.

Delicious and pleasingly patriotic too.

Fogarty’s Bookshop is an institution and favourite haunt of the city’s bibliophiles. Started in 1947 by Basil Fogarty, it’s now run by his two daughters and a niece, and is one of SA’s oldest book shops.

The owners will give you a cup of coffee, though they don’t have a coffee shop, but the real attraction is that the people behind the counter have passion and a collective knowledge.

One of the oldest bookshops in the city, Adams in Musgrave Centre, is a must for any true bibliophile.

The store, which used to sell interesting kitchen equipment and had a thriving coffee shop, has just closed the coffee shop and no longer sells ladles.

However, book lovers can breathe a sigh of relief that the store will live on as a great place to buy something to read. It moves up to the third floor of the ­Musgrave Centre building from March 1.

Whether you live up in the misty hills or down beside the sea in ­Durban, both the Exclusive Books branches at The Pavilion and ­Gateway are also great places to find whatever you want to read.

Both have chairs for readers to ­relax in while they peruse the shelves and there is a Freddo coffee shop attached to each for caffeine addicts.

In the pedestrian centre of the city is Adams, a bookshop that has been a stalwart of book-buyers in the ­inland university town.

The shop stocks a range of academic books as well as fiction and non-fiction, and also stocks stationery for those in need.

Clarke’s Bookshop in Long Street is a speciality store with a history stretching back to 1956.

The store specialises in new, second-hand and, most importantly for collectors, ­out-of-print books on southern ­Africa.

Every year the owners put out two catalogues that list new publications as well as a limited list of the out-of-print works they have in stock.

What makes Cape Town such a crowdpuller are the views and the Bay Bookshop, which opened ­almost a decade ago, has stunning ones.

The original branch is in Hout Bay, with views over the sea. The second is in the Cape Quarter, and offers the best sea views and views of the city as you browse for a ­Sunday read.

The store’s other ­drawcard is that the staff will do anything to get a book for a ­customer.

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