Cape Town’s top six spots if you are a book lover.
If you love books the Cape Town CBD is very kind to you and has several diverse spaces where you can find your regular dose of happiness.
The Book Lounge
The independent book store, Book Lounge is a magical space on the fringes of Cape Town CBD and District Six. What sets it apart from the large franchises (which I will not name) is that they do not get a million copies of a book and shove it into your face but they are rather selective, choosing their books based on merit.
What is better than a beautiful book shop that stocks most of your favourite books? A beautiful shop that stocks most of your favourite books and hosts an assortment of authors in their regular book launches.
The Book Lounge which turned 6 years old last November is run by the witty book connoisseur, Mervyn Sloman. Mervyn and Ben Williams are the saints that brought us the Open Book Festival which is hosted in several spaces such as The Book Lounge and The Fugard Theatre in September.
The Fugard Theatre
So naturally The Fugard Theatre is the next place on my list as it is the focal point of the Open Book Festival. Born in the spring of 2011 the festival has since been held every consecutive September. In a write up of the festival, the programme is described as being “chock-full with a variety of events that aim to both afford avid bookworms the rare opportunity to meet their literary heroes and cultivate a love for reading in younger generations”. For five spell binding days you get to fully immerse yourself in all things literature.
Address: Caledon Street, Corner of Harrington Street, District Six, Cape Town 8001 Phone: 021 461 4554
You would think that you would never find an independent book shop with a rich history right in the middle of the debauchery that is Long Street. Clarke’s Books, established in 1956, has a healthy range of South African and African books as can be seen by their creative window displays that lure you in. There is also an extensive second hand section on the top floor that you can lose yourself in. Like Book Lounge it is also more than a book store as it also hosts Book Launches every now and then.
In 2011 we got a bit of a scare when we heard that Clarke’s lease was not going to be renewed and there was a possibility that Clarke’s was going to close down like many book stores we have cherished. There was panic and lot of flurrying about as people imagined a life without Clarke’s. To our fortune, a venue two doors down was offered as the new home of Clarke’s. It is a bit smaller but I think that just adds to the intimacy and charm of the shop.
Address: 199 Long St, Cape Town 8001
Phone: 021 423 5739
Centre for the Book Around the corner from Clarke’s is The Centre for the Book housed in a historic Edwardian building. On their website they state that the elegant structure “prides itself as a national monument structure which is situated on the periphery of the beautiful Company’s Gardens in Cape Town”. The Centre for the Book is responsible for several programmes and initiatives that promote literacy. Book launches and talks such as those organised by UCT’s Centre for Conflict Resolution are also held at the venue and the elegant venues serve as a perfect backdrop to allow your brain to soak in all the intellectual stimulus.
Address: 62 Queen Victoria St, Cape Town 8000 Phone: 021 423 2669
The National Library of South Africa This national heritage site is nestled within the margins of the Company Gardens. When I saw the National Library for the first time I thought I was in heaven, it looked the way a library I imagined great libraries to look like, from outside it seemed magnificent and intimidating. The security was tight, I had to leave my bag at the entrance which initially upset me but once inside I understood why they had to be so paranoid.
The National Library of South Africa is meant to have a complete collection of published documents emanating from or relating to South Africa. Every publisher has to send 5 copies of their newly published or revised books to the National Library so that all 5 libraries around South Africa have a copy of the book. They also have an impressive range of first editions of books emanating from as far back as one can go in South African publishing history.
The National Library of South Africa in Cape Town also has free wifi, so if you need to write or study it is the ideal place to do your research and write.
Address: 5 Queen Victoria St, Cape Town 8001 Phone: 021 424 6320
Cape Town: Central Library
You cannot borrow any books from The National Library to take them home, the place to do this is the Central Library of Cape Town which is on Darling Street not too far from the National Library. This library has what I think some of the friendliest librarians I know. If you are struggling to find a book they will go out of their way to join you in the hunt and if it is not found they will search their impressive database to find another library where you can find it. It is quiet as libraries should be so you can snuggle down and read the book you have just found or you can write that novel that we are all waiting for.
Address: Darling St, Cape Town 8001 Phone: 021 467 1500
The Company Gardens
For a great and affordable space to sit or lie to read you can wrench yourself away from the National Library of South Africa and find a cosy, quiet spot in the Company Gardens. There is no greater inspiration than being surrounded by a lush of trees and happy little four legged creatures scurrying around. To complement the beautiful scenery you can also partake in a reader or writer’s favourite hobby – people watching. People from all walks of life wander through the gardens, giving you great writing prompts if you are suffering from writer’s block. The Company Gardens is nature’s gift to readers and writers alike.
Address: 19 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town 8000
And the list continues
Cape Town is also home to a whole range of coffee shops with free decent wifi, limited noise and a great atmosphere for you to read or write. The number of places one can trust with their hopes to be immersed in their books are plenty in Cape Town so this list is far from being definitive and is mainly subjective.