Featured image: Chinua Achebe
This week, in my mini series of “Bookshops I Would Love to Visit Around the world” we are visiting Africa and more specifically, Cape Town, as it is overflowing with intriguing stores that us book-lovers would dream to visit.
However, it is a fact that 10/11 of the countries with the lowest adult literacy rates are in Africa. We take for granted the libraries that we see everywhere, whether they are in our school or local town and neglect to use them because we are too busy texting our friends or going out. We moan in class about having to use textbooks yet again and use up paper faster than we use our brains. Charities like the African library Project aim to change lives by starting libraries in rural Africa while we watch our local libraries shut down or reduce their opening hours because we are not using them. And despite celebrating wonderful bookshops like those in Cape Town, we should take the time to appreciate that not everyone has access to them or do not have the basic skills to appreciate them, through no fault of their own.
Writers like Mariama Bâ who had an early struggle for education and of course, Chinua Achebe all write about some kind of struggle whether personal or political. The contrast between famous African writers and Western ones are the difference of writing about a struggle they have faced or witnessed. In Achebe’s case, from a young age he was taught to write in English and as he put it himself “put away their different mother tongues and communicate in the language of their colonisers”. The individuality that makes a nation united and strong are taken away by those that wish to destroy it. Why are we not able to read and understand books in other languages, instead of adapting them to suit us? When we visit countries like Africa, why do we get spoken to in English rather than us speaking to them in their native language? We settle because we have unsettled others and have become so accustomed to our world that we feel no need to adapt.
Time for the bookshops!
Top 5 bookshops in Cape Town
In no particular order…
- Independent bookshop opened 2007
- Café (vital in moving from a good bookshop to a great one)
- Beautiful Victorian building
- Holds book talks at least twice a week
- Saturday morning story time in the renowned kid’s section
- Family friendly and welcoming atmosphere
2.) Kalk Bay Books
- Described as the bookshop with the best view in the world
- Pub-turned bookstore (multi-functional)
- Home to a number of book clubs
- Promotes genres such as African fiction and history, so not just your standard selection
The actual building has an intriguing history and was originally known as ‘Die Klipkantienjie’ (I have no idea what that means but it adds to the mystery)
- Established in 1956, in the centre of Cape Town
- Two-storey building filled with new, second hand and out of print books on South Africa as well as general fiction
- Second storey devoted entirely to second-hand titles, which means affordable prices
- Specialise in books on South African art which shows how highly this shop values their culture and also have an avid collection of maps which can date back to as early as the 1600s
- From one culture to another, this bookstore gives German speakers and customers interested in German culture a wide array of choice from fiction to medicine
- Buchhandlung offers a special service in that any book you desire can be ordered and arrive within a week
- Holds quirky events such as themed reading sessions once a month
- And they also sell films for those of you that prefer to watch rather than read *disapprovingly shakes head*
- Plus I’m a German student “so liebe ich diesen Speicher!”
5.) Select Books
- Established in 1986 and specialises in rare, out of print books and signed editions
- Have a multitude of genres from Zululand to Trees
- A founding member of the Southern African Book Dealers Association (SABDA)
- Have a trolley outside the store that has a plethora of discounted books
And that ends our tour of the best Cape Town has to offer!
Emily Simms: 21:21