South Africa’s small towns are filled with rare finds, and for book lovers it is often the second-hand bookshops – and the conversations around the books – that draw them closer time and again (and one more time the next day and the following day) like a literary moth to a flame.
A book is a journey and through these 5 South African towns your book finds will take you on a whole other journey, beyond the pages.
5 South African Towns for Bookworms
Make your way to Cradock in the Karoo Heartland for the annual Schreiner Karoo Writers’ Festival (in its 10th year in 2020). If reading, writing, poetry and the Karoo gets you all excited then this is one winter festival you can’t miss. The whole town gets involved, there are numerous projects at local schools and as a visitor you can attend creative writing workshops, informative talks, storytelling outings, book launches and visit the Olive Schreiner House Museum.
Richmond, with its beautiful 19th century architecture and donkey cart traffic, holds the title of being South Africa’s national booktown (and the one on the African continent). Here, in this small Karoo town in the Northern Cape you can read to your heart’s content and shop for second-hand, rare and outdated books. They also host the annual Boekbedonnerd Literary Festival, a jam-packed festival with interesting talks, presentations, exhibitions and launches.
Molteno is home to more than just Ouma rusks, it is also here where Nadine Rose Larter’s passion for books and reading has blossomed into The Littlest Bookshop, a tiny bookshop in the Eastern Cape filled with pre-loved books, good conversation and a few dogs, cats, guinea pigs and a bunny who make their appearance every now and then. This is South Africa’s unofficial official smallest bookshop, with a sign outside that says, “Open Occasionally” (you can also order books through her Facebook Page).
Bethulie is well-known for Patrick Myhardt, the local theatre icon from Boy from Bethulie, but there is another place in this Free State town that will give any book lover oodles of joy and satisfaction and that is the Royal Hotel of Bethulie, also known as South Africa’s Book Hotel. Anthony Hocking, owner of the hotel and author himself, calls it “the hotel of stories” and the hotel is filled – floor to ceiling – with his own personal collection of books and vinyls. The hotel as more than 30 000 books and 80 000 vinyls, with about 90 000 more books stored at his house.
Groot Marico is a town in the North West still settled in yesteryear, their telephone exchange was only automated towards the end of 2000 and ‘Nommer, asseblief’ was very much a reality in the days leading up to 2000. Known for their mampoer and the Marico Oog, a 17-metre deep pool and the source of the Marico River, author Herman Charles Bosman also put Groot Marico on the map by featuring the town in a lot of his short stories. He said, “There is no other place I know that is so heavy with atmosphere, so strangely and darkly impregnated with that stuff of life that bears the authentic stamp of South Africa.” Every year during October the town is abuzz during the Bosman Weekend where stories of the Marico and H.C Bosman are celebrated.
Do you know of any other towns that bookworms should put on their list of places to explore? Do share!