There’s just something about independent bookstores. Maybe because they don’t resemble the chain store layout, with generic shelves and proper security. Still, most independent stores just seem to be a better home for books and even though they tend to be smaller, they also tend to give the impression that they have that specific book you’re looking for, the one you thought was out of print. I’m especially fond of the ones with couches. Not only one or two, but enough of them standing around so you don’t feel like the only idiot sitting down to properly appreciate a book. The Book Lounge definitely wins when it comes to their amount of seating, making the name rather appropriate. And their book collection is pretty cool too.
It wasn’t built to be a bookstore. It couldn’t have been, unless it has been a bookstore for a few centuries. The Book Lounge opened in 2007, on the corner of Roeland and Buitenkant Street, as part of a very classic looking corner building with rows of small white framed windows. The store is beneath this nameless space, occupying the ground level and extending to the basement. Inconsistently spaced steps and occasional creaks will make anyone feel comfortable in here.
Up top, there are only two couches, because here you’ll find all the fiction you can imagine, plus art, gardening, humour, some Afrikaans novels and much more. Books fill all the shelves lining the walls as well as the numerous mismatched tables standing around. This may sound intensely cramped, not unlike airport bookstores, but actually there’s more than enough space to laze around and browse. And in the event of you being in a hurry and wanting to find that certain book fast, the staff will definitely know if they have what you’re looking for and they’ll probably know whether it’s any good too. They’re also pretty good for recommendations if you’ve developed a sudden interest in a new subject and you can’t wait to start learning more. On the table-shelf-tower close to the counter you’ll also see a newspaper-like, smallish magazine called Jungle Jim. This is a bimothly, African pulp fiction magazine available in a very selected list of Cape Town stores. They’re always looking for contributors, if you happen to be interested.
Then there’s the basement. This is the official lounge area, with books only lining all the walls. In the middle, there’s a mat surrounded by comfy chairs and couches as well as a few rickety wooden coffee tables. This is the perfect spot to sit down and read a book or paper, because here you can order coffee’s, teas or milkshakes and even nimbly treats like muffins and cake. These are served in proper china, complete with crinkly porcelain and patterned cups (by the looks of it, you’d never get the same one twice). Also, if you need space to read that paper, there’s the conveniently large dining table. Here you’ll regularly find friends catching up in between the philosophy section and children’s books.
Another feature of the Book Lounge that makes it better than the run of the mill bookstore, is that they regularly host events. Book related, off course. On their website you’ll find dates for upcoming readings, launches and the mandatory Saturday morning Story Time. All kids are welcome to come and listen to a story. And since it’s their hour, no cake or coffee will be served during this time.
So, if you can’t afford to buy a book just take whatever you’re reading and do it there. It’s a good place to go if you feel like going out but not like being in a crowded restaurant where waiters are lurching and yuppies are ipadding.