Looking out onto Braamfontein’s partially pedestrianised Reserve Street, The Commune is a cosy non-profit bookshop, cafe and reference library that describes itself as “community-centered, collectively-run”. The majority of the floor space is given over to cafe tables and comfy couches while one entire wall is lined with bookshelves stacked with titles covering topics such as pan-Africanism, decolonisation, queer theory, climate change and the abolition of prisons.
The collection of authors on the shelves, loosely ordered by genres such as philosophy, history or art, is eclectic and wide-ranging. Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like sits alongside the works of French philosopher Michel Foucault and Chinhua Achebe’s classics share a shelf with edgy contemporary works by new young local writers.
Asking the friendly staff to help you find a book not only helps with navigating the unlabelled shelves, but also opens up colourful conversation and debate. Everybody who is part of The Commune collective is a reader and some are also writers or journalists themselves too, which combined with the regular programme of book launches and poetry evenings, makes for a cafe that hums with a bookish, non-conformist air.
The books on the shelves are for sale although unlike many bookshops The Commune don’t mind if you treat the place more like a library. The cafe menu is as brief as they come. Choose from coffee, tea or a soft drink and a slice of cake or a cookie.
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