Literary bites: Dubai’s latest book café trend

A revivalist surge in reading has fed the emerging trend of the book café, where the fondness for prose combined with delicious food is proving to be a sure-fire hit across the globe

At a time when technology is paramount, reading can often seem to be on the demise. However, in recent years Dubai and other global capitals across the world have witnessed a growth in the promotion of literature and reading. Tying the love for the written word with a love of socialising – as well as a good cup of coffee – the book café has become a prominent trend to be reckoned with.

One such literary café is the innovative BookMunch. Based in the trendy Al Wasl Square in Dubai, it was the vision of Dareen Charafeddine who, armed with a publishing background and a love of food, felt a bookshop cum café was “a perfect marriage of two of life’s greatest pleasures – reading and eating.”  

With a handpicked selection of books to choose from the shelves, as well as a delicious array of gourmet picnic baskets and teatime platters to fulfil the inner gourmand, the café is the perfect place to curl up with a good book.

The café welcomes all walks of life, often hosting story time for children and book signings from leading authors for adult reading enthusiasts. As Dareen explains, “BookMunch is very much an interactive café for the community - we welcome absolutely everyone: from Safa Park’s daybreak joggers to drop-off mums from the many surrounding primary schools, foodies, book lovers, WIFI nomads and coffee connoisseurs”.

Meanwhile, in London’s Bloomsbury there is a haven for reading and reflection to be found at the London Review Cake Shop. The modern answer to the capitals long-lost literary coffeehouses, the café offers a great variety of speciality teas and coffees surrounded by a wide selection of books and magazines.

A perfect marriage of two of life’s greatest pleasures – reading and eating

Dareen Charafeddine, Owner, BookMunch

Connected to the bookshop via a passage in the history section, the shop expresses the ethos of The London Review of Books: independent-minded, surprising and energetic. As manager Terry Glover says she wanted the Cake Shop to, “reflect the things I love: lemon trees, fresh herbs, sunny days, home baking, urban foraging, farmers' markets... I like the traditional with a twist.”  

The adjacent independent bookshop carries on in the same vein, with an astounding choice of more than 20,000 titles; it offers both traditional world classics as well as cutting-edge contemporary poetry and fiction.

Since it started more than a decade ago, Housing Works Bookstore Café in New York has become an institution in its own right. Named as the ‘the literary salon the city has been missing’ by the New York Times, it has become a great place to meet friends, relax and above all – devour a good read.

Located in downtown Soho, the bookshop boasts beautiful open spaces and high ceilings, spiral staircases and balconies, all filled to the brim with a wide variety of books.

And what sets Housing Works apart from other cafés and shops in Manhattan is that it is a not-for-profit venture, where the public donates all the books for sale and the proceeds go towards benefiting homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. Even the café is run entirely by dedicated volunteers, so visitors can be reassured that they are contributing to a good cause while enjoying the latest read.

BookMuch owner
Dareen Charafeddine, owner of BookMunch had the innovative idea to set up a book café in Dubai