Little Books, Big Ideas: Proverbs From Around the World

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you ever travel to Columbus, Ohio, it is worth taking a short trip from the airport to the German Village, just south of the city’s downtown. The neighborhood was settled by a large German immigration that occurred in 1830. The Germans not only brought their culture, they also brought their impressive brick-laying skills — remarkably, the streets, sidewalks, houses, and buildings are all made of brick. In the heart of the German Village you will discover a wonderful bookstore called, appropriately, The Book Loft of German Village. Residing in a pre-Civil War building, the bookstore is an actual labyrinth featuring 32 different rooms on several different levels. Each room, covering a specific subject, is lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. If you are a bibliophile, it’s as close to the paradise that Jorge Luis Borges imagined.

In any event, it is while perusing the splendid bookshelves of The Book Loft of German Village that I came across an intriguing little book, Proverbs From Around the World: A Collection of Timeless Wisdom, Wit, Sayings & Advice by Gerd de Ley. In the introduction, the author writes, “Our world is massive. With a scope well beyond what most people can fathom, and certainly too large to be experienced in full during one lifetime, the Earth is full of the experiences and collected wisdom of billions upon billions of people.” It is from this global, multi-generational tapestry of wisdom, that de Ley selects some of history’s most enduring proverbs to share with the reader. Here are some examples (country of origin in parenthesis):

There are three friends in this world: courage, sense, and insight. (Africa)

He who seeks a friend without a fault will not find one. (Armenia)

In times of test, the family is best. (Burma)

To a man wine is like water is to the boat; it can carry him or guzzle him up. (Thailand)

There are forty kinds of lunacy, but only one kind of common sense. (Africa)

To talk without thinking is to shoot without aiming. (England)

When you begin to understand the situation, you know you must have been ill-informed. (Java)

Don’t look where you fell, but where you slipped. (Liberia)

Words are but dwarfs, examples are giants. (Luxembourg)

The eleventh commandment: thou shall not contradict. (Mexico)

If age and experience came at birth, we would have neither youth nor mirth. (Russia)

Wisdom does not come overnight. (Somalia)

A new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners. (Virgin Islands)

If you are too modest you will go hungry. (Zaire)

If you don’t know where you are going, look back to where you’ve come from. (Arabia)

Life is half-spent before one knows what life is. (France)

The devil likes to hide behind a cross. (Ukraine)

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. (India)

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

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The Wisdom of a Grandmother
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks
The Wisdom of Lady Grantham
The Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz
The Wisdom of Yoda
The Wisdom of George Carlin
The Wisdom of Saint-Exupery
The Wisdom of Steven Wright
The Wisdom of Spock
The Wisdom of Elie Wiesel

5 thoughts on “Little Books, Big Ideas: Proverbs From Around the World

  1. Having visited The Book Loft myself, I agree that it is a unique experience for bibliophiles: part adventure and part treasure hunt. Thank you for sharing some of the treasure that you discovered there!

    • MD: So glad you are familiar with The Book Loft. It is an absolute treasure that has a huge following. Many times there is a long line out the door. One of my favorite rooms is their bargain room that is filled with incredible finds. On a previous visit I found I beautiful uniquely-designed set of all of J.D. Salingers’ works in hardbacks with a matching slipcase. Many thanks for your continued support of Bookshelf. Cheers. Alex

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