Little Books, Big Ideas: African Proverbs

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you visit a used bookstore, you might stumble upon an often neglected section: miniature or compact books. A miniature book generally measures 3 by 4 inches; some are even smaller: 1.5 inches by 2 inches. A compact book, also known as an octodecimo in American Library Association lingo, generally measures 4 x 6 inches. Unfortunately, these types of books are often dismissed due to their small size. “If they are so small, how can they possibly matter?” you think to yourself. Astute book lovers, however, know that even little books can contain big ideas — profound thoughts that can change your life.

In my periodic visits to used bookstores, I recently came across such a thought-provoking little book: African Wisdom edited by Mary Rodarte and published by Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2003. In the introduction, Rodarte notes: “African proverbs do the work of a school lesson and a story in one. They entertain with humor and wit and open a window onto the social mores and values of a people. And unlike a complicated lesson, they are simple to remember and to pass on. As you read the proverbs… you will become a witness to a chain of humanity that began long before you and will stretch on long after you are gone.” Here are some notable African proverbs:

A friend is like a source of water during a long voyage.

Children are the reward of life.

There are three friends in life: courage, sense, and insight.

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.

A village without the elderly is like a tree without roots.

The mouth does not forget what it tasted one time.

The thorn will come out from where it went in.

A stone in the water does not understand how thirsty the hill is.

Before healing others, heal yourself.

The voyager’s path is marked by the stars not the sand dunes.

If you have a lot, give some of your possessions; if you have little, give some of your heart.

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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Read related posts: Little Books, Big Ideas: On Things That Really Matter
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
The Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
The Wisdom of Maya Angelou
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

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