from Shelf-Awareness

Here are some proverbs dealing with books and reading from As They Say in Zanzibar: Proverbial Wisdom from Around the World – a compilation of more than 2,000 proverbs gathered by David Crystal:


  • A book holds a house of gold (China)
  • It is better to be entirely without a book than to believe it entirely (China)
  • Many books do not use up words; many words do not use up thoughts(China)
  • Scholars talk books; butchers talk pigs (China)

Reading and Writing

  • After three days without reading, talk becomes flavourless (China)
  • The wise read a letter backwards (Germany)
  • Learn to handle a writing-brush, and you’ll never handle a begging-bowl(China)
  • A love-letter sometimes costs more than a three-cent stamp (U.S.)


  • Life without literature is death (Latin)
  • Poets are fathers of lies (Latin)
  • Poets and pigs are appreciated only after their death (Italy)
  • Those that begin the play must continue it (Turkey)

Marilyn Dahl

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