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Presenting The Pavement Bookworm, the Inspiring Story of Philani Dladla

Pavement Bookworm

The Pavement BookwormBlackBird Books’ latest offering The Pavement Bookworm – the memoir of 24-year-old Philani Dladla – will be one of the most inspiring, young South African stories you’re ever likely to encounter:

An avid reader with an insatiable desire for knowledge, Philani has used his love for books to overcome drug addiction and change his lot in life – while trying to do the same for others. Philani’s story is one of triumph and redemption that will touch the hearts of all who read it.

Philani grew up in KwaZulu-Natal, and when he was 12, he received a gift – his very first book – from his mother’s employer, who also left him his book collection when he died. His mother moved him to Johannesburg as a last resort to save him from himself and the bad behaviour that would see him not complete Matric. He worked in a home for the elderly after his arrival and enjoyed looking after and chatting to the residents. He was doing well and even moved into his own apartment.

But Philani began to experiment with drugs, thus losing his job and finding himself on the streets under the Nelson Mandela Bridge, a place he would call home for several years. He had horrible things happen to him and the people around him, and it made him realise that his addiction would lead him down a fatal road.

“I decided I needed to save myself. I chose not to keep any money so I could avoid buying drugs. Anything I got I immediately spent on food … and books.”Philani Dladla

It was through the bag of books that he had managed to keep from his inherited collection that Philani would start turning his life around. Philani started reviewing the books and selling them to motorists driving up Empire Road in Johannesburg. He demanded a price according to how he rated the work in question.

His unique approach soon captured Jozi’s attention and he became known as “the pavement bookworm”. Documentary filmmaker Tebogo Malope interviewed him about his roadside bookstall and posted the video online – where it went viral.

And Philani’s life changed.

Today Philani is known around the world and he is in high demand because of his story. He is a motivational speaker who is committed to sharing the power of reading and how it helped him to overcome adversity. Apart from the little money Dladla makes by selling books, he has started a Book Reader’s Club for underprivileged children in Johannesburg. His story is, unfortunately, not a unique one in the South African context. It is a single chapter of a bigger narrative that is our society.

Visit for more information on Philani’s ongoing work and projects.

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