Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

ISBN-13: 978-1596912526
ISBN-10: 1596912529
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Editorial Reviews


“…a wonderful breviary of wisdom, insight and cynicism, and one that will immediately find a place at many bedsides…there are pleasures and surprises galore.”-Washington Post

“An agreeable thing to have in your lap.”—Dwight Garner

Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists is a rich, well-edited compendium, which is at once a feast, a frolic, a thought-kit and a treasure trove. A book to relish and to keep close.”—John Lahr, New Yorker
“A masterful compilation from a man adept at taking the pith.”—Ben Schott Praise for The World in a Phrase:
“[An] entertaining love letter to the compact form.”—New York Times
 “A reward. Geary presents several dozen coiners of pithy, memorable sayings.”Washington Post “The definitive work on aphorisms, a love letter–cum–memoir disguised as a reference book.”—Publishers Weekly

About the Author

James Geary is the author of The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism and The Body Electric: An Anatomy of the New Bionic Senses. He lives in London with his wife and three children. His Web site is

Product Details

  • File Size: 5732 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1596912529
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (December 8, 2008)
  • Publication Date: December 8, 2008
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000WJVM4C
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,004,596 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on October 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Unlike most of the anthologies of aphorisms and wise- sayings that I know this one is not primarily classified by subject , but rather by author. Geary provides a very useful biographical sketch of each other and a few or as much as a couple of dozen of their aphorisms.
He classifies the authors by their professions or backgrounds: e.g. "Comics, Critics and Satirists," "Icons and Iconoclasts," "Philosophers and Theorists".
The author claims that this is the largest book of aphorisms there is in English. It certainly does contain many aphorists I had not known of. There is a biographical sketch for each aphorist and samples of their work.
Geary has his own list of qualities for determining whether a saying or sentence is an aphorism.
"It must be brief. It must be definitive. It must be personal -- that's the difference between an aphorism and a proverb. It must be philosophical -- that's the difference between an aphorism and a platitude, which is not philosophical," "And the fifth law is it must have a twist. And that can be either a linguistic twist or a psychological twist or even a twist in logic that somehow flips the reader into a totally unexpected place."
Like other considerable collections of aphorisms i.e. 'The Viking Book of Aphorisms ed. by W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger or the 'Oxford Book of Aphorisms ed. John Gross- this book provides a vast amount of material for 'thought' i.e. Aphorisms cannot really be read consecutively and gobbled up quickly one after the other. They make their initial impressions but then we often want to ponder whether they are really 'true' or not for us.
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Format: Hardcover
As a writer, I love and use aphorisms all the time. They add to your writing and help the reader understand and appreciate what you write. An aphorism is a short, witty, philosophical saying. Here are a couple of examples:

When I am shaving in the morning and I behold my rapidly receding hairline--a modest curl rushing towards the crown of my head like some follicular riptide--I think of Jean Cocteau and his quip: "Mirrors would do well to reflect a little more before sending back images."

"Sex without love is an empty gesture. But as empty gestures go, it is one of the best."

I find using aphorisms fun. I also find they give my writing wit and humor, which my readers enjoy.

This is a comprehensive guide to aphorisms and is a wonderful tool for writers and public speakers as well as must-have reading for all language lovers.

You'll find aphorisms from such notables as Sun Tzu and Desmond Tutu. I think there are around 400 or so aphorisms in the book.

When I started stocking my writing library many years ago, one of the main books recommended to me was a good book of aphorisms. So I will pass that recommendation on. And this would be a great book to fill that bill.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is perfectly usable on a Kindle, but the two very helpful indices are not live and the references are to page numbers not to locations on the Kindle. So, on the iPhone version, I enjoy dipping into this version and reading for enjoyment, or even using it to lead me to authors that I haven't read before. But for serious writing, I use a hard copy at home and the even larger collection Oxford Book of Aphorisms and the closely related The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes (Oxford Books of Prose & Verse).

Geary's short biographical sketches are quite good, and there are many aphorisms that I hadn't seen before; it was interesting that both he and his father, without knowing about the other's interest in aphorisms, independently made collections. I assume that Geary included some of his father's specimens in this book.

It's tough to pick out favorite examples; instead here are a list of the Popular Highlights in the current Kindle version of the book:

To be placed on treacherous ground is good; generally you learn to stand on your own feet only when the ground is rocking beneath them. Page 2, Location 73, 8 Highlights

Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem. Page 9, Location 247, 14 Highlights.

A dictator wants the same thing as the people: to decide everything himself. Page 10, Location 261. 9 Highlights.

As scare as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand. Page 14, Location 368, 10 Highlights.

There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness. Page 15, Location 381, 13 Highlights.

The best way to convince a fool that he is wrong is to let him have his own way. Page 15, Location 383, 10 Highlights.
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Format: Hardcover
"Another book of quotes?" I groaned as I perused James Geary's book. Frankly, while it may have a lot of quotes, it is a superb resource for aphorisms, lumped by author and cross referenced by related topics. While there are familiar ones, there are aphorists of less renown. Useful as a reference, it also makes for some fun reading.

While generally laid out well, the choice of chapters and groupings were somewhat novel (read: less than intuitive), it is a helpful addendum for authors or those in search of just the right aphorism to color their work.
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