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Amanda Froelich

Once homeless and addicted to drugs, Philani credits his recovery to self-help books. He now shares titles he's read to help others live better lives

Philani Dladla, the book lover on a mission. Photo:trueactivist.com

He may look like a roadside panhandler, but this gentleman is actually in charge of running a reading foundation that has even been recognized by South Africa’s president!

People call him the “Pavement Bookworm,” and the name fits because he is a book lover on a mission to help others by sharing the written word.

His real name is Philani Dladla, and he once was a drug addict who credits books – especially the motivational, self-help ones – for helping him heal his addiction.

Now clean and no longer living on the streets, he’s dedicated his life to being of service. Today, he can be found selling used books to passing motorists – but only after he’s read them first. That way, he can give passersby a book review and set the price accordingly. Based on how well he liked it, he sells his books from a dollar (to a book he doesn’t like), to six dollars for real page-turners.

When he was still homeless and doing this work, Dladla began using the money he accumulated to buy other homeless individuals soup and bread every day.

“Seeing their smiles motivated me to keep using the little I had to spread happiness,” Dladla said. “From that point on, I knew I never wanted to go back to being a drug addict.”

Now, Dladla continues to feed those on the streets, and even started a “Pavement Bookworm” Book Readers’ Club in a local park where kids can hang out and read until their parents come home from work.