Neben dem Hund ist das Buch der beste Freund des Menschen.

English Translation

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.

For the english translation how about: Next to/Besides a dog is a book man’s best friend.

“Outside” works in english in this case, but “Next to” and “Besides” are even closer in meaning to “neben” while also being more idiomatic English, no?

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It’s an old fixed expression in English, and later was used as the setup to a really bad joke: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read”.

In modern English, I’d rather use “besides a dog” or “other than a dog”, but I think “next to” could also work.

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It does indeed sound funny if you interpret it literally. I’ve never heard of this expression, and would also use one of the suggested alternatives. I would’ve probably picked “besides”, too.
How about “along with”?

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“Along with a dog” sounds a bit clunky to me, but it might work. You could also say “in addition to a dog”, but that sounds a little formal. I think “besides” or “other than” are the most natural choices here.

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Yep I think “besides” is our best choice here.

How about “After the dog, the book is man’s second-best friend”?

Yes, I’d say that also works.