The Art of Tsundoku
The Art of Tsundoku

I buy books more than I logically should. Do I have time to read all these books? No. Do I have money to buy all these books? Also no. In fact, I don’t even have space to store all the books I acquire. They’re tucked in every empty drawer and perched on every free shelf.

The Japanese have a word to perfectly describe this: tsundoku, the act of buying books but letting them pile up unread. This is different from bibliomania, which is the intentional collection of books. People who participate in tsundoku intend to read the books they buy and end up with an accidental collection.

The real question is this: is tsundoku a problem? I have had several people tell me I have a “book problem”. I tell myself I have a “book problem”. People have even tried bargaining with me – read all the books I have, and they’ll take me on a book-shopping spree. None of these, however, have stopped me from buying more books. Why? Because I’ve realized it’s not a problem after all.

Maybe if I never read, my tsundoku would be a problem (maybe). But I do read. I read a lot. I just buy books faster than I read. Some people find my stacks of books intimidating; I find them inspiring.

A library of read books says you’ve stopped learning. A library of unread books, however, says you’re still growing. You believe there’s still knowledge to be gained. As the talented Jane Austen wrote in her novel Northanger Abbey, “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” I couldn’t have said it better, Ms. Austen.

So, if you want that new book, go for it. Go spend hours roaming a bookstore. Let your tsundoku take over, and don’t look back.



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