Tsundoku, or, So Many Books, So Little Time

The Japanese seem to have a word for all of the abstract, post-modern things. I like that. (And now I have Björk’s The Modern Things playing in my head. I like that, too.) If, like me, you happen to work in Bookselling (and please, do make yourself known. Hopefully we’re not exactly an endangered species, but we are rare, these days), then a state of tsundoku is an occupational hazard.

But what is this tsundoku? I hear you ask. It is, put simply, the buying of books, and not reading them. Letting them accrue, pile up, in heaps, on the floor, on bookcases, on bedside tables. And I am oh so guilty. I seem to have lost the stamina I used to have, for devouring books. The stamina, but not the appetite. It’s just my eyes have become too large for my reading belly. Also, the depression thing is a bitch for making it impossible to focus on reading. Hence I am months* behind. And then there’s the tiredness thing. Last night I decided I’d go to bed early and read. And I fell asleep about a third of a way down a page (just one page!). I woke up with the book on my chest. I’m beginning to think that my chest is better read than I am.

I stopped in the middle of composing this post to go around the house collecting my unread books. And I’m a bit worried now, there are so many of them. So, I refuse to count them.


But, this is just a small selection of what is waiting to be read. I have recently begun William Gibson’s The Peripherals, and Katherine Heiny’s collection Single, Carefree, Mellow (I tend to read short fiction when it is quiet at work). And each week, when I go to work, I swear that I won’t buy any more books, because God knows I have more than enough. But then, something gets a glowing review, or is released in paperback after I restrained myself from buying the hardback the year before, or someone I know rates a title highly, or my curiosity is piqued… etc. You know how it is. I seem to be an addict. Ah well. It could be worse. All I need is time. Anyone know where I can buy some?

*years, really.


4 thoughts on “Tsundoku, or, So Many Books, So Little Time”

  1. Glad the Japanese have nailed this ‘condition’! Yes, I have it, but mildly. And like you, being down over Jan & Feb means that I couldn’t concentrate on reading at all. Now starting again, with The Poisonwood Bible. I don’t see tsundoku as necessarily a problem though. Loads of people collect things, usually much less cultural than books. It could be worse – matchboxes, say, or feather fans or taxidermy!

  2. Years ago I worked in bookstores, they were my favorite place to be! The smell, the books all right there! And like you I had stacks of books waiting to be read:) I still have stacks of books but I read to avoid thinking about everything that’s been going on here with me, I read very fast & am reading up to 10 books a week. Nothing will ever replace real paper books to me but thank goodness for Kindle Books & Google Books. I hope one day very soon you’ll be able to pick up one from stack & be able to read. I wish you brighter days ahead. Francine Xxxx

  3. IT will be a problem when I have to stop reading owing to, say, blindness, or an acute injury caused by tripping over a pile of unread books. Or when I have to move house….

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