I recently learned the delicious Japanese word Tsundoku. This is the habit of buying books, of letting your to-read pile grow, of indulging in the sheer pleasure of unread books.
I have always loved having a shelf full of books I have yet to read. Some may be reference books or poetry books to dip into, but many are novels, memoirs, and biographies I will *one day* devour.
There is a psychological safety-net aspect to this acquisitiveness, if I’m honest. A terror of running out of reading matter. It feels like always taking an umbrella everywhere, even in glaring sunshine, as though I won’t be able to cope if there’s an unexpected downpour. It feels sort of desperate.
But there’s also a distinct feeling of pleasure when I survey the teetering pile of books I’ve bought, their spines uncracked, their mysteries unexplored. I have selected them for a reason (often forgotten by the time I take one to bed and cross its threshold). Forgive me, but it reminds me of catching the eye of an alluring stranger across a room – the possibility is thrilling.
I used to have a bookshelf that took up the entire wall of a room I liked to call ‘the library’. So much book space gave me the luxury of buying countless books. When I couldn’t sleep, I would often creep downstairs and survey my titles. So comforting.
We now live in a smaller apartment and space is limited. I buy little, keep little, delight in order and minimalism. Still, I continue to indulge in tsundoku.
The piles teeter less and must be curated carefully, but the pleasure of unread books remains.