pile of hardbound books with white and pink floral ceramic teacup and saucer
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Tsundoku. Are you familiar with this word? I wasn’t. I hadn’t even heard of it until a friend of mine showed me an article discussing it and said that it had reminded her of me.

So, what does it mean?

It is a Japanese term that means the act of buying books and allowing them to pile up without ever reading them. My research tells me that it has been found in print as far back as 1879 and was more than likely used before this time.

I’m definitely guilty of this. I am unashamedly addicted to buying books. Whether it is a recommendation, a beautiful cover that draws me in, a new release by a loved author, it really doesn’t matter. I will always find a reason to pick up another book despite having a huge ‘to read’ collection already!

It’s not just me though. I receive a lot of books as gifts as well so that only adds to the collection. The people that buy me books as gifts know me well enough to know what I would like to read, so, not only do they give me books that I really want to check out but as they are presents there is an immediate sentimental affiliation that means they get crammed into my already fit to burst bookshelf and added to my already too long ‘to read’ list.

So, I recognise that this terminology can describe me pretty well. The question I asked myself before I began writing this post was: do I see it as problem?

books old book knowledge bookstore
Photo by Negative Space on

The answer? No. 

I would read every book ever written if I could but of course I realise that is not possible. I do feel a little bad having such a big collection of books that remain unread, however, there is a part of me that really does believe that I will read them all one day. Is that naïve? Maybe. I also have a lot of books that I have already read but I have picked up another copy of because I read them on my Kindle and I want a physical copy or because it’s a particular edition with a beautiful cover and I like the aesthetic value they bring to my bookshelf. When I consider these reasons I think to myself that yes, this particular copy is unread but the words inside are not and I think that makes it okay.

I suppose that what I have learned overall after thinking about this is that, for me, books have more value than simply the words within them. A cover can be ornamental, a particular copy can symbolise a memory or spark thoughts of an important person. The list could go on. With this in mind I honestly believe it is okay if some of the books on my shelf stay there, remaining unread because they represent something else for me.

What is your opinion on this?

Is it okay to keep/buy books with the risk that they may never be read?

Is this a habit that you share also or are you more strict with what books you pick up?

Thanks for reading!

Until the next time…Jess x

8 thoughts on “Tsundoku

  1. Library has reopened at last, but so have the two bookshops in our nearest town,and they opened first. Book buying addiction fully restored, online purchases never stopped., Library use is still so regimented, there’s little pleasure in it. Married to a constant buyer, and we do read them. That particular copy unread – but the words inside are not ? Nice observation, and I love buying a really old book , then finding the pages uncut…

    Liked by 1 person

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