I LOVE what Melissa Breyer has written in this blog, originally published at treehugger.com.
Tsundoku is a Japanese word for the practice of piling up books to save for later … even if you’ll never actually read them.
Ha, ha, ha. I love it when a word shows up for a behaviour that some think I’m crazy for! I suddenly find more belonging in this world! It reminds me of the first time I discovered the “official” term for going for a walk in the forest – shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing. Most certainly, I also bathe in the space of my books. There is a kind of purity to it, almost like a mikveh ritual, the Jewish ritual of bathing. Try this, and you will understand what I feel with my books! Spa day!
Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity. – A. Edward Newton, author, publisher, and collector of 10,000 books.
Exactly! The blog continues:
Tom Gerken points out at BBC that English may in fact seem to have a similar word in “bibliomania,” but there are actually differences. “While the two words may have similar meanings, there is one key difference,” he writes. “Bibliomania describes the intention to create a book collection, tsundoku describes the intention to read books and their eventual, accidental collection.”
Mmm hmm, guilty as charged.
It’s interesting to consider the future of books right now – and the potential fate of words like tsundoku. We have dedicated e-readers and phones and tablets that could easily spell doom for the printed page. We have tiny houses and a major minimalism movement, both of which would seem to shun the piling of books that may go eternally unread. We have increasing awareness about resources and “stuff” in general; is there room for stacks of bound paper in the modern world?
Yes there is! Because walls in tiny homes become bookcases, a beautiful sight in my opinion! And while I live in only 430 sq.ft. at this time, I am the proud owner of 16 crates of books. It is not fun moving however, but books are friends. They remind me of my path and my soul’s journey through this lifetime. To digitalize this resource is not to be able to sink deeply into the knowing that those books hold for me.
… the truth is, real books that one can hold in the hands are one of the things that I am loathe to abandon. I love the smell, the weight, the turning of pages. I love being able to easily flip back a few pages to reread a sentence that persists in my memory. And maybe, apparently, I love buying books that, ok, maybe I don’t seem to actually read.
So here’s the deal I’ve made with myself. I will resist fast fashion and crummy unsustainable food and a bunch of plastic crap that I don’t need. And in return, I will allow myself to engage in some tsundoku – besides, it’s not actually a waste because of course, I’m going to get to that teetering stack of books someday, really. And if the Japanese have a poetic word for it, it must be alright.