Tsundoku: the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them.
I’ve always loved books and reading, and over the last few decades (I feel old writing that), I’ve acquired books at a rate much faster than I’ve been able to read them.
I read as much as I can, but it’s averaging out at anywhere between 25-35 books a year.
I’m disappointed in myself as I type that number as I would always have described myself as a ‘prolific’ reader; mad for books, a lover of being transported to far away places in other people’s fabricated worlds. But it turns out I’m as busy as the next person and perhaps not prioritising reading as much as I should be?
Hot on the heels of reading ‘Spark Joy‘ by Marie Kondo of magical-life-changing-tidying-up fame, I realised that many of the books I was hoarding on my shelves had appealed to me at the time of purchase, but when I looked at them now I didn’t feel in the least inspired to read them.
I went through a major ‘geisha’ phase at one point in my early twenties, and had managed to collect numerous books on the topic and by Japanese authors, which eventually spilled over into a love of Chinese fiction and history. I read Wild Swans in tears, and Amy Tan with intrigue and had managed to acquire a battered copy of ‘Mao’. Mmm.
I realised quite happily there were plenty of books I could ‘let go’ and that I wouldn’t miss; clearing a path for the books I really did want to read and still haven’t. Atonement. In Cold Blood. White Teeth (I know, I’ve had that since I was at university – what’s wrong with me?!)
Over the last few days I’ve carried three huge bags full of books to my local charity shop.
Some of them I’ve bought from there so it feels good to take them back; others have been like family friends. It was time to let them go and I don’t regret it. They deserve to be read and that’s not going to happen on my over-burdened shelves.
Some books I had read once and thought I might read again, but when it came to it, I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t going to happen. And as Marie Kondo encourages: if you really miss something, need it or want it, then you can always buy it again…or get it from the library.
As a writer, I want to make sure I really am supporting my local library, so on the way back from the charity shop with my last donation, bags empty, I stopped in to see what was on offer and borrowed three new books. I read Kate Tempest’s The Bricks that Built the Houses in a matter of days, and now I’m onto Jessie Burton’s The Muse. It’s good. (I loved The Miniaturist too.)
Now when I pass my bookshelves I can see the books I’ve neglected, the gold rising to the top.
Some books I’ll always keep if they’ve been special gifts or are inscribed (to me or others), but you can’t keep everything.
And in a few years, maybe I’ll get round to reading some of them again. Or not.
I’m feeling lighter. At least 50+ books lighter.
My Tsundoku habit is finally under control, and this time next year perhaps my shelves could be almost empty, but I doubt it, and I don’t think I’d like that either #booklove