Unopened Books: The Emergence Of Tsundoku

“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?”

~ Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby 

I am fascinated by the study of human behavior. Why do we do what we do? Are we making our choices out of free will or are we allowing culture to program us into action? Sometimes, it is a very gray area that even the most famous philosophers have a hard time deciphering. While I may not be  Voltaire, Aristotle, or even the person who writes messages inside of fortune cookies, I will tell you this, show me where a man spends his money and I will show you his heart.

Bibliophiles, like many other groupings of people, are not immune. Some speculated that with the advent of Kindle, or other ebook readers, the day of the print book was fading away with the tide. Much to our rejoicing, nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, while ebook sales skyrocketed between 2008 – 2010, in 2015 there were over 2.71 billion print books sold in the United States alone, but the question is, are these books getting read? If you’re like me, chances are, no. They’re not. And that’s okay. In fact, the Japanese have a word for those of us who compile book after book that continues to go unread. 


TSUND= To stack things

OKU= To Do Something And Leave It For Awhile

When discussing this new found word with a few of my friends, they brought up the topic of consumerism and the overindulgence of American culture. The unnecessary spending of money on things that do nothing more than give us a quick rush of endorphins as we hold onto something that a few moments ago we didn’t have. Sure, I get it, but even consumerism has its sources as to WHY we’re buying what we’re buying and when it comes to Tsundoku I have a couple of theories, and the first is that we’re in a constant state of evolution. Seriously, we are not the same people we once were, so that book you purchased a year ago on 18th Century Russian Literature may not be as enticing as it once was. But you spent your hard earned money on it and at one point, it was an interest, so to get rid of it would be to get rid of a part of yourself.

Source: Bibliotecadacatolica

Source: Biblioteca De Catolica

As I sit here and write this, I have to laugh as I look around my home because I have come to realize I am worthy of such a label. I have a stack of books sitting next to my bed, a basket of books in the corner of my room, stacked on shelves in my closet, in a basket next to a chair in the living room, and a few boxes packed away in the shed outside. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the ones in the garage. I can’t help it. I walk into the bookstore, and the atmosphere is intoxicating. So many words and thoughts and ideas all in one place. Which brings me to my next theory, one  I have decided meshes nicely in my existence.

In today’s culture of instant gratification and short attention spans, these items help us feel subconsciously connected to something we hold dear. A memory, a particular time of our lives, something no longer part of our every day that we still cling to.

Like many other “addictions” Tsundoku has its source, and I believe I have found mine

It’s my mother’s’ fault.

I know it’s always the mom catching the blame, but seriously, as a child every Saturday we would get up and head down to the library. It is there in this quaint old building made of stone and wood that my Tsundoku found its source. I can still to this day remember the smell of books as we walked in. She would go her way, and I would go mine, and I would get lost in rows of books for hours on end. When it was time to go, I couldn’t choose just one so I had armfuls of books that I would take with me, never able to get through them all but I honestly gave it my best effort.

Now that I am older and wiser there is still something about walking into a bookstore that takes me back to that moment; a simpler time when reading a large stack of books was my only concern.

Do you often buy books that, deep down, you know you won’t have time to read?

YouTube Channel: TakenWithSalt


Featured image via Steps And Leaps

h/t Ozy

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