by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, November 6, 2018
There’s a new word entering the English language from Japan, Tsundoku. I’m not even sure how to pronounce it, but I have it bad. It’s the condition of buying more books than you can ever read. I currently have 1,500 audiobooks, 1150 Kindle books, and about 700 hardback/trade paper/paperbacks. I’d say 60-70% are unread. That means my TBR pile is over 2,000 books high. My book buying is 40 years ahead of my reading if I read one book a week. And my book buying is accelerating while my reading is decreasing. I used to actually read one book a week. Now it’s 3 books a month, so I’ve got 55 years worth, and I turn 67 this month. It’s not likely I’ll finish reading what I’ve bought.
Above is my reading nook. It’s deceptive though because I have more than 2,650+ books in the cloud, almost four times what you see here.
I’ve known I’ve had Tsundoku for decades, I just didn’t know it had a name. I should never buy another book. But I can’t do that. I have decided on a remedy to try to slow down my book buying. Once a month, I need to look at the cover of every book I own. Yesterday I spent the morning and glanced at all their covers. I used Kindle and Audible libraries to look at those in the cloud. I only read the spines of all the books I have on my shelves. I plan to pull each book off the shelf and eye its cover too.
While I did this I used a Marie-Kondo-like technique and asked: Which books beg me to read them as soon as possible? The 64 below are those books. Included are a handful of books I’m halfway through or promised to read for a book club. It should take me two years just to read these books. These books show the diversity of topics I’m interested in, and my full library is even more varied in subjects. I love collecting books thinking I will read them someday.
I do know the cure to my ailment. If I would pledge to only buy books at full price I wouldn’t buy many books, and I’d actually save money. I have all these books because I love buying books are bargain prices. I love the $1.99 Kindle deal. I love Audible’s Daily Deals. And I love shopping for great deals on used books.
- Bold is science fiction.
- Blue is books about science fiction
- Red is classics I’ve always wanted to read
- The rest are a variety of nonfiction
- The World Beyond the Hill by Alexei and Cory Panshin (currently reading) (Kindle)
- Calypso by David Sedaris (current listen) (Audible)
- White Trash by Nancy Isenberg (book club) (Kindle, Audible)
- American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee (book club) (Scribd)
- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari (Kindle)
- Gather Darkness by Fritz Leiber (Kindle, Audible)
- I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (Kindle, Audible)
- The Ascent to Truth by Thomas Merton (Kindle)
- Generation Robot: A Century of Science Fiction, Fact, and Speculation by Terri Favro (Kindle)
- Sense of Wonder: A Century of Science Fiction edited by Leigh Ronald Grossman (Kindle)
- The Inevitable: Understanding 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly (Kindle)
- The Squares of the City by John Brunner (Kindle)
- How to Listen to Great Music by Robert Greenberg (Kindle)
- Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon (Kindle)
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Kindle)
- Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of The Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers by James W. Hall (Kindle)
- Mind Mapping: Improve Memory, Concentration, Communication, Organization, Creativity and Time Management by Kam Knight (Kindle)
- The White Album by Joan Didion (Kindle, Audible)
- iWoz by Steve Wozniak (Kindle, Audible)
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov (Kindle, Hardback, Audible)
- Blindsight by Peter Watts (Kindle)
- Fifth Avenue 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany, and the Dawn of the Modern World by Sam Wasson (Kindle)
- At Seventy by May Sarton (Kindle)
- I am Crying All Inside and Other Stories: The Complete Short Stories of Clifford Simak Volume One (Kindle)
- Please Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out by Gordon Thompson (Kindle)
- The True Believer by Eric Hoffer (Kindle)
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Kindle, Audible)
- How Linux Works by Brian Ward (Kindle)
- Justine by Lawrence Durrell (Kindle, Audible)
- Mind Amplifier: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter by Howard Rheingold (Kindle)
- Mastodonia by Clifford Simak (Kindle)
- The Complete Short Stories of J. G. Ballard (Audible)
- Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Audible)
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (Audible)
- The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan (Audible)
- Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (Kindle, Audible)
- How to Create a Mind by Ray Kurzweil (Kindle, Audible)
- Becoming a Great Essayist by Jennifer Cognard-Black (Audible)
- The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (Audible)
- The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov (Kindle, Audible, Paperback)
- Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (Audible)
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Audible)
- Hackers by Steven Levy (Paperback, Audible)
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Audible)
- Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (Audible, Kindle)
- Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (Audible)
- Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson (Audible)
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Audible)
- A Guide for the Perplexed by E. F. Schumacher (Trade paper)
- The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh by David Damrosch (Hardback)
- On Rereading by Patricia Meyer Spacks (Hardback)
- Children of Wonder edited by William Tenn (Hardback)
- Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras (Hardback)
- Science Fiction by the Rivals of H. G. Wells edited by Alan K. Russell (Hardback)
- Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings (Hardback)
- Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (Trade paper)
- A Requiem for Astounding by Alva Rogers (Hardback)
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser (Trade paper)
- How to Listen to Jazz by Ted Giolia (Trade paper)
- The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination by Daniel J. Boorstin (Hardback)
- Crusoe: Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox, and the Creation of a Myth by Katherine Frank (Hardback)
- Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi (Hardback)
- The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? by the Jesus Seminar (Hardback)
- The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us by Victor J. Stenger (Hardback)
16 thoughts on “I Have Stage 4 Tsundoku”
Every book I own, I have read. For those books that I buy and don’t read I donate them within 1 month. Otherwise, I would be in the exact same boat.
I really appreciate the breadth of topics on this list! Makes me feel like I’m not the only one interested in French parenting styles, programming and sharks with arms.
You aren’t pulling my leg? That’s amazing discipline! I admire that.
I got rid of about 90% of my books when I moved. I kept only one bookshelf, and most of the books I kept are those that have sentimental value to me. A bunch are childrens books. I did keep some books I had not read. The invention of e-books was a great help to me, because I feel it does not matter how many of them I accumulate. There is no clutter. I buy no books now except for on sale Kindle ones. Others, both print and e-books, I get from the library. I love always having something to read. I’m just suggesting that were you to let your books go, you probably would not regret it. I don’t.
Carol, I could let my books go if a need arose. Like if I moved. I’ve given away thousands of books. Every few years I thin them out. I’m not attached to owning things. But I do love shopping for books.
Carol’s point about clutter is valid, but I don’t feel that way. I regard my books as fellow travelers; they’re part of my environment and I’d miss some of their spines and covers if they weren’t around any more. And that still goes, even for books I know I’ll never read, like the ones I saved when my parents moved out of their last house. I even like the fact that they age, because their owner does.
Over here, the phrase “fellow traveler” used to mean a communist, but it’s a nice phrase that’s been used in many ways. I like how you use it. I’ll start thinking of my books as fellow travelers.
Wow – I thought I was the worst. I don’t dare count all of mine. My favorite room is my library/study – I love being surrounded by books – they are old friends. Sometimes I look at books I bought decades ago and then look at those I’ve bought recently and they reveal to me how I have changed.
From my commonplace collections:
“The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity…”
Alfred Edward Newton (1864—1940) was an American author, publisher, and avid book collector. He is best known for his book Amenities of Book Collecting (1918), which sold over 25,000 copies.
“When I get a little money, I buy books; if any is left I buy food and clothes.” Erasmus
I Have Stage 1o Tsundoku! Although I donated 2000 books this summer to SUNY at Buffalo’s Special Collections, I still have 20,000 books. And, like you, I’m fond of buying books at bargain prices. I find Library Book Sales irresistible.
My de-acquisition plan is to donate 2000 books a year to SUNY at Buffalo so in 10 years the bulk of my books should be gone. I’m also trying to use the Library more instead of buying books. But I don’t want to give up the fun of buying and reading books, print or ebooks.
George, you have 20,000 real books. Now that’s something. Your house must be wall-to-wall books. I had a friend in college that had so many books that his girlfriends were afraid of going in his house because they thought they might be crushed in a book avalanche.
Holy crap, that’s more than my local library.
I have a large basement where I keep my books in Ziplock bags (to protect them from humidity and dust). The weight of the books would collapse my floors upstairs.
I suspect the ‘T’ might be silent … but you never know. 🙂 … so it’s more the thrill of the chase than the reading of them that’s lead to your plight. 🙂
I love “The Thrill of the Chase” but I also try to read a book a day. I intend to read every book I buy, but I’d have to live to 300 to read them all now!
It amazes me that you can read a book a day. But then I know you don’t have my bad habits. I’m not sure I want to give up all my bad habits. But I need to think about it.
Thanks for alerting me to this syndrome. I am in danger of contracting it through Kindle. Good luck.