Tackling the Tsundoku

From Lost in Translation, by Ella Frances Sanders. 2014

Amazon tells me that I bought this book in 2015, which is likely shortly after I read about it at BrainPickings. This word in particular spoke to me, as my own book collection resembles the artist’s rendering, down to the leaning piles on the floor.

I have always loved books – both having them and reading them – but I am a very slow reader so acquisition has always outpaced completion, and since I very rarely part with a book, my collection has resembled the universe with its endless growth and expansion.

However, in 2018 I came face to face with my problem. During a winter tidy, I moved a pile of old clothes only to discover a pile of 27 unread and completely forgotten books. The known piles were bad enough, but to find a lurking pile made the situation clear – I needed to make a change.

With 2019, I started a moratorium on book buying – no new books. All my reading must come from books that I already own. Surely amongst the piles and on my e-reader there were sufficient unread titles to complete my book club list. The dusty old purchases were silent and skeptical, awaiting their fate.

Since I don’t believe in “never”, and recognizing the dangers of quitting cold-turkey, I allowed myself some exceptions:

  • Books received as gifts were permitted to be added. Books are rare gifts to me, as they often end up being either books I’ve already read or new additions to the stacks that might sit unforgotten for a long time. However, I affirmed that I would not decline a gift (don’t want to be rude).
  • I’m allowed to buy books as gifts for others, or for work or research purposes.
  • New books from favourite authors. With the propensity for spoilers on social media, I deemed it risky to leave a new book unread for too long, lest I overhear too much about the plot or read some unfavourable review. I prefer my dalliances with my favourites as unsullied as possible.
  • A January binge. Following the holidays, I permit myself a bit of a splurge to top things up – up to 10 new books may join the huddled masses.

I realize the math on this doesn’t work – the number of books doesn’t go down until I get rid of some. I did remove 3-4 large bags of books in 2019, and expect to do the same in 2020. So, at this rate, my floors and shelves should be neat and tidy by the late 30s. One can’t rush these things.

18 thoughts on “Tackling the Tsundoku

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  1. Tsunduko !!! New word to me indeed!

    Robyn! I laughed when I read this post! 1) why are you storing books with your pile of clothes? 2) Rules #2 and 3! Maybe not a good idea … haha you will end up having the same problem. Because we are the same, we can always find excuse to buy !!! Haha 3) Rule #4: don’t store books together with clothes! Maybe we can shop for another bookshelf together? 🙂 alex.

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