Thoughts about Tsundoku

Tsundoku: a Japanese term for the act of buying a book and then letting it sit on your shelf unread amongst all your other unread books. My name is Marty, and I have a reading problem.

I’m usually quite a frugal person. I rarely buy clothes or shoes unless they’re in shreds or enough females in my life go on and on at me to replace them. I hate wasting money on things I know I’d never use or wasting time doing things that have no beneficial end result. But when it comes to books, aw lawdy lawdy. I can’t help myself. I am a total gaping whore for books. I have to ban myself from second-hand book shops because I often come out clutching three or four tattered novels that I simply cannot turn away from. Trips out to town inevitably end up in Waterstones and I have to avoid the half-price or 3-for-2 sales. It is a problem, and one that goes on and affects other areas of life.

Bookporn like this is a catalyst for succumbing to tsundoku

Bookporn like this is a catalyst for succumbing to tsundoku

Tsundoku is fetishistic. I am essentially collecting and cataloguing a bounty of ideas and stories that are not being used and embraced and all because of a fleeting moment of desire and expectation. And so my own material possessions create implications about myself. Having all these books implies that I have read all of them when more often that not, I have not even taken the promotional sticker off the front cover. Rather than buckling down and actually reading the damn things, I have these piles of books hoarded on my shelf that sit there only to gather dust. As a result, I feel a mental ball-and-chain when deciding what next to read for which tsundoku is to blame.

Tsundoku is one of the reasons that I started this blog. I felt I needed some kind of assistant medium to help me get through the mountains of books I impulsively purchased in the past. So I can go on and justify buying books that are new releases from new and exciting authors. In case it wasn’t very evident, 90% of my reviews thus far are for books that I already have on my shelves. Tatty classics from charity bookshops, recommendations from various people, birthday and Christmas presents from 2008-2013, doorstoppers whose prices (£2 for Bolaño’s 2666 – yes please!) I couldn’t refuse.

Most book blogs I have read on wordpress focus on new releases whereas all my reviews seem to be for books that have survived the years and that already have some known reputation and recognition. I guess subconsciously that is why The Word in Edgeways is so called, because I am Slowpoke-reviewing against what has already be read and done and spoken about by so many already. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, but most of the negatives relate to self-motivated questions of “what is the point in even covering this” and the effort vs. reward relating to site traffic. But these are all extrinsic motivations for blogging in my mind. I blog because I like writing.


5 responses to “Thoughts about Tsundoku

  1. You’re not alone in your addiction. “Hi. I’m Jeff, and I have a reading problem.” I’ve somewhat mitigated the problem by buying stuff I haven’t read before on the Kindle (classics are free, which is great.) Then I buy the books I know I like in hardcover. It’s a great way to clear up space, although it admittedly doesn’t have the same allure as the traditional perusal through a used bookstore (an increasingly rare breed, unfortunately.)

    • Cheers for your comment, Jeff. I have yet to submit to the allure of buying eBooks as I don’t have a Kindle but at least those kinds of impulsive purchases are overall lighter on the wallet (and shelving space).

      • Well, depending on which books you buy, it’s not necessarily cheaper. The big publishers right now are charging, on average, only about one or two dollars less than they charge for print books (how generous of them.) But tighter on the shelving space, absolutely!

  2. Pingback: Behind the Scenes at The Word in Edgeways #2 | The Word in Edgeways

  3. Pingback: Haruki Murakami’s latest novel comes with stickers for customisation | The Word in Edgeways

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