By Nicole Jeffries
Does this sound familiar: books stacked up beside your bed, novels tucked beside the toilet, paperbacks poked away in various corners of your house, or overflowing on bookshelves? Do you find yourself that, despite the fact that there is
no more room or time in the day to read them, buying more books? Do you worry that your book buying is a (harmless) addiction?
Well, now there is a word for it.
‘Tsundoku’ is a beautiful Japanese word which literally means ‘to buy more books than one can read.’
According to Quartz, Sahoko Ichikawa, a senior lecturer in Japanese at Cornell University, says ‘tsunde’ means ‘to stack things’ and ‘oku’ means ‘to leave for a while.’ The word dates back to the very beginning of modern Japan, the Meija era (1868-1912). Sometime around the turn of the century, the ‘oku’ in ‘tsunde oku’ was replaced with ‘doku,’ meaning to read. But because ‘tsunde doku’ rolls awkwardly off the tongue, the mashup version became ‘tsundoku’.
If you are like me and are guilty of tsundoku, then you may want to hop on over to the Book Buying Addicts Anonymous discussion thread on Goodreads. Discussions range from people divulging how they have to hide their book purchases from family members to others explaining that it is okay to keep buying books because everyone has their ‘thing’ they indulge in.
So, the next time you find yourself buying more books just remember the words of British fiction writer Jeanette Winterson, “Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate. It is not a hobby. Those who do it must do it.”