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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Roussel

Are you engaging in Tsundoku?

Updated: Jul 9

I’ve spoken before about my peculiar relationship with books. My need to buy and buy books I won’t ever have time to read. The only thing that stops me is the fact I have no money. But if I did, I would have a collection the Library of Congress would be jealous of.

Thanks to a BBC article, I now know there’s a name for it.

Tsundoku Japanese for someone who owns a lot of unread literature.


The BBC article I was reading discussed the origin and use of the word but stopped short of discussing the why. Why do we collect books we don’t read?

I can only speak for myself, but I know that I’ve never bought a book I hadn’t intended to read. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to and I’m okay with the fact. Because having the book is just as important as reading the book. Do you agree?

I have a copy of Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman, which I stole from my Mum when I was ten or eleven years old. The book took on its on significance, apart from the story inside. When I look at it, I remember all the feelings I experienced when I read it. Now, I have another copy of Good Omens which is a wonderful hardcover copy and part of a series of Pratchett books. But that book doesn’t have the same emotional connection that the paperback one does.

This, incidentally, is the reason I don’t often lend out my books anymore. Because if they get lost or damaged, my friends will happily get me a replacement, but I don’t want a replacement. I want the one I first read.

So being constantly surrounded by books is less about the stories inside of them. After all, if I’ve bought a copy of a story on Kindle and enjoyed it, I will inevitably buy the book. Why spend the money on a second copy of the same story but now in a version which is harder to carry in your pocket?

Holding a book, which contains an entire world and people with emotions and dreams between two covers, is the closest we’ll ever get to true magic.

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