Tsundoku antidote

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I’ve posted before about tsundoku, the ‘affliction’ that I have apparently been suffering from and that it has taken a change of house to start to address. Don’t worry, it’s not catching, and it’s not apparently pathological. It may perhaps come close to OCD, but it does seem that I don’t need medication or counselling for it, just a good talking to. From myself.

OK. If you don’t want to follow the tsundoku link, this is what it is.
According to Wiktionary it is “the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other such unread books”. Now the good news is that I’m slowly dealing with this, and it’s taken this year’s Reading Challenge to act as a catalyst and to begin disencumbering myself of unread books. At a rough estimate I’ve passed on a dozen of the books I’ve read so far this year, nearly half of the running total completed for the challenge. On the other hand, I’ve hung on to nine — I don’t want to go overboard on this, after all! — which leaves seven titles unaccounted for.

I couldn’t find suitable books on my shelves for some of the challenge categories so I resorted to a resource that luckily is already metaphorically on my doorstep: my local library. Indeed, I’ve also posted before about public service cuts that threatened libraries in many parts of the UK, including where I live, and I may have mentioned that I’m now on the management committee of the newly-formed Friends of the local library. One obvious way to show solidarity and enjoy myself at the same time is to use those facilities to the full.

So it is that I’ve managed to complete seven of the categories from those borrowed books: a non-fiction book about Narnia; a novel about magic and another title recommended by a friend (both part of a trilogy by Lev Grossman); a book by an author I’d never read before (Kiki Hamilton); a novel published in 2014 (Clariel); a memoir (Terry Pratchett’s collected non-fiction); and a title by an author (Charlie Lovett) sharing the same initials as me.

Don’t imagine I’ve just used the library for such a mundane purpose as a reading challenge (though it’s certainly a great goal, witness the summer reading challenges for young people that are popular, here as elsewhere): I’ve actually also borrowed no end of other books, mostly non-fiction but also fiction that doesn’t fit any category save (that I fancied the title/author/cover).

So, it doesn’t deal very effectively with those piles of unread books, does it — but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

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16 thoughts on “Tsundoku antidote

  1. I’m not sure our tsundoku needs to be tamed, as Lory suggests. I prefer to think of it as a symptom of our bibliomania, the way we deal with that initial stage of deciding if we like a book or not. Like a courtship, it could be a quick coup de foudre, or it could require dozens of pages before we’re willing to commit. Yet in nearly every case, it happens. The half-read books on our shelves are just courtiers pushed aside by the more daring and successful wooers.

    Your new design here is lovely, although I miss seeing that wall of books — like a dare!

    1. I’m feeling the weight if the backlog, Lizzie, and something had to be done! At least I feel in control now… The new format may be part of that urge to go for quality not quantity. Pethaps.

  2. Libraries are rather useful. I refer to our local library as my extended bookshelf. It’s the magical bookshelf that appears when I need it. It’s lovely because, unlike my other bookshelves, this one doesn’t take up any room in my house. It is quite useful as a tool to combat my habit of leaving books unread. I eases my guilt of having so many books piled up but untouched.

    1. Libraries here have rather been taken for granted, Sari, but it’s taken a threat to wake people up to the ‘free’ resource that they are in danger of losing. It’s good you still have yours available! And I do value the opportunity of borrowing fiction and non-fiction guilt-free — if I don’t finish a book I return it: it doesn’t sit there forever and a day with an accusing look!

  3. While I may have the same habit of reading more than one book at a time, the only ones I don’t finish are those that bore me out of my skull. I seldom even start such books, so it doesn’t often happen. However, I have no feeling of guilt whatsoever when I abandon them and consign them to the recycling bin.

    1. You are made if such strong stuff, Col — southern climes must harden you up! On the other hand I am much too much of a namby pamby wimp; at school I was given the backhanded compliment of being ‘sensitive’ (viz. a bit of a cry baby) at times: I’m dreading reading (spoiler alert!) about where the Gormenghast library goes up in flames in Titus Groan.

  4. Oh dear, I seem to suffer from that….. but I prefer to think that I am saving them for my retirement when I can finish them and start new ones. At the moment I have one that went to the States and back still not finished and more than likely suffer the same fate as many others still waiting until I have time to finish them 🙂

    1. Ah, Lynn, I *am* retired and so have no such excuse. And I too have determinedly carted a book off on holiday, only to neglect it in favour of other more attractive distractions!

  5. I used to think of tsundoku as just part and parcel of being a bibliophile, but lately I’m starting to feel the pressure, I think. Last week I came into my office to see a new pile of books on my desk and kind of wanted to cry, a little bit. Not because I didn’t want to read them, but because I would never be able to catch up! I’m starting to give away books to my staff, especially the ones I may never get to or may never reread.

    1. It’s bad enough when the building of a logjam is of one’s own doing, but when it’s brought on by outside circumstances it can seem insurmountable. I do empathise, and commiserate, Marisa.

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