Books

Thu, 28 Mar, 2019Joanita Wibowo

Collect books but never read them? There's a word for that

Collect books but never read them? There's a word for that

Some people can’t get out of a bookstore without picking up a title or two, even if they already have loads of books at home waiting to be read.

If this describes you, you might be engaging in “tsundoku”, which is a Japanese term for a person who owns a lot of unread books.

According to Open Culture, the word tsundoku dates back to the Meiji era (1868-1912) as a pun.

Andrew Gerstle, professor of Japanese studies at the University of London told BBC that the word “doku” can be understood as a verb that means “reading”, while the “tsun” part originates in “tsumu” or “pile up”. Put together, “tsundoku” means buying reading material and piling it up.

Gerstle said the word is not an insult in Japan, even if it might be interpreted otherwise in other countries.

Tsundoku is distinct from the word “bibliomania”, a term commonly used by self-identified book lovers. Oxford Living Dictionaries defines the latter as “passionate enthusiasm for collecting and possessing books”. While people engaging in tsundoku pile up books by accident, bibliomaniacs have a clear intention to create a collection of books.

No matter which category you fall into, guilt may come into play as you add another copy or two into your ever-growing library. However, as book critic Michael Dirda said: “As book collectors know all too well: We only regret our economies, never our extravagances.”

Do you buy books that you barely get around to reading? Let us know in the comments.