The other day I followed a Twitter thread that sounded like a meeting of recovering addicts –only without the recovery. The tweeters were academics talking about their book habits. Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega, @raulpacheco, started it with a tweet asking, “how many of you my fellow #AcademicTwitter folks are guilty of Tsundoku? It means buying books and letting them pile up unread." He went on to explain that the Japanese word literally means "book pile."
I wasn’t surprised to find so many colleagues who shared my addiction – just surprised that there was a word for it!
When I posted about “stuff” and my decision to stop shopping for things I didn’t need, books were a clear exception. I “need” books. I can imagine life without new shoes (well, almost) but not without books. On Sunday I sit with the New York Times Sunday Book Review and order books as I finish the reviews. However, my physical pile has greatly diminished over the last several years as I have switched almost entirely to digital. I am eagerly awaiting the word to describe the cyber pile in my Kindle App.
I just gave away 8 cartons of books and another 2 of cookbooks. (Not to worry, the movers have already packed 16 cartons and there are several bookcases to go. No matter how much I divest, I can’t let go. Perhaps I really will reread those novels now that I am retired.) This number will definitely be reduced for my next move, however, because I now only collect an actual “paper” book if I know the author or it’s a signed copy. I have every one of my friend Susan Reiss's "Silver" mysteries. And when one of my former students, Dmitri Goudkov, let me know that he had published his master’s thesis, Violence Prevention through Bodybuilding: How Bodybuilding Can Lead to Peace, I got right on Amazon.
I also collect books published by Persephone, not just because I enjoy the content, but because they are physically beautiful. Persephone issues two books of “neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers” per year. I can never resist the “biannually.” Books described as “neither too literary nor too commercial,” have made me laugh and cry. I love reading about the lives of women from another era, particularly during and between the two world wars. Each book is bound in grey, but the end papers are reproductions of gorgeous fabrics from the period.
This end paper is from my most recent purchase, Young Anne, by Dorothy Whipple.
No matter the format or the size of the pile, I will always be a reader.