Piling up Books and Never Reading Them: the Magic of ‘Tsundoku’


©Dmitri Popov

You’ll need a lot of space for this hobby. Tsundoku, or the art of acquiring books and letting them pile up without reading them, is a phenomenon which is spreading beyond the Japanese borders. This practice was the height of fashion in the Meiji era (1868-1912). It still exists today, but the messy aspect has now replaced the elitist quality it once had.

Tsundoku works with all kinds of books. Cookery books for those who don’t cook, computer manuals for those who don’t own a computer or big, bulky novels for those who just like ‘looking at the pictures’. It’s about quantity, not quality.

To ease the conscience, A. Edward Newton, author and collector who owns over 10,000 books, explains: ‘Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity’.

©Chris Barbalis

©Linh Nguyen