Tsundoku: Piling up More Books than You Could Read in a Lifetime

Tsundoku, or the art of acquiring and piling up books without ever reading them, is a phenomenon that's spreading beyond Japanese borders.


©Dmitri Popov

You’ll need a lot of space for this hobby. Tsundoku is the art of accumulating books and never reading them. Theorised in Japan, this phenomenon has now spread beyond the country’s borders. The practice was the height of fashion in the Meiji era (1868-1912), but has since lost its elitist quality.

Tsundoku works with all kinds of books; what matters is quantity. To ease the conscience, however, A. Edward Newton, an author and collector who owned over 10,000 books in his time, emphasised this in 1918 in The Amenities of Book-Collecting and Kindred Affections: ‘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