Tsundoku or Reading in 2017
“Tsundoku” (n.) is the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. “Tsundoku” originated as Japanese slang (積ん読) “tsun-doku”
Tsundoku could easily be a word to describe my life if it weren’t for daughter.
My book collection began in University when I was spending $500 plus a semester on required textbooks. With my major being in Theatre, a large portion of those textbooks were plays, anthologies, and other critical texts, which were of enough interest that I wanted to keep them around. As I read through the anthologies and other critical texts, I ended up seeking out other books that were referenced explicitly or books that the authors had written previously. Needless to say, that collection become quite large.
When I moved to Syracuse, New York, after finishing my University degree, I was determined to read as many of those books as I could through the winter months. My job was primarily in the evenings, which allowed me to stay up late at night reading or hunker down in a Starbucks to read in the afternoons. When I moved into my studio apartment, books overtook my cupboards becoming a makeshift bookshelf. It sounds silly, but books were a priority over dishes at that point of my life.
Those books went with me back to Canada the following year. It wasn’t until I moved to Kelowna when I was separated from the majority of them. I loaded the back of my Jeep with as much stuff as I could; books didn’t make the cut. I was reunited with them when my parents moved to Kelowna a few years later, and quickly became overwhelmed with how large the collection was. Five large boxes full of books- mainly theatre-related, and mostly unread.
I ended up donating the bulk of the collection to the local University. It was a rather sad day driving the boxes up there and dropping them off, not knowing what would become of them. I like to think that some young student has been browsing them when they needed inspiration for a paper or project like I was doing nearly twenty years ago. When I first arrived at the Theatre Department, I quickly discovered that it had a reading room with a large cabinet full of plays and old magazines. The upper shelves were mainly the classic plays that were required reading (i.e. lots of Shakespeare); the lower shelves were where the treasures were hidden.
Stacked at the bottom of the cabinet were old Tulane Drama Review (now The Drama Review, or TDR) journals published in the 60s and 70s. It was the height of experimental theatre and I was blown away by the performances that were written about, the essays, the ideas, everything. I can admit now that I may have snuck multiple copies into my backpack at night to read in the future, which now reside at UBCO. TDR set me down the path of wanting to write more, first by experimenting with keeping a journal, and then writing a blog back before they were known as blogs.
After donating that collection of books, I ended up rebuilding my collection in a different manner. No longer buying theatre or critical texts, but instead focusing on new ways of thinking, classic books, and books about improving my writing or business. More of them were for my Kindle rather than physical books, too. Like my theatre books, a lot of them have been unread, sitting there ready for my attention when I’m ready to delve into that subject matter.
Through the building of both collections, I was unknowingly following a rule that Ryan Holiday uses:
If there is a book I am interested in, I buy it. Regardless of the cost. Regardless of whether I have a stack of other things to read. Regardless of whether I have any sort of certainty about whether it’s any good. If I want it, I buy it. And when I buy it, I don’t care how much I spent on it or how rare it might be. I treat it just like every other book (which means marking up and writing in it).
That collection of books only does me good if I start reading them. I started to pick up my reading habit again in 2016, especially in the latter months, beginning with books about mindfulness and stoicism, and now on improving specific areas of my life and business. I don’t want to lose any momentum with this habit, so I have double-downed on it in 2017. Like creating the perfect environment for me to do the work, I’ve started a routine of getting my mind ready in order to sit down and get into a book. Once I’m settled in, I set aside an hour for reading, more on the weekends, and aim to do it nightly.
The plan is to read as much as I can in 2017 and make a decision on the books that sit on my shelf now, culling the herd down to only the essential books that I know I will want to read or loan in the future. Parting ways with books this year will be far easier than when I donated the theatre books, because I haven’t invested as much time and money into them. Most are spontaneous purchases while browsing, others are classics that can be purchased again easily enough.
I want to stay mentally sharp in 2017, so I will read more books. I also want to write more. I know reading will fuel that drive to write more, so I will read more books.