Last week, after months of procrastination, I finally bought a copy of Grady Hendrix’s book Paperbacks from Hell, a loving examination of lurid pulp book covers from the 1970s and ’80s. I was jazzed to see it on the shelf at my local bookstore, and instantly snapped it up. Then, still feeling excited, I took it home and… placed it directly on my ever-growing “to-read” stack. Huh. I firmly believe I’ll read Hendrix’s book one of these days, but if I’m being honest with myself, I’m also probably going to add a couple more books to the stack before I do.
Welcome to the concept of “tsundoku.”
Loosely translated as the practice of piling up books you might never read, the Japanese word tsundoku seems to be everywhere right now. In recent months, The New York Times, the BBC, Forbes, and plenty of others have reported on the phenomenon. As lovers of books and libraries of all kinds, we here at Atlas Obscura can certainly relate.
An informal survey of Atlas Obscura staff reveals that some of us stack new books at the bottom of the pile; some of us maintain a one-in-one-out policy to try and manage the size of our unread stacks; and at least one of us (me) regularly reorders our pile of potential reads, in a futile attempt to make the ever-expanding collection look like it has some rhyme or reason. But enough about us: we want to hear about your tsundoku habits.
Fill out the form below to tell us about your own tsundoku, and how you intend to conquer it (if at all)! Then email an Instagram-ready picture of your unread book pile to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line, “Tsundoku.” We’ll share our favorite responses in an upcoming article. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for buying more books than you can read. Let your tsundoku shine!