Tsundoku, The Wonder of Books Stacked High Around You

For years I’ve enjoyed the stacks of books by my sofa, a wildly varied selection of illumination within easy reach. The tiled and spiraling stacks are lovely to look at, with a movement and flow of their own, on alt-, invisible book shelves.

There is a Japanese word for my book-stacking practice, that others clearly share (Witness the stacks-by-bed found in a shelter magazine, below). Tsundoku means, roughly, buying books and letting them pile up unread. The qualifier unread is the part I don’t get with. My books are read, even as they happily wait, with infinite patience, for me to open one at random,a practice that invariably yields surprising results (and the impetus for the Improvised Life theme Opened at Random).

Covet Garden Magazine

The Tsundoku’s early 19th century slang roots seem more apt to my particular stacks:

It combines elements of 「積んでおく」 tsunde-oku (to pile things up ready for later and leave) and 「読書」 dokusho (reading books)…As currently written, the word combines the characters for “pile up” (積) and the character for “read” (読). —Wikipedia

To pile up reading books ready for later…or…whenever…

…at random, like this sublime few lines from The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

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