From Cambridge Dictionary:

The practice of buying a lot of books and keeping them in a pile because you intend to read them but have not done so yet.

In Japan, the term “tsundoku” refers to people who buy a lot of books but never get around to reading them. It can also apply to books that are sitting on a bookshelf, ready to be read at a later time. If this sounds like you—a literary hoarder who owns a large number of unread books—then you are a tsundoku.

Just like “bibliomania,” a tsundoku is obsessed with collecting books. However, the Japanese term specifically refers to the act of collecting books without the immediate intention of reading them, but instead they end up piling up; it is the practice of purchasing more books than you can actually read. The prime difference between tsundoku and bibliomania is that while bibliomania is characterized by an obsession with collecting books, the accumulation of books in tsundoku is merely by accident.

Another term related to tsundoku is “bibliophilia,” which is the love of reading and collecting books. Compared with bibliomania—which is an obsessive-compulsive disorder of hoarding books to the point of damage to social relations—bibliophilia is the healthy kind, that special feeling of admiration for books and the joy of reading, usually by someone whom you can describe as a “bookworm,” which is another related term.

Tsumu, a Japanese verb that translates to “to pile up,” is the origin of “tsun” in “tsundoku,” whereas “doku” is a typical way to describe “read” in Japanese. When “tsumu” and “doku” are combined in Japanese, the resulting word aptly describes the process of allowing books to accumulate.

Being called a tsundoku does not carry any stigma in Japan, despite the fact that this may sound like an insult; rather, the term is only a friendly slang expression.

Further Reading

Buy more books than you ever read? The Japanese have a word for that. by Derek Beres, Big Think

What Your Stacks of Unread Books Say About You by Cami Rosso, Psychology Today

Tsundoku: Japan’s word for “books you buy but don’t read,” by Koichi, Tofugu.com

How Does Your Tsundoku Stack Up? by Eric Grundhauser, Atlas Obscura

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