Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Embracing the "Tsundoku"

Today I want to share with you Open Culture's piece on reading culture:

I came across this last year and I saved this post as a draft because, to be honest, I wasn't sure what to think. As a Furious Reader, I understand the allure of books and the joy of seeing an overcrowded reading pile. I have three reading piles around my house, a full library on my Nook, and two completed mini notebooks of potential reading titles. I understand the reader's need for new material, but the tsundoku has me thinking.  Mr. Jonathan Crow's article does not argue for a tsundoku to exist, but to use this phrase for a situation that most readers can relate to. While this is a beautiful word, and I agree with Mr. Crow's proposal, I wonder if embracing the tsundoku is a necessary part of the furious reader's life. 

Every reader has heard the counterargument from non-readers: When are you going to read all of this books? Don't you have enough books to read? Why would you write down books you might never get to read in your lifetime? To my nonreading friends, I understand the validity of your questions, but this is my true response:

Our His and Hers reading piles
To me, the pile of books is comforting. It's a symbol of the journeys to come and it gives me a chance to watch myself change as an individual. I often "edit" my reading pile a few times a year - to give other books a chance, to remove the ones I may get to another day, but not today, or to match whatever scholarship I've immersed myself in this semester. My reading pile is a summation of my year, a reflection of my different life cycles. It doesn't matter if I ever read all of the books on my tsundoku - what matters is the moment when I placed this book on my pile. I must have felt something profound, had some exciting experience, or felt a need to explore a different world when I placed that book atop a teetering pile of voices. Whenever I place yet another book on my reading pile, I remind myself that anything is possible. Many gardeners believe to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. I think you can say the same for to-be-read piles or lists. My reading pile and my notebook of potential reading topics reminds me that, deep down underneath my postmodernist worldview, I am still an optimist. 

My dear Furious Readers, I encourage you to embrace the tsundoku. Do not spend a year questioning your intuition as I did - I had the existential crisis for you (you're welcome). Look to your reading pile and say aloud to the titles that you may or may not read:  "I will see you tomorrow."
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