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I Don't Have Time to Read That

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  • women in a pile of books

Jessica, Queen's Square | August 1, 2017

Right now it seems like we have a hundred things demanding our time.  Even our supposed down time is bombarded with a myriad of things to entertain us. Whether you like to spend your time watching movies or television shows, reading books or listening to music, even playing video games, there is so much content out there it’s impossible to stay on top of everything.  Yet we are expected to be aware of the latest trends and the biggest hits or risk being out of the loop.

If you’re like me, you have good intentions and pile up items you believe you’ll get to one day.  For me it’s books.  I’m constantly trying to stay on top of the hottest titles, those must-read books that everyone is talking about.  Unfortunately, that means I have piles of unread books at home.  Will I ever get to them?  The hopeful part of me says “yes” but the more realistic side of me says “they’ve been there forever and you haven’t touched them yet.”

It is reassuring to know I’m not the only one piling up books and not reading them.  In fact, it’s popular enough that there’s even a word for it, albeit a Japanese one: tsundoku.  According to this article, the word itself is derived from the Japanese words tsunde (to stack things), oku (to leave for a while) and doku (to read). Basically the term translates to “letting books pile up unread” or “buying books and not reading them.”  (Any Japanese scholars out there, feel free to clarify the translations!) 

While there currently isn’t an English equivalent (suggestions welcome), the behaviour itself is hardly unique to Japan.  How many of us have piles of unread books at home?  Perhaps you bought them on sale, or received them as gifts.  Either way we all have books we intend to read.  My pile keeps growing no matter how much I try to stay on top of things.  Just when I think I’m getting caught up, dozens of new books are published that I’m told I absolutely must read, so I add them to the list.  Plus there are all those classics I’m supposed to know.  I’m sure you’ve seen those online lists of books to read before you die.  Have you read War and Peace?  I certainly haven’t.  That book alone would topple my pile.

War and Peace book coverLord of the Rings book coverWuthering Heights book cover1984 book coverTo Kill a Mockingbird book cover

What’s the solution? At least if I check out library books and don’t read them I can return them and avoid the “piling up.”  That’s half of tsundoku taken care of!  I can also use audiobooks which allow me to get through books while I’m doing other things, like driving or even knitting.  Maybe multi-tasking is the key.  Or perhaps I should resign myself to the fact that I can’t read everything.  No one can.  Whatever the answer, I’ll just have to take it one pile at a time.