literature

Tsundoku

She had big aspirations in regards to books. There were so many books she wanted to read, but the problem was not enough time to read them. Even if it was her full time job to just read books, like someone decided to give her a generous salary and health insurance and a 401K just to read, there would never be enough time. Even if she never slept or ate, and spent every second of every day reading, there would not be enough time to read all the books she wanted to read, let alone all the books she might want to read, not even counting all the books she had no interest in reading at all. And what about all the great books that hadn’t been written yet? This desire to read became the seed for her obsession.

Despite the fact that some people considered the printed book irrelevant or obsolete in the digital age, and even if there was never another printing of another book ever again, there were just so many great books already. And while she didn’t necessarily want to read all of them, she did want to read many of them. So she made a habit of going into used book stores and buying books that she thought she might like to read. In this way she ended up buying way more books than she could ever possibly devour, no matter how many hours per day she spent, but she couldn’t stop herself from buying more. Eventually she conceded that she just liked having books more than actually reading them, and this realization caused her book purchasing to accelerate.

She began stacking them in her bedroom and guest room, and soon stacks lined the walls of the hallways. She started grouping them by subject and by spine color, and arranged the piles like some elaborate Tetris-inspired art installation. Then, after the stacks covered all the walls and stretched from floor to ceiling like paperback pillars, she started stacking her books in the shape of furniture. She made a reading chair out of books, and stacked books to make a little side table. She put a book and a reading lamp on her table made of books. She even made a bookshelf out of books, where she placed books that she still entertained the fantasy of reading, on shelves that allowed easy access instead of locked away in the literary architecture of her design. When the book towers in the hallway tumbled like dominoes and blocked access to the bathroom, the urgency of her bladder helped her recognize her own absurdity, triggering an epiphany. She decided then and there she had get all these books our of her house, and just like that the perfect idea appeared in her mind.

She carried the books outside and began stacking them, weaving the covers and pages of the books together to give the piles more stability. She constructed one wall, and then another, making eight walls altogether and forming a rough approximation of an octagon.  She tapered the walls toward each other as they grew taller, so that eventually they met in the middle, forming an acute and precarious-looking roof, surprisingly stable despite using only gravity and the interlocking of the book pages to stay fastened together. She borrowed a ladder from her neighbor and stacked higher than seemed prudent, but the more books she plugged into her structure the more stable it became. Some called it a shrine, or a temple, or a library, or a fortress, or an eyesore. It was all these things to her, except for the eyesore part. She thought it was beautiful, a monument to books built out of books.

When she finally finished her structure to her liking she could think of nothing better to do than to sit down with one of her books and actually read it. And when she finished reading each subsequent book she added it the structure with pride, and once again felt inspired by just how wonderful books could be.

tsundoku

pillar of life

Tsundoku – Japanese (noun) – Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books.


Number 3 of the Lost in Translation series 

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