Hi, I’m Wendy and I’m a book hoarder

Hi, I’m Wendy and I’m a book hoarder.

I try not to buy any new books but I can’t seem to help myself. I read a back cover about an interesting story –

I want to know more.

I hear about a new vegan family cookbook.

I want to try the recipes.

I watch someone being interviewed on a show.

I want to learn more.

And nope, buying them to read on a Kindle just doesn’t do it for me. I have to hold the book in my hands, smell the pages, feel the paper, see the font that’s used.

I am aghast when I enter a house that has no bookshelves, where on earth do you keep them?

I secretly judge people when I pass a bedroom and there is no book on the night stand.

And yes, I have more books than I can possibly read in my lifetime. I’m trying to offload some of them but it’s like saying goodbye to friends – something I’d rather not do. I keep books that I’ve started and lost interest in thinking that *someday* I’ll get back to them. So I make deals with myself. I can’t bring in a new book until I move out at least 3 books.

It worked until I went into an independent bookstore. By my calculation I need to get rid of 27 books by tonight in order to stay true to my commitment.

And then there are used books. Whenever I go with my daughters to a thrift store, they go right to the clothing and I to the books. Yesterday I brought home 2 travel essay books.

Add 6 more books to my removal total.

My husband is a very tolerant person. As an avid reader himself, he’s never commented on my “habit” – I mean when making bad life choices buying books is pretty low on the list.

But still the other day he quietly pointed me to a news article. Apparently the Japanese have a word for book hoarders.

The desire to buy more books than you can physically read in one human lifetime is actually so universal, there’s a specific word for it: tsundoku. Defined as the stockpiling of books that will never be consumed, the term is a Japanese portmanteau of sorts, combining the words “tsunde” (meaning “to stack things”), “oku” (meaning “to leave for a while”) and “doku” (meaning “to read”).

Who knew? In some ways it’s nice to finally be recognized (diagnosed?) for what I have, but on the other hand – wow, who knew this was a thing? It looks like I’m a member of a tribe that I didn’t even know existed.

So I guess I need to modify my introduction.

Hi, I’m Wendy and I have tsundoku.


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

17 thoughts on “Hi, I’m Wendy and I’m a book hoarder

  1. I have a rule, if I can’t remember the last time I read a book and I don’t feel the urge to thumb through it now, while it’s in my hands, it goes to a new home. And it hurts every time.
    But I have a solution for that too: I move them to the garage. They’re just out in the garage, I can get them back anytime I need to.
    Then, after a bit of time has passed, I purge my son’s books, his tastes change rapidly, he’s a child. I put his books on top of the bag of my books and I take them quickly to Friends of the Library. I do not look under the stack of my son’s books.
    Hence I am able to purge. LOL

  2. Well thank God I’m not alone! It seems I too am tsundoko 🙈 I, like you have never warmed to the Kindle. I don’t get it, I don’t like. Books should be felt in the hand. They should indulge the senses of touch, sight and smell. Thank you Wendy. I no longer feel alone in my passion. I refuse to call it an obsession. Obsession makes you feel bad. Something that makes you feel that good can never be an obsession xx

  3. I was a book hoarder, too, until I started packing to move, about a year ago, and had to face that my books couldn’t all come with me. A collection that used to fill floor to ceiling shelves in my study has now been reduced to about three small bookshelves. Most of the ones I kept are vintage collectibles, signed novels and favorite cookbooks. I still look for titles, sometimes, not sure whether or not I still have them…very sad!

    • I recently had to downsize to move from an apartment to a nursing home. It required much thought to figure out what to do with my many books!! I gave away some, donated some to library, and kept a smattering of them. I really miss the books that I did give away. I am a voracious reader, and books sustained me. I do not consider myself a “book hoarder,” though…It is simply a love of books.

  4. Hi Wendy, i liked very much your post,it reminded me the book “Reads like a novel” of Daniel Pennac.Have you read it? It is a book about reading , adorable , and Pennac finishes the book with a manifesto in which he writes 10 rights that readers should have ( The first is “the right not to read”, 2:”the right to skip” ,3:”the right to not finish a book” , 4:”the right to reread”,and so on:).
    Well ,I guess Pennac knew readers so very well ,to write such manifesto and tsundoku is just another point i will tell myself anytime i buy a new book or a skip reading:).

  5. The hardest thing I have ever tried to do was take out some of my books even to give to a good home. Because of my own passion to be an Historical Christian Fiction writer and my books which are starting to be ‘out there’ makes me sad when the trend in some places is for the E-Books. I love the feel of book covers and the wonder of the journey of discovery. Since childhood my love of books has cluttered my life. I feel it is a wonderful missing blessing in the lives of many of our younger generation.

    • I have read some differing views on e books versus “real” books. Actually, I think both are important. For different reasons…The same with writing on the computer versus on paper. Writing on paper and in notebooks has been found to compliment the computer usage.

  6. Yes, me too 🙂 and unrepentant! I refuse to even accept a one book out for every one in rule! My argument is how can I build a library if I get rid of books?!
    Of course this does give rise to storage issues and I do sometimes allow a book I am unlikely to read again fly the nest to a charity shop to find new eyes to read it. Most of my ‘problem’ is non-fiction. I don’t mind reading fiction as an e-book, and I will acquire non-fiction ebooks too, in fact I will acquire books in whatever form they are presented to me if I want to read them…
    Most of my acquisitions of physical books are second hand, as serendipity presents them to me. If I go looking for a new book, it is often cheaper and more convenient to get the e version, especially as my beloved husband always moans about things coming into the house. I also hoard (and use) wool and fabric as I am a fibre crafter, so I do understand his problem!
    My solution to the problem of books stacking up was to rearrange the furniture so I could acquire more bookcases! We now have 8 tall wide Billy bookcases and one tall narrow, plus two other tall wide ones and a couple of short wides. And they are not yet full, so I can buy more books! 🙂

  7. Pingback: Hi, I’m Wendy and I’m a book hoarder – Just A Star: 1 in 100, Billion

  8. I used to have the same problem! There was zero space in my house left until I asked the question’ would someone else be happier with this book?’. Now I’ve been able to sell so many books I never read and it’s amazing!

  9. Well, now. I guess I have the same problem. Kinda sad that I always overworked myself unable to read all those book I bought but train myself to read it once whenever I get a chance to rest and spend some quality time with a book.

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