Thanks to a meme on Facebook (which I discovered courtesy of a Mr A. S. of London) I have discovered a Japanese word that could and should be appropriated into what King Alfred called Englisc. That word is tsundoku and its definition is as follows:
(n.) the act of buying books and not reading them and/or letting books pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands.
… from which you can see that I’m a Black Belt in tsundoku.
Working as I do for a publishing company, I am liable to accrete books as easily as breathing. It’s hard to walk through the offices of Your Favourite Weekly Professional Science Magazine Beginning With N and not pick up a book, in the way that Canis secundus croxorum picks up fleas.
Canis secundus croxorum, recently (fleas not pictured)
Apart from occasional mad sprees in places like Hay on Wye, I was once fastidious about books, and selective in what I brought home. Working, as I have said, for a publishing company, it’s easy to get blasé about books. So, in the days when Mrs Crox and I thought of moving house as an enjoyable pastime – in the same way that some people really get a kick out of base jumping, free running or the Iron Man triathalon – I used to fill up Caroline the eVolvo with books, drive to the local lending library and offload them. Believe me whan I tell you that Caroline the eVolvo is extraordinarily capacious.
Being rational, I thought, books are just books, right? Most stand unread on the shelves (or the floor, or the bedside, or behind the sofa, next to the bath, on top of the fishtank and so on and so forth in like fashion) – and if read once, are rarely likely to be read again. If I really wanted to consult a book, I told myself, I could always borrow one from the library, or look up the relevant passage online, or even upload it to my iPad. Right?
Well, no. Having gotten rid of books, I sometimes (though not always) regretted having done so. I regret, for example, having sloughed off all the great SF I read when I was a teenager, and now scour secondhand bookstores, charity shops, car boot sales and so on in search of my old friends.
I’m also having a fit of medieval literature.
So it was that Saturday found me in a secondhand bookshop in Cromer that I’ve visited only once before – such is my restraint – and picked up Bill The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison; The Day Of The Triffids and Web by John Wyndham; an edition of the Aeneid and Boethius’ Consolations of Philosophy. Some of these I have read before – others I’d like to read someday, if I have the time, which I don’t. Notwithstanding inasmuch as which I found Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds and several hoary old tomes by the likes of Brian Aldiss and Robert Silverberg in Oxfam in Norwich, a few days earlier. In the Break charity shop in Cromer I found Anathem by Neal Stephenson. A few weeks ago in a shop in Holt I found Teach Yourself Old English, and in the wholly remarkable secondhand bookshop of Blicking Hall some weeks earlier I found a first-edition Silmarillion (having got rid of mine, fool that I am), and Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. And so on.
It helps that subsequent to the extension and remodelling of the Maison Des Girrafes I have space for a library, which I never had before. Conversely, there’s no such thing as having too many books – just not enough space to put them.
Tsundoku, welcome to my life.