Learn the Japanese Word That Perfectly Describes Book Hoarders

Your entire house is probably an example of tsundoku.

There are a lot of great foreign words with no English equivalent that people wish existed in our own language. Everyone who's ever been in love knows what it's like to experience "Iktsuarpok," an Inuit word that describes the feeling of breathless anticipation when you're waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep checking the window to see if they're here yet. And anyone who's ever seen a super cute dog has felt "Gigil," a Filipino word that describes the irresistible urge to squeeze something really adorable. Foodies could definitely make use of "Shemomedjamo," a Georgian word that literally means, "I accidentally ate the whole thing."

But literature-lovers who, like me, tend to go on spending sprees on Amazon, resulting in shelves filled with books they haven't gotten around to reading, may especially appreciate the Japanese word "Tsundoku"—the act of buying book and then letting them pile up in your house unread.

The term originated as Japanese slang in the Meiji era (1868-1912) and combines  積んでおく tsunde-oku (to pile things up ready for later and leave) and「読書」 dokusho (reading books). It can also refer to books on your shelf which, like mine, will hopefully one day be consumed.

After all, there's a certain thrill in seeing all of the possibilities of future knowledge and adventure neatly stacked in front of you. As the American author, publisher, and book collector Alfred Edward Newton once said, "Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity … we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access reassurance."

For another Japanese word that we use constantly, albeit with the wrong pronunciation, check out This Is the Most Mispronounced Word in the World.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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