LESLIE CRISS: Being a hoarder of books not necessarily a negative

“The books that help you the most are those which make you think the most.” – Theodore Parker

“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.” – Paul Sweeney

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero




I am not quite a tsundoko. But I believe it would be quite easy for me to become one. Tsundoku. That’s a Japanese word for a hoarder of books. It’s also buying books and allowing them to pile up without reading them.

Hoarding is horrendous. Even before I sat through an episode of A&E’s “Hoarders,” I felt uncomfortable just thinking about this dire diagnosis.

I am way too obsessive-compulsive to be a hoarder. I can stand clutter only so long before I have to free myself from the mess.

But books? Now that’s a horse of a different color.

My dad built a wonderful set of large bookcases for me several years ago. It’s the first thing I see when I walk in my house. And they are filled to capacity with books.

There are books in built-in bookcases in the basement and in a smaller bookcase in the hallway. There are books stacked on my dresser and on my desk.

And there are books inside – and atop – the night stand beside my bed.

Each time I have moved, a library in the city I’m leaving has received several boxes of books. It’s made my moves easier, but I’ve later looked for a particular title and wanted to kick myself for parting with it.

I love books. I love the feel of them. I love the smell of them. I love the way they look. I love that books make me think and feel, laugh and cry. I even appreciate that sometimes books put me to sleep. So, yes, hoarding is horrendous. But being a hoarder of books and not reading them is, well, much worse. At least, from one reader’s perspective.

I’ve tried, through the years, to read all the books I own. Tried certainly being the operative word.

Most books deserved a full read. They grabbed me by the collar at the opening sentence and did not let go until the final page. I remember them fondly and have been known to read them again.

Other books have gotten what my sweet mama used to call “a Girl Scout try.”

I’d pick up a book, hoping a word, a phrase, a plot might grab hold, but nothing did. And so I put those books down and remembered them when it was time for a donation to a library.

If I’m a hoarder of books, a tsundoko, then it’s a title I’ll wear proudly.

In fact, my good friend Emily Gatlin, also a lover of the written word, might be interested in helping me start a support group for tsundokos.

Emily’s collected lots of signed books and is auctioning them on eBay. Proceeds will go to CREATE for tornado relief.

It’s a great thing she’s done.

Tsundokos unite.


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