This year brought an unexpected change in my life. After four and a half years living in my apartment, I had to move. I have a hard time with change, so sometimes a kick in the pants from fate is exactly what I need. It was challenging, and I think my cat misses his squirrels, but as of January 31 I am all moved in to a new place.
That sounds relatively straightforward. In reality, there were a lot of emotions and an overwhelming sense of “where did all this crap come from?!” I am impressed by book collectors who whittle their collections down after moving once or twice. Even after hours of carrying bags and bags and boxes and bags of books down and up stairs, I mostly felt inspired to read more (albeit with the goal of giving away books after having read them).
In the midst of my move, as Marie Kondo’s Netflix show alternately threatened or inspired readers across the country, I read an article about tsundoku. This is a Japanese word for the collection of books you build up on a shelf or bedside table waiting to be read. What a useful word! The article collected photos of people’s tsundoku, too. Some people had hundreds of books waiting to be read. But many people had five, ten, or maybe thirty.
Even reflecting on those people now, I’m kind of baffled. A life with few books is not necessarily a life I would want, but part of me does wonder how that would feel. The restraint, the free shelf space. As a person who rarely rereads books, I’ll give away most of the books I own after I’ve read them. The joy I get from books is partly the anticipation of a good read and partly the act of reading.
Moving my books to a new apartment made me more aware of what I have in my collection. While I’ve only read two of my own books since moving (hey, I’ve read a lot of library books so far this year), I’m feeling inspired to read locally more often. I read an advance copy of a book, and I’m especially happy to give it away knowing it was not my cup of tea. I read a short parable about cats. And now I’m happily enjoying an Ellery Queen novel that was printed during World War II. This book in particular reminds me that reading is such a joy.
At the end of the day, that’s what Marie Kondo seems to want for her clients and people in general: a home comprised of things that make them happy. When your pile of books gets to be too overwhelming, or is a carrier for emotional baggage, that’s the time to rethink your collection. I’m spending quite a bit of time this year thinking about the pleasure of reading. Here’s to a guilt-free, joy-inspiring tsundoku!