Tsundoku: Japan's Word for 'Books You Buy But Don't Read' I swear, I'll totally read this book soon.

    While choosing vocabulary words for our kanji learning site WaniKani, I occasionally come across weird-ass Japanese words. This is one of them.

    Tsundoku, aka 積ん読つ  どく. Its definition is:

    Buying books and not reading them. [noun] – Jisho.org

    Look at your bedside table. Can you relate? I bet a lot of you who are learning Japanese have a big pile of unused Japanese textbooks somewhere, right? Heck, the Tofugu office is guilty of tsundoku, too. I don't think we've read most of what's on our bookshelf.

    crowded bookcase filled with books about japan

    That being said, tsundoku has more of an image of stacked books. When I think of the word, I imagine somebody's futon on the floor, with a big pile of unread books and manga right next to it. If you break down the word into its component kanji, this "pile of books, not bookshelf of books" theory makes sense.

    tsu む: pile up, stack

    yo む: read

    "A pile up or stack of things you read…" or in this case, you don't read. A quick Google Image search seems to confirm the "pile" theory.

    photos of stacks of books after google image search

    But how do we get to a pile of books we didn't read? Nothing in the component kanji suggests whether you're reading these books or not. In fact, I'd argue that when you look at the component kanji on their own, it suggest that this is a pile of books you did read, or are currently reading.

    I found the answer on this website. It turns out the word tsundoku is a play on words.

    The first half of tsundoku 積ん読つ  どく comes from the word tsundeoku んでおく, which means "to pile things up and leave them." The second half (doku どく) comes from dokusho 読書どくしょ which means "reading." Essentially, it's a combination of the words tsundeoku んでおく (to pile things up and leave them) and dokusho 読書どくしょ (reading). If you paid close attention, you'll have noticed that tsundeoku and tsundoku are very similar sounding words. Thus, a beautiful baby pun was born.

    In terms of how to use this word, Mami has whipped up some example sentences for tsundoku 積ん読つ  どく.

    • ぼく やく1000 さつほどの 積ん読つ  どく かかえて きている。
    • I'm living with around 1,000 tsundoku (books).
    • 今週末こんしゅうまつは、 積ん読つ  どくリストを つくろうと おもう。
    • This week I think I'm going to make a tsundoku list.
    • 積ん読つ  どく ようのお 洒落しゃれ 本棚ほんだな しい。
    • I want a stylish bookcase for my tsundoku (books).

    It's a noun, so go ahead and use it as you would any other noun. If you were to refer to your pile of books next to your bed, you would say "that's my tsundoku" (that's my pile of books I bought but haven't read).

    Tsundoku Elsewhere

    And while we're trying to turn tsundoku into an English word, we might as well apply its feeling to other things as well. Steam library? That's Steamdoku, and I am so guilty of this.

    whomp comic about tsundoku and unplayed games on steam
    Source: Whomp!

    And how about smartphone apps? I have so many that I've purchased and never used.

    To get even more meta, though, I have a folder on my phone of reading-related apps that's labeled 積ん読つ  どく. And you guessed it, it's piled full of things I will probably never read.

    tsundoku folder amongst apps on iphone home screen

    That being said, I can't complain. Tsundoku is essentially a mild form of hoarding, which isn't the worst problem one can have. What parts of your life do you commit the act of tsundoku?