Do you have a habit of picking up books that you never quite get around to reading?
If this sounds like you, you might be unwittingly engaging in tsundoku - a Japanese term used to describe a person who owns a lot of unread literature.
How many books is too many books for a tsundoku-like pile? pic.twitter.com/eLjyVTxyec— Ella Frances Sanders (@ellafsanders) November 8, 2016
Prof Andrew Gerstle teaches pre-modern Japanese texts at the University of London.
He explained to the BBC the term might be older than you think - it can be found in print as early as 1879, meaning it was likely in use before that.
The word "doku" can be used as a verb to mean "reading". According to Prof Gerstle, the "tsun" in "tsundoku" originates in "tsumu" - a word meaning "to pile up".
So when put together, "tsundoku" has the meaning of buying reading material and piling it up.
"The phrase 'tsundoku sensei' appears in text from 1879 according to the writer Mori Senzo," Prof Gerstle explained. "Which is likely to be satirical, about a teacher who has lots of books but doesn't read them."
While this might sound like tsundoku is being used as an insult, Prof Gerstle said the word does not carry any stigma in Japan.
Do you have a way of arranging your bookshelves? . . Happy Sunday everyone! The weather here has been quite bipolar so I don’t really know if I should expect rain or not 😬 How’s the weather in your place? Back to the QOTD, I arrange mine by genre mostly. But my top shelf is reserved for my faves which all happen to be fantasy anyway ✨ Also, I’m in love with this word “tsundoku” that my friend @thetwelvetotwo showed me cuz it describes how I am rn! A bunch of books, some unread, piled around me in a mess 🖤✨ . . #BGPHJuneChallenge2018 - #shelfiesunday #junebookstagram18 - Jewel Tones #bookstagramtogetherjune - #shelfie #geekyglowreadscontemporary - green books ____________________________________________________________ #bookstagram #bookphotography #bookster #booklettering #readingnook #bibliophile #bookstagramfeature #thatbookishfeature #aesthetic #bookblogger #bookworm #bookishlove #readersquad #readersofinstagram #booksarelife #yalit #yabooks #booklitty #handlettering #bookshelfgoals #myfavoritethings
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Another word for Bibliomania?
Hands up if you regularly used the word "bibliomania" before reading this article.
Bibliomania is the title of a 19th Century novel by Thomas Frognall Dibdin which claimed to explore "book madness" - the act of being unable to stop collecting literature.
By his definition, those afflicted with bibliomania were obsessed with unique books such as first editions and illustrated copies.
But two centuries later, the term would no longer be about obsession - according to Oxford University Press, it has been shifted to "passionate enthusiasm" about collecting.
Bibliomania: passionate enthusiasm for collecting and possessing books http://t.co/eNISKKoFi4— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) September 17, 2013
While the two words may have similar meanings, there is one key difference: Bibliomania describes the intention to create a book collection, tsundoku describes the intention to read books and their eventual, accidental collection.
But you might argue both are more generally described by a variation of the distracted boyfriend meme.
Does it only work for books?
Strictly speaking, the word doku does mean reading, so tsundoku should probably only be used when discussing literature.
But you might not be surprised to know some people have applied the term to other aspects of their lives.
In a popular post on Reddit's community dedicated to books, people discussed how this term could explain their relationship with films, television shows and even clothing.
One of the most popular interpretations concerned video games, with various people referencing their "vast, untouched software libraries" on game distribution platforms like Steam.
And some people even joked the service should rename their annual week of discounting the "Steam Tsundoku Sale".
But credit to Ronnie Filyaw of Whomp! comic, who came up with this concise definition:
By Tom Gerken, BBC UGC & Social News