5 Steps to Quit Your Tsundoku Habit — Buying books and never reading them —

Do you have a habit of picking up books that you never quite get round to reading? If this sounds like you, you might be unwillingly engaging in tsundoku📚

What is “tsundoku”?

“tsundoku” is usually introduced like buying books and never reading them. In addition, the word also implies “leaving reading materials as pile of books for now and reading later, but never reading them”.

According to Kojien, a major Japanese dictionary, tsundoku is a play on words of “tsun-de-oku” and “doku”. “tsun-de-oku” can be said casually “tsun-doku”. The word “tsumu” can be used as a verb to mean “to pile up” and the word “oku” can also be used as a verb to mean “leave”. When put them together, “tsun-de-oku” means “leave it on pile of books”. And also, the word “doku” can be used as a verb to mean “reading”.

Tsundoku was introduced by BBC last year. Apparently people all over the world have the common habit. And also, “tsundoku” has been used by book lovers at least since Meiji period (from 1868 to 1912 ). It is usually used when people make sarcastic remarks and as self-deprecating humor. This is an example people usually say;

A : Did you buy a book again? I know you haven’t red many books you bought last month.
B : I know, but the book looks so interesting. The book already became best seller. It would be definitely worth reading.
A : I’m sure the book will be also piled up to tsundoku. You have no time to read!


A : How many books do you have? I was surprised that you are such an avid reader! I have no time to read even I’d like to.

B : Thank you but I also don’t have such a time. Actually almost all of them are tsundoku!

Definitely the word doesn’t have positive meaning. Having an interest in many kinds of book seems good. Somehow we tend to feel guilty about that however.

Do you feel guilty to tsundoku?

The most important part is that initially people who tend to make tsundoku have an intention of reading books. So it is a shame of their unachieved. They are not collector or Otaku at all. They have some depressive feelings to pile them up, and their initially motivation and curiosity are hijacked by feeling pressure to read to recover the expense. That’s why it has been discussed for a long time. If you are excited to see your books being piled up, you may be bibliomania.

On one hand, achievement make you feel great. Positive phycology says that achievement give you self-efficacy. Have you ever had an experience like that once you finish a book and after that you want to read another book? It gets you more motivated. On the other hand, if the more tsundoku mountains there are, you would be overwhelmed by huge pile and wonder when it can be finished.

In addition, people who tend to engage in tsundoku treat books as reading material — not interior — , they couldn’t make them the reason they are here. They are sleeping just as papers. Unless your house is a library, readers will be only you, your family and your friends. Are there any high-potential books which can recover their potential and luckily be finished reading?

I know people who think tsundoku is good for us saying that there is a possibility like a book could be out-of-printing and you can enjoy reading whenever you want. However, it would take a while before becoming out-of-printing. And also, full of books which you don’t like make us feel messy. That is exactly what I am disgusted.

5 steps for not making new books one of tsundoku pile📚

Here are steps to say goodbye for tsundoku. If you are enjoying tsundoku life, there is no need to try them. BUT if you want to quit the habit, you should try these. At least, they were very helpful for me, especially step five. As I said, I really hate mess so I wanted to say goodby for unread books. Let’s see how they work.

  1. Decide the limit for buying books like; e.g. no more than three books in a month.
    People who tend to be engaged in tsundoku are basically interested in new books. You don’t have to worry about how many unread books you have as of now. As first step, You should decide the limit for buying books in a month to grasp what is going on.
  2. Stop reading anytime as finishing is not an obligation.
    You can read any books whenever you want. It doesn’t matter no matter how many books you are reading at once. You should not make a rule like that you can only read a new book once you finish reading another book.
  3. Limit the amount of time for books staying on a pile.
    If any of books have not read for three months, it may be a sign of goodby.
  4. Sell or donate your tsundoku books.
    I recommend you to sell or donate them. These books would be happy if they are owned by those who want to read. Also, you will feel less guilty when you get some portion of your payment back.
  5. Find books that you truly interested.
    You will notice that books which you are able to finish reading might be red faster than books you are NOT able to finish. This step is quite interesting to know your reading habit and your actual interest. I believe that you have a habit whatever kinds of book, for example book binding. If you repeat these steps, you will be able to understand which makes you interested and which does not. You might be just attracted by ads such as best seller or recommended.

How did I escape from tsundoku habit — simply finding books you are interested –

After all, I believe that pile of unread books affect us same symptom like opening multiple pages on your computer. It’s chaos. It causes that you don’t know which book you want to read firstly, pile of unread books continue growing.

I could focus more on reading and enjoying books. I had no pressure at all. Even I stopped reading, I didn’t feel bad. I could restart reading them whenever I wanted depends on how busy I was. I also could focus more on a new book I was interested at the time. I would love to keep finished books and I am finally enjoying to pile them up. That’s exactly spark joy!

Your book shelf become a symbol of achievement and knowledge instead of a symbol of shame and guilty!