The Joy of Unread Books


I sometimes wish that the English language accommodated the ornate specificity of German compound words or the poetic ability of a single Japanese word to communicate a complex experience. For example, I recently learned the Japanese word tsundoku, which means the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, often piled up together with other unread books. Oh yes, I know that phenomenon well. That word resonates — it speaks to a reality in my life.

I am guilty of tsundoku, but only with the best of intentions and due to an abiding love for books. Maybe that’s why, despite my guilt, I don’t feel convicted. I purchase each book in a spirit of optimism, delighted by the opportunity to explore or escape, to read another classic. I maintain that hopefulness so completely that a cadre of unread books has followed me through various moves, even when I’ve jettisoned other unused possessions with cold-eyed discipline. There are great books in my life that I’ve been meaning to crack open for years, and more still that were gifts or recommendations.

It turns out that even the books that I haven’t read, the ones that cascade around my nightstand, have the power to make me happy. I am content to know that any day now, really, I can open one up and begin to read.

While she’s almost an official New Yorker, now that she has spent the past eight years working for a large investment bank in New York City, Jean Blosser still cherishes her Midwestern roots, growing up in Columbus, Ohio. She is an alumnus of Boston College and enjoys her whiskey neat.