By Grant Jacobs 04/12/2013

Just hours before heading off the Dunedin’s annual fund-raiser for the Regent Theatre, the 24-hour booksale, I read this tweet from New Zealand science writer Veronika Meduna:

great, the Japanese have a word for “the act of buying books and not reading them, leaving them to pile up”: tsundoku http://i.imgur.com/kRgaXcQ.jpg 


I love that word. It’s neat, evoking such as specific thing.

I hate that word. There’s a guilty conscience for those books I haven’t read yet!

According to Rapheal Went“It’s a clever pun, is tsundoku. “tsundeoku” means “things in a pile” and “doku” is “to read”.”

The illustration of tsundoku, above, looks to be from this reddit thread, drawn by the 12 year-old daughter of the writer ‘Wemedge’.

My living room doesn’t have just one pile of books to read, it has several. How about yours?

Here’s a couple of piles of books, stacked up for your viewing.


I do read the books I buy. Eventually.

Two of them I am reviewing for sciblogs – the book with the green spine on the left-most pile (Best Australian Science Writing 2013) and the one below it (the Philadelphia Chromosome*). I’ll get there.

I’ve previously reviewed Mad on Radium (two above Best Australian Science Writing 2013 in the same pile) and The Poisoner’s Handbook.

It’s time for Christmas presents, which I figure is excuse enough to bring up that wonderful word tsundoku. Books are a great option; maybe this little post will encourage some readers to try science-oriented books as presents.

Hopefully, the holiday break will offer time to read through some books… Is there a word for un-tsundoku-in-progress?


I’ve read several of those in the photo and am part-way through others of them. Excuse the lower resolution of the photo (it’s hard to read the titles!), but the file size of higher resolutions is a bit much for a blog post.

* The title for the Philadelphia Chromosome has a lowercase ‘t’ in ‘the’; in the original title it’s in italics, ‘the Philadelphia Chromosome’.

Other book-related articles on Code for life:

The best places to read

What books do you think geeks should read?

Rebecca Skloot on writing creative non-fiction

Science-y reading

A forensic scientist tells it like it is (Expert Witness, written by Anna Sandiford who also writes here at sciblogs)

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