There is a Japanese word for piling up books without yet reading them: tsundoku.
While tsundoku is a real word, many of us harbor a bit of guilt for the pile of unread or unfinished books. A restorative literacies circle can bring out the emotions and strategies for reconciling or repairing feelings about books. No one should feel judgment, remorse, or shame about abandoning books, permanently or for a little—or long—while. Instead, we can ask and share:
How is it that we get enticed to read a book?
Were they chosen because they seemed like a really good idea at the time? What happened since?
Were they recommended by others?
Were they best sellers? The talk of the town?
Were they gifts from friends or family? What were the intentions in the gifts?
Were they found at a thrift shop for 50 cents that we might have not bought otherwise?
Did they not turn out to be what we had thought or hoped?
Maybe we just wanted to scan through? Or that we found it more complex than expected?
Are they books that need to be read when in the right mood? Such as during vacation or on a long rainy day?
Or did they turn out to be too weighty for one’s tastes? Was there an emotional trigger?
Was one written by an author we personally know but really not into the topic?
Were the books checked out from a library or a school library? How do we make a note of returning them and then renewing them for another time?
Are the books really abandoned? Do we want to donate them? Invite a friend to go through them? Or save them for a later time?
Books should not be considered as judgmentally laden items but as sources of pleasure and joy. As adults, we can allow ourselves the physical holding space for the books, but also the freedom in our minds to cherish—or toss—the pile. At the same time, we can allow even our children and youth the same sense of safety without them being held to what they should do or not do with their piles of books.