Tackling the tsundoku

During the lockdown, we all acquired an expanded vocabulary that spoke to the new kinds of practices that had become necessary to adapt to the isolation, and also some words that became more resonant because of what we were going through. Some of these had to do with being on screen so much and the attendant anxieties (Zoom fatigue, Zoombombing), while others had to do with a spirit of discovery. Tsundoku was one of the words I learned during this time. It’s a Japanese word that describes a practice that’s been around forever, but the phenomenon it captures perhaps entered the English-speaking pop culture audience three or four years ago, popularized by social media. [Clearly, I was a bit slow on the uptake and only discovered it during the lockdown, when all of us were spending way too much time online.]

Tsundoku, according to the Cambridge Dictionary Online, is “the practice of buying a lot of books and keeping them in a pile because you intend to read them but have not done so yet; it is also used to refer to the pile itself.”

Sounds familiar?

I currently have two such piles on my table; one is a modest stack of books that relate to work, and the other is a growing tower of fiction. In addition, there’s a whole hidden stack on my e-reader! [We probably need a new word that refers to digital book stashes too.]

I realize that acquiring books is not for everyone; even those who love to read can’t always buy every book they want. It’s certainly a luxury that I do not take for granted. But even those who do not have physical tsundokus do make lists (mental or on paper) of books they would like to or plan to read. There is no catching up with these lists, no way we can check off all the items, as new titles appear on these “must-reads” faster than we can pick up the pen to make that tick!

Yet I take comfort in those piles of books, and even in that growing list of must-read titles. I know that when I finish one book, there will be another one to pick up right after. The list too gives me a sense of both anticipation and plenty; it’s a kind of promise that there is so much more to know, so many more stories (and ideas) to sink into.

In some sense that is the kind of anticipation that keeps Teacher Plus going, month to month, year to year. The list of ideas keeps growing, and with it the sure knowledge that we will always have something more to talk about, to write about, and for you, to read about.

Happy Teacher’s Day to you all! And here’s to tackling that tsundoku!

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