I love learning new words, especially multisyllabic or lyrical ones. Or a word that perfectly defines what you’re trying to describe. Recently I learned (from Facebook, of all places) that Japanese has such a word. Tsundoku – (n.) buying books and not reading them, letting them pile up unread on shelves, nightstands, etc.

Though I just learned the word, I’ve had this compulsion for a long time. I LOVE books. I love the potential they hold, their ability to transport, to teach, to entertain. As a reader, writer, and packrat, I amass books. They’re my friends, and as such, I have a hard time letting them go.

That said, my love of books is tempered by my fear of becoming a hoarder. With a finite amount of space, I cannot keep every book I read. I’ve gotten much better about borrowing from the library or friends, and now if I want something new and popular, I use my kindle. So what’s the problem? Tsundoku! The last time I moved, I rearranged my bookshelves so all the unread books were on the top shelves. But they’ve since spilled over to my nightstand, coffee table, and desk (not the floor, though; that feels wrong to me). The collection continues to grow.

In planning this blog post, I decided it would be fun to photograph all my unread books. It took three trips up and down the stairs to carry them all, and I had to use my dresser as a staging area.


So many words…

What did I learn from the process? The following:

  • I have 57 unread books. Fifty-seven!
  • 13 – loaned to me
  • 8 – I’ve started before
  • 6 – about Ireland
  • 5 – bought for classes

Let’s go back to the eight I’ve started before. I need to remember what my dad – possibly the most voracious reader ever – said a long time ago: “If you don’t like it, don’t finish it. Maybe go back to it later, but if you still don’t like it, let it go. There are too many good books to read, so don’t torture yourself with ones you don’t enjoy.” So, sorry Bill Bryson, but if Mother Tongue doesn’t speak to me this time (no pun intended), it’s going away. Same for Innumeracy.

I read about 30 books a year. With 57 unread books, I won’t be able to read anything else for two years. Some of these books linger around because I feel like I should read smarter – more non-fiction or more literary works. Instead, like neglected friends, they hang around and make me feel guilty. Clearly, I need to have an expiration date on books not yet read.

Here’s the plan: I am going to return the loaners and re-borrow them later if I want them. Then I’m going to read these books between other books. If I don’t like them, I’m going to donate them. I need to make room on the shelves for new books that entice me.

Helping out parents usually means running errands, going shopping, or cleaning around the house, not grooming giraffes. But I’ve never claimed my family is normal. The  last time I went to their house, I noticed this:

What is that thing?

It looked like a horror movie Swamp Monster, not like the stately giraffe my mom designed. Something had to be done, so I went to work, shearing the topiary of its excess ivy (which grows like a weed, in case you didn’t know). My mom was delighted until I accidentally trimmed part of his nose. “Relax, Mom, it’s ivy. He’ll have a nose again in no time.” I continued channeling my inner Edward Scissorhands, realizing that the beautiful topiary animals you see in parks and castle grounds are not so easy to keep perfectly lush. Gardeners are tending those meticulously.

I, on the other hand, did a hack job. Gerard once again looks like a giraffe, but a modern art giraffe out of a Picasso painting. Plus, he’s bald in a few spots. Then again, it’s ivy. He’ll be handsome and verdant in no time.

Where am I? ¿Dónde está Guernica?

Where am I? ¿Dónde está Guernica?

Since I’m still/once again aiming to get out of the basement, I decided I need some number-specific goals. Here we go, in order:

  • Weigh less than a male Olympic water polo player
  • Ride in a hot air balloon without paying the fatty surcharge
  • Weigh less than my husband (tricky because as I start losing, so will he, making this a moving finish line)
  • Lose an Olivia’s worth of weight (Yes, my slim goddaughter is growing, making this another moving target, but truth is I could stand to lose an Olivia-plus-brother.)
  • Weigh less than my nephew (He’s growing, so as I lose and he gains, we may meet somewhere in the middle, hopefully an ideal middle for both of us!)

Like how I announced my number-specific goals without any numbers? I’m tricky (or maybe just neurotic).

What’s your goal?

Figures that the first art I buy and actually frame for our house is food-related. For years, I’ve searched for old-school butcher posters identifying cuts of meat. I don’t remember if I first saw one in a book or on TV, but I remember thinking it would be a cute decoration for a kitchen.

Little did I know how difficult it would be to find one that wasn’t ugly. (I suppose trying to find a cute poster about slaughtering animals is a little ridiculous.) Then a few weekends ago, at San Francisco’s Renegade Craft Fair, I walked up to a booth with these:

crappy cell phone photo

crappy cell phone photo

I think I squealed! My friend Jenny came over to see what the excitement was, and said, “You’ve been looking for those for like three years.” Yes, yes, I have. Sold to the woman on a mission!

What could be better than meaty art for my  kitchen? Art from a local artist! Even better than that? The prints came in tubes labeled “Moo,” “Oink,” and “Baa!” My husband moos at all animals (and it’s contagious), so it’s perfect that our first hanging art is titled “Moo.”

PS – Note there is no picture of said art actually hanging, because our kitchen is ugly. See Dishwasher Diaries 1 & 2. It’s like pearls on a swine (where the pearls ARE a swine, and the swine is our kitchen).