Tsunduko Tsundere

“Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such and ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity… we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access reassurance.”

–A. Edward Newton

Every time I buy a book, knowing full well I do not have the time to read it now, and I add to my tsunduko both physical and electronic, it’s not that I don’t plan to read it. I really really want to. It’s just that life gets in the way.

My daughter explained to me that tsundere is ‘typically someone who acts like they don’t want something, but they really do.’ In anime or manga it’s actually a romantic style. Argues with the one they are attracted to, but inside they are all lovebirds and sighs. I am feeling a bit like this in my current relationship with books, in particular paper books. When I read – and it’s a rare event this last year, getting rarer. When I read it tends to be electronic, and non-fiction for research. It’s not that I don’t love fiction. I really really do. It’s just that I have a cold exterior to it right now because I can’t afford the time to fall back in love with it.

It’s not like I can avoid books. Getting rid of my tsunduko would be like ripping my still beating heart out of my chest. Yes, I can and have thinned my library. There are books that don’t spark joy in my mind. But there are so many more that bring a smile to my face when I take them off the shelf and hold them near. I remember what is between the covers, even if I don’t have the time to look right now. I have hope.

That, really, is what the tsunduko is really about. It’s hope. It’s old friends there anytime you need them. In the last few years, when I have been really sick, I binge read. Thanks to Amazon I could be stuck in bed, and at my fingertips have a pile of worlds to rummage through until I found the one that would allow me to open a door and slip through escaping my mundane pains and aches. Having books is a promise that someday, somehow, I will have the time to read again.

And the unread books? Are the best books in the world, so long as they remain unread. As you read them you discover that Sturgeon’s Law prevails, but before then they are the bright horizon of promise. Dawn of the day, pearled and bedewed, fresh and full of hope. You can look at the stack and think ‘I’m going to have so much fun reading you.’

It’s the dark hours of the night when you feel the stack looming over you, whispering in accusatory tones of stories left unread. Friends abandoned and lonely. Worlds that are fading from your memories and whipping away into the winds of time. You wake up from that and contemplate how much time you have left on this mortal coil to read, and you resolve to read more often, more deeply, and reduce the stack to manageable proportions. At least, until the next bookstore trip.

After I started writing this, the kids asked for a trip to the flea market and I came home with, um, about five books. In my defense, two were for gifts, two were for my First Reader (who always loves Mickey Spillane and weird Westerns in pulp paperback), and the remaining one is a handy pocket anatomy reference for artists (I also acquired a lovely vintage easel, but that’s another topic entirely. I refuse to be guilty about my art supplies. Those are mental health aids).

So how is your love-hate relationship with your to-be-read stack? Does it bring you joy, or make you feel guilty about how much you aren’t reading? Or, like me, do you vacillate between those depending on the day and your mood?


30 thoughts on “Tsunduko Tsundere

  1. I’ve yet to find a reliable way to healthily relate to my to do list, and my to do list does have some non-fiction reading on it.

    My other reading lists seem to be important for destressing, and I don’t have a healthy way to reliably do that either.

    I get too sick to want to read anything I’m aware of having handy. Then, when I get well again, if I’ve found a way to carry myself through it with minimal stress over undone work, I have a backlog of recreational reading lined up, and little trouble switching my mental orientation back to the useful lists.

  2. My “to-read” stack is a bit of a problem in more ways that one. Not only does it tend to build up, but I have a tendency to say to myself, “I really should finish X before I move on to this new book.” Only I don’t really want to finish X, so not only does it not get read, the new book doesn’t either.

    My library, however, is not going to be removed. To use that lady’s standard, ALL of them bring me joy, even the paperback editions of the Dog Lover’s mysteries from 1994. And their collective presence brings me joy as it reminds me of a lifetime of acquiring them.

  3. “So how is your love-hate relationship with your to-be-read stack?”

    I never used to have a TBR stack. I would buy them and read them voraciously until they were gone. Good, bad, indifferent, it didn’t really matter. Unless it was wildly offensive, I would just read it. Rarely I’d skip to the end to see if it was going to be worth it, in case it was one of those “nothing happens in the whole book, until they all die horribly at the end” things.

    But then… the skipping to the end started becoming more and more common, and I was getting so I’d buy only one book instead of five. I want to say this happened roughly at the time when Monster Hunter International came out in paperback, ~2010/2011. I remember that distinctly because when I read it I was reminded of the FUN I used to have reading.

    These days, unless its one of my five favorite authors, I don’t buy anything. Part of that is me getting older, I guess. I’m a bit crusty the last five years or so. Part of it is me spending my reading time writing instead. But part is most definitely me picking things up at the store, seeing SJW themes in the blurb, getting mad and saying “Not with my money, fuckers.”

    Last book I bought was the E-Arc for Monster Hunter: Guardian by her majesty S. Hoyt. I’m working my way through it when I feel like reading.

    These days I have a TBW, to-be-written pile. This is not because I’m some kind of super-cool author, but because my brain got switched from consumption to production, and it won’t shut up.

        1. They’re STILL doing that? Sheesh. And they actually say we Puppies are stuck in the past . . .

          1. I put it down mostly to laziness. Running around to find a new target is harder than setting up a bot to continually mangle the same wiki page.

            Those guys love them some bots, right? ~:D

    1. Yeaaaah, I’m gonna have to start digging for books again because while I managed to give Vincent some Dragonlance (the first trilogy; he’s on the second book now) I’m pretty sure he’ll blow through what I have on my shelves pretty darned quick. (I can’t find all of my Belgariad and Malloreon, it’s a bit scattered right now.)

      Maybe I can bait him a little to read Star Trek that has Diane Duane writing for it.

        1. He already burned through that, I think in 2017, after he ran out of Larry Correia and Matthew Reilly, which is why I miiiiight be able to get him to read a few Star Trek books (Doctor’s Orders, to begin with maybe) that Duane-sensei wrote.

          and was finally allowed to read Jim Butcher from summer of 2018.

          When he finished Codex Alera, he walked up to me and asked “What’s the next book?” Shoulda seen his face when I told him that ‘the series is ended.’

          “Wait what, noooo! That’s it? That’s the last book?! But..but I want to read more! Can’t you ask if he can write about the kids? The next generation?” ;_; Told the boyo to write his own fanmail!

  4. The only reason I have a TBR stack in my house is because I am unable to resist carrying books home when someone else is clearing their shelves and asks me if I would like any of them. I never take a lot, but I do take some each time, and they add up. The books tend to be those that I think I might like to read. Gah!

    I keep a list of the books I know I want to read as a wish list on Amazon. Then, when I am desperate for something new to read and I can scrape a few bucks from somewhere, I buy one of those books on the wish list and devour it.

    I feel guilty I tend not to read the might-like-to-read books and that I don’t better resist the lure to bring them home with me in the first place.

  5. I have a TBR research stack. UM, OK, let’s make that TBR towers. Academic research, classic sci-fi and fantasy, that sort of thing. And no time, until now. Day Job has started expanding to fill all available space and time (sort of like a gas.)

  6. “I can’t die until I’ve finished my reading list.” In that case, I’m immortal!

  7. I used to read many mroe novels. Then I discovered writing. No time for reading, I think.

  8. Typo: tsundoku. Also, tsundere is more commonly shown as alternating between standoffish (tsun-tsun) and lovestruck (dere-dere): “ugh, don’t talk to me about new SF releases, I am so over that genre… wait, Larry and Sarah wrote an MHI novel together? I need to read it RIGHT NOW!”.


  9. It’s the half-read pile that bugs me. If I haven’t gone on, obviously I should give it away. . . .

  10. It was much easier dealing with a TBR pile when the books I read were all paper books. I had a strict 10 year rule — if something didn’t get read in ten years I knew I’d never get around to reading it, and I could get rid of it. Because I needed the space for new books that were constantly coming in, and I was running out of artwork I could take down and replace with bookcases, or windows I could cover with bookcases, or ….

    But, in an ebook era — well, these electrons are really small, so I can keep a lot of them and they don’t tie up space. So now the ebook backlog is a few hundred books, and I need to figure out a rule to keep it from growing indefinitely.

    Or maybe not — there’s plenty of room for them to keep getting stored, and someday I might decide that this is just the book I want to try reading now.

    I know I have more books than I’ll ever get to read. And I’ll keep buying more, if I think I might want to read them when I have time.

    The only way the stack has stayed manageable is because I’m pretty aggressive about not finishing books. With physical books, I used a “Page 50” test — if I got to the bottom of pg 50, and didn’t care what was on top of the next page (and, since it was an even page, I didn’t need to turn the page, just look up to the top of the next page), I put it down and never picked it up again, unless I had a good reason to make an exception (things like recommendations from people who know my taste, or results from the author in the past, or things like that).. And then I’d move the book from “unread” to “dispose of”. But, with ebooks, there’s no reason to dispose of them, so I have lots of ebooks I know I’ll never finish.

    But I never know when I’ll want to try a particular book, and, if it’s an ebook, it can sit around indefinitely, until it’s just the book I want to try next. Over the next few years, I’ll see how those habits change. But, for now, I’ve just let the ebook TBR stack grow into the few hundred book range. But it’s always with me, so I can start on anything any time the mood feels right for *this* book. Which is an advantage over a physical book TBR stack, since,with that, I could be a few hundred/thousand miles from a book I think I might be in the mood to read *NOW*.

    1. I went almost pure electronic a couple of years ago when I decided to move across country. Huge piles of dead trees is clutter, and clutter is unhealthy all sorts of ways. But you can never have too much data these days, so long as it’s reasonably well organized.

      (Not everything is available as ebook or worth the money. I spent some quality time with a flatbed scanner.)

      I do something like the page 50 test for my ebooks, just because time is as scarce as it always was.

    2. The unsung virtue of a lending library (brick and mortar or electronic, either one) is that I have to return something before I can get another one.

  11. I thought that retirement would bring ample book reading time.
    Retirement also brought time to discover new authors, and now my TBR pile is bigger than ever.
    As was said, that brings me Joy.

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