There’s a word to describe everything. Sometimes the foreign version is more stylish than English—for instance, the French word ennui literally sounds sadder and more boring than listless or dissatisfied.
A few foreign expressions have crept into English in recent years, such as hygge—the Danish word for the feeling of genial comfort felt when sitting comfortably by the fire in the company of friends in winter. Hiraeth is a Welsh word for longing for your homeland or a romanticised past that only exists as a memory.
Collecting an abundance of books is termed bibliomania in English, but the Japanese expression tsundoku sounds less mad! A while ago, I wrote about how books can be friends and it’s hard to turn your back on a friend…even if you haven’t interacted with them for ages. As for newcomers picked up on a whim because of the attractive cover design or because you’ve been meaning to read that author, and you’ll get around to it one day, well, that’s how books start to pile up as all the shelf space is taken.
I’ve reached hoarding status with reading matter a few times in my life—moving home is a great way to reduce clutter—moving countries even better! When I emigrated to the USA in 2000, I gave away 500 books and about 2,000 magazines on classic cars and motorcycles, dating back to the 1970s. It was chastening to realise that had I saved the purchase price of them instead, I’d have been able to afford a decent Jaguar Mark 2.
Since then, I’ve kept an eye on how many books I hang on to. I give some away to friends or the charity shop, but the charity shop has had a special offer of 4 items for one pound this year, allowing a mix of CDs, paperbacks and DVDs. Inevitably, I’ve wound up with a pile of 50 books on my bedside table—they include recently published crime novels with uncracked spines from never being read—and what looks like a possibly dead reader’s favourite with yellowing pages and dedications when the book was given as a present thirty years ago.
Better that I read them (one day, honest) than they be pulped!
Do you take comfort from the presence of an excess of books?
Probably best not to say that “I’ve got huge piles….”
A. Edward Newton, a writer and book collector summed it up well.