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Psst, Marie Kondo: Books spark more than joy (like guilt, sometimes)

Readers sometimes ask me to remind them of the Japanese word for piles of unread reading material. I had defined it in a column three years ago.

That word is tsundoku. I have to look it up every time. I’m surprised I haven’t told them sudoku, or maybe ken-ken.

It’s a handy word with no English-language analogue. Well, maybe “clutter.” But it’s more specific than clutter. It’s about material — usually books, but perhaps newspapers or magazines — that we intend to read but haven’t.

I’ve been working my way through a big backlog of tsundoku and am still at it. These were books largely purchased in a period when I was reading only a little but continuing to buy books, like a neurotic squirrel stockpiling nuts for winters far into the future.

We seem to have collectively stopped worrying about Marie Kondo, but around this time a year ago bookish types were up in arms.

The “Tidying Up” host and, cough, author had appeared to recommend owning no more than 30 books. Generously, she didn’t specify that any of them had to be by her.

How would she react to tsundoku? I’m thinking she would tear into it like a tsunami.

After an outcry, Kondo clarified that she, personally, had kept about 30 books, but that others can keep as many books as they like.

“The important concept of my method is that you focus not on what you want to discard but what you want to retain, what you want to keep in your life,” Kondo said in an L.A. Times interview. “So if you love books, if you’re passionate about them, go ahead and keep them with every confidence.”

Don’t mind if I do.

I haven’t watched Kondo’s show, but I have sympathy for her method. As I understand it, Kondo suggests looking at all your

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