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“Picking up books and never reading them” seems a little bit like the title of a thriller. But this is a common sentiment where most readers feel as though they “try” to read more each year, but it’s challenging to escape the cycle of reading a page and feeling unmotivated.

There’s a Japanese word for when you pick up books and never read them:

Tsundoku 積ん読

The term can be found in print as early as 1879, indicating that it was probably in use earlier than you realise. Tsundoku refers to the practice of hoarding books, often without reading them.

Sound familiar?

Prof Andrew Gerstle, who teaches pre-modern Japanese texts at the University of London, explained that the word tsundoku comes from the Japanese verb tsuduku, meaning “to stack things up,” and the noun doku, meaning “reading.” So tsundoku essentially means “piling up reading materials” – When someone buys books but never reads them or has a pattern of starting to read a book but never finishing it.

What does it mean when you do this, then?

There are a few possible explanations. Maybe you didn’t have the time or attention span to read that particular book. Perhaps it wasn’t interesting to you after all. Or maybe, deep down, you were afraid of finishing it.

Here are some tips to finish reading your books:

1. Be pickier about the books you choose to read

a woman holding two books on a background of arrows pointing on opposite directions

If you’re constantly bringing home books that you never get around to reading, try being pickier about which ones you bring home in the first place. Only choose books that sound genuinely interesting to you, and don’t feel you have to read everything popular or recommended.

Another thing you can do is to get rid of some of the books you already have. If your bookshelf is overflowing with unread books, it’s probably time to thin out the herd. You can either sell them or donate them to fellow readers, but getting rid of some of them will help make some much-needed space.

2. Join book clubs

a group of men and women in a book club talking and smiling over a cup of coffee

Joining book clubs is a great way to make reading pleasant. It is a fantastic opportunity to connect with other book lovers and be inspired by new perspectives. Additionally, you could learn some advice on how they finish reading their books. It is a chance to share your passions with them.

3. Make your surroundings more suitable to reading

a focused woman in a brown sweater reading a book

With the TV on full blast in the background, it might be challenging to focus on your reading. Make sure there are no disruptions in the area where you read. It is not always easy to escape the noise, especially if you try to fit reading into busy family life. Listening to jazz or classical music without lyrics helps me concentrate better.

4. Set a goal for yourself

The word "Goal" highlighted in pink using a marker

Make a goal for yourself. Even though deadlines might be the worst, setting a reasonable goal for yourself can make reaching it worthwhile. Set a deadline for finishing a book if you have a hectic schedule to reduce procrastination time. Calculate your typical reading pace and decide how many pages you can reasonably read each day or each week.

If this is too demanding, choose how many books you want to read in a month or a year. Your reading will stay on track if you work toward a goal. Don’t forget to treat yourself when you reach your goal (this could be a new book!)

Reading is excellent for your mental and physical health in addition to helping you gain new information and broaden your knowledge. It can be hard to find the time to read, let alone finish reading a book. 

You’re sure to find more time to read and spend more books with the help of these tips and tricks.



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