Tsundoku is a Japanese word I relatively recently discovered. It means, essentially, “Piles of books”. Or, more accurately, someone who has piles of books that they haven’t read.
I have always loved reading. Ever since I was a child, I was an avid reader. I learned how to read when I was very young – I was reading newspapers at three, and I never lost that. I remember, I think, my first trip to the library – it was a school field trip. I had so many books I could barely carry them. Every time I would go to the library, I would borrow that many books, or more, and I’d read them all. I was voracious, and a very quick reader. I could go through four novel sized books in the space of two days.
I read all genres, but I particularly loved science fiction. I don’t think I’d be lying to say that science fiction has had a great influence on my life – and not necessarily a positive one. Science fiction taught me many things. It taught me that the possibilities of this universe are only limited by human imagination. It also taught me that the cruelties of this universe are also only limited by human imagination. I read stories about paradises, about dystopias, about different worlds, even different universes. and I couldn’t get enough. Book after book, I read, and sometimes a dozen in a week. I’d even get so far ahead in the readers at school that the teacher would have to tell me where they were so that I could read aloud. Strangely enough, for all of the things the teachers might not have been fond of me for, they always put up with that. I think they were just happy I could read so well and liked it so much.
But there’s something I always hated. They end.
Books, at least good books, have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And there are some stories whose worlds are just so… perfect… that you feel disappointed and sad when you put the book down and realize that the story is over. Books create worlds, and the good books create worlds so in depth that you almost forget you’re reading a book. You’re there.
I have had dreams that have a plot. Sometimes the plot makes no sense, but I remember one dream, I think under the influence of an antidepressant, that was extremely vivid. I don’t remember all the details of the plot, but there were aliens coming to earth and they wanted to destroy everything, but before they arrived, a defender species arrived. And I was sitting in a group of people who were completely and utterly friendly and accepting. I went to look outside. It was sunset. There were defender ships flying through the air overhead, and there was a huge, planet-sized but benevolent ant sitting in the sky. And I looked over to the skyline, and it was a city, a huge city, but all of the buildings didn’t have spires, they instead had a broad, flat structure that led to two tips that pointed at the ground. It was an amazing dream. And in my dream, movie credits started rolling, and I was in tears. I have had three dreams like that, where I believe I saw, in some form, the Kingdom of God, and it always took the form of a city where everyone was happy. It was a real city, with real people, but everyone was jubilant. I even dream in science fiction sometimes.
When books have an ending where everyone lives happily ever after, it’s unrealistic, it’s stupid, and it makes you so sad to put the book down and realize that everything’s still exactly as it was, only you read a book.
I love books. They are wonderful. And sometimes, they hurt. I guess that’s what makes the good ones wonderful, sometimes.