Do You Suffer From Biblionus?


Do you have that pile of books sitting in the corner?

Do you suffer from book guilt?

Book guilt, biblionus – “A psychological state in which a person is constantly burdened by the thought of having piles of unread books that should be read”

It’s that time of year when people are exchanging their book tokens they were given at Christmas. These new ones will almost certainly add to an already daunting backlog of unread books.

Now, books are wonderful; they feel good, they smell nice, they look good on shelves and quite often their contents are diverting and uplifting. But, blimey, do they take some reading! Where do we find the time?

The outcome is an anxiety state that I have called biblionus. It’s from the Greek and Latin (naturally, as we’re talking about books!) biblos and onus.

The symptoms of biblionus are a nagging worry that our rate of reading is being outstripped by our rate of book-buying – the result is guilt and self-criticism.

Worse still is that having such a huge and growing waiting-list of unread books leads to an inability to choose what to read next – it’s a form a paralysis of choice.

Even when a person does finally make a choice of what to read next, there’ll often be a distinct lack of focus and commitment to the chosen volume. Biblionus produces the effect of immediately wanting to move on to the next unread book – they’re all out there, clamouring for your attention! Read me, read me!

The Japanese have the word Tsundoku which relates to this state of mind. ‘Tsunde-oku’ which translates as to pile things up ready for later and leave. I reckon we all have a pile somewhere of newly bought books (adding to those already there) – probably under the bed!

Don’t let it bother you

The nagging state of biblionus is made worse by the success of Amazon and Kindle. Just clicking a button adds to our unread pile. In the case of Kindle, it’s a virtual waiting list. Typically, Kindle readers will have hundreds of unopened books on their devices – probably remaining in that unread state for years, if not eternity.

But so what? Why let shelves, piles or devices of unread books bother you? Well, there are a number of ways of dealing with biblionus.

First, whether they’re in your possession or not, there are millions of books out there that you will never read in this life time. There are also lots of wonderful places you’ll never see. Get over it!

Second, books are spiritually uplifting whether you read them or not. Sitting on your shelves (or in piles) they contain potential knowledge and entertainment. Occasionally pick them off the shelf – just feel them, smell them, maybe read the blurb and relish that thought of future joy.

Third, book shelves are a cheapish form of furniture, an effective method of soundproofing and they make visitors think you are an intellectual.

Lastly, you could take a speed reading course. There are plenty of books teaching you how to read faster – the danger is they might just end up on that growing pile under the bed.