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*Freelance Traveller

The Electronic Fan-Supported Traveller® Resource

#18: Tsundoku

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue.

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I wrote last time about the love of books. Or should that be obsession? Either way, it does beg the question from some visitors, particularly younger nieces and nephews, about whether I’ve actually read all the books on the shelves.

I used to be slightly ashamed of not being able to answer ‘yes’. I used to think perhaps I should at least try containing things to a ‘to be read’ shelf as some do. But of late I’ve changed my mind.

For a start, the Japanese have a word for this: 積ん読 ‘tsundoku’.

http://www.openculture.com/2014/07/tsundoku-should-enter-the-english-language.html gives the background. I printed that picture some time ago to remind me I shouldn’t waste energy feeling guilty about it. (Though I might expend energy developing better habits of not buying books I won’t or can’t read in the first place.)

Then I read Nicholas Taleb’s thoughts on an antilibrary, inspired by Umberto Eco’s comments on unread books (recently rather nicely summarized at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/26/umberto-eco-antilibrary-oliver-burkeman). “One’s shelves, he argues, should contain ‘as much of what you do not know’ as finances allow. And don’t expect the proportion of unread books to fall, either. The more you read, the more the perimeter of your knowledge increases, and the more you’ll realise you don’t know.”

I can’t claim to have read every word of Traveller. Aside from rare books I don’t have or foreign language books I can’t easily read, I suspect there are some darker corners of Traveller: The New Era I’ve never explored in detail, and I’m pretty sure some of the later issues of Challenge are what’s prompting me to try reading them all from beginning to end now that electronic files and 10” tablets make commuting with them a doddle. And I sometimes wonder if there isn’t at least one Traveller book sitting there actually unread in its entirety. It can be hard to maintain the momentum of reading a book that doesn’t have a narrative drive.

Now that I’ve finished a five-year project to read a 44-volume Bible commentary series, I’m currently trying to read all the ‘generation starship’ stories I can find (quite a lot, as it turns out) to feed a small bibliography I thought I would add to this year’s TravCon adventure. But once that’s done I’m toying with the idea of systematically reading every era of Traveller from start to finish. I have a commute of two hours a day from which I can extract 80-90 minutes of useful reading time. I suspect such a project will take longer than five years. Perhaps I should start small and limit myself to just T4 or something. Should I read everything in chronological or published order? Should I include e-only books? Is it better to do the ‘core’ books of each era and then widen outwards? And what counts as ‘reading’ anyway in a book with rules and tables? It’s a daunting prospect, but the journey of a thousand miles…