A new perspective on book piles- basically don't feel worried about your huge 'must read' pile!

Photos: Eunchoung Hong

A while ago Japanese life coach, Marie Kondo, set out with the mission of cleaning up our all sometimes messy lives. An instant success, and suddenly everyone seemed to be a minimalist. And though I would label myself that exactly, and I love a clean home and letting go of stuff and decorative plunder, I felt irritated when she started to tackle book shelves.

Something felt wrong and I couldn’t help but wonder: does each book need to fulfill a certain function? To add a benefit to my life? To spark joy? It made me think about the way we see books today.

Books you should read before you die

A quick online research dug up so much negativity connected to reading: Books everyone has to read at least once in their lives. The must-reads of the year. Books you should have read by now. 40 books you need to read before you die. Holy smokes. So much pressure, so much compulsion, so many goals.

Let me ask you a question: who sets the rules for reading? Who knows it all? Who is telling you what you should do, or read? Where did all the pleasure, the fun, the magic of reading go? I dare to suggest: there should be no shoulds, have-tos, and musts when it comes to reading. Try to see it from a more open perspective: books you could read or are looking forward to reading. Books you want to read. Which brings us to the next thing: book piles.

The pile of shame, well, is it?

Every person who reads probably has at least one pile of books at home. Books to read, books to re-read, books to should-have-read by now (again!). Well, is this a bad thing?

They are not doing any harm. They are not staring at you (really), making you feel guilty or putting you under pressure to hastily read through one and tackle the next one. It’s all in your head.

So toss all that ‘how to finally get through your to-be-read pile’ advice and loosen up. It’s not a failure. 

You don’t have to read them all.

Try another mindset, a new perspective: the pile of promise. A book pile is a good thing. It promises opportunities and good prospects: there are so many worlds to explore yet. Hours and hours of getting lost in another country, time, or world. It can cause mere happiness to realize that there is still so much too read out there (and in your pile).

The magic of bookshelves

Let’s be honest here. In every pile are books that you will never read, for various reasons. So what? Take it out of your pile, browse through it a bit, and then place it on your bookshelf – your own personal library! How great is that? Maybe someone else coming to your home will see and borrow it sometimes, maybe you will read it years later after all, and maybe it just stands there. (Spoiler: if you feel you don’t like it at all anymore, feel free to give it away, too).

A specialist book on war history will probably not spark joy while reading it. But it holds information and knowledge, ready to pass on.

The purpose of books is not to get to the end and shut them.

Instead, they invite you to step out at your own world, bed and body and explore another.

Books will not disperse the longer you leave them, they will be there patiently waiting for you to experience the universe inside them. Whenever you feel ready. And that is why I keep on buying books, even if I know I won’t read them right away. I will just add them to my pile.