Claymore and Tsundoku

Claymore is available from most bookstores that carry manga and – very probably – your local library.

I adore Claymore. The manga, that is; I’ve never watched the anime, but apparently it only covers the first act or two of the story, so it’s already ice skating uphill.

The manga is my gold standard for action series – it’s got an intense sense of monster design, a sharp sense of motion, and a cast stacked with awe-inspiring statuesque characters. (It even struggles with the Reverse Bechdel Test, if you put stock in that kind of thing.)

It’s brutal at times, invigorating at others, and carries a raging torch for the dungeons-and-dragons vein of epic fantasy. Claymore is just an all-around rock solid series; the kind of thing that I’d gladly pick up a nice art print or figurine from as a little totem about the apartment.

It’s also 27 volumes long.

That’s a foot and a half of shelf space that I just don’t have in a one-person apartment, especially considering how my book cubbies are packed to the brim as-is.

Which doesn’t completely stop me, of course. I still nickel-and-dime myself with just a couple of volumes here, an odd find there, until – whoops! – I’ve accrued a dozen new books over the course of a year. It’s a “problem” with its own slick loan-word name (appropriately enough, a Japanese one) – Tsundoku (積ん読), letting reading material continue to pile up in one’s home, regardless of whether it gets read.

Four feet of manga and light novels, every one of ’em grade A+, but I’ve only finished about two-thirds of it. Some other cubbies not pictured fare substantially worse.

Luckily, the thought of 27 volumes of a series is just enough of a shock to the system that I’ll probably never pursue owning it. And, with the aforementioned premium on space, I’ve started applying that mindset to other series that don’t yet represent a mountain of paper.

Even as someone with a predisposition towards a good line-up of physical copies of games, books, and the like, I’m consciously and categorically weaning off my impulse to own them – many series are either a bit outlandish to have even on my shelves, are too hard to get hold of, or (more regularly) just have too much material to them.

And that’s where libraries swoop into the scene, heroically stopping all three of these dastardly problems right in their tracks.

Granted, I’ve recently been so lucky as to live in a metro area with a fabulously broad catalog thanks to its cross-branch lending system, but even back when I lived in a college town, I was still reaping all the same benefits.

The first and most obvious being the wide variety on offer. Some may appear smaller than a bookstore, sure, but they’re usually dealing in fewer duplicate copies and aren’t competing for floor space with a ton of display stands or non-book knick-kacks. So you’re getting more book for your book-space, really; doubly so if your library has one of those nifty programs where you can borrow from other libraries in the area or get digital copies.

And unlike the selection at stores, which have to push numbers with new titles at risk of not making the month’s expenses, libraries can afford to keep old copies in their inventories until the day they fall apart. I dare you to find the five three books of any ten-book series that isn’t Harry Potter or something similarly zeitgeist-y at a physical shop, but chances are the library will have the full run of series that ended well over a decade ago (anecdotally, for Claymore, my library has 1-8  copies of each book, plus digital options).

Any library worth its salt nowadays has a self-checkout system, too. So while the I’ve never known a librarian to throw cold water on an interest, for even the most timid of us, you don’t have to go through that retail dance where you stand there and fiddle with your wallet while the cashier casts judgement over your tastes, GREG.

Instead, it’s just pick up, scan, and go, with even reservations being under numbers rather than names in most places. Nobody has to know that you’re reading Where to Hide the Bodies, Vol. IV. Not until it’s too late…

Then, when you’re done, it doesn’t have to take up any space in your home any more. If you didn’t like it, you’re not out the twenty smackeroonies to find out that a recommendation was a bust. But if you did, you can move onto the next one or three without growing that stack of paper and binding to frankly-ludicrous ends by the time you’ve run out of Diskworld novels or cluttering your digital collection with dozens of titles like a decade-old Steam account. And if you’ve really found a top-shelf humdinger of a read, you’re absolutely free to go back and pick it up at your own convenience. Win-Win!

Truly, I cannot champion enough how library borrowing does for breaking down the barriers to reading a series, especially graphic novels and manga where each individual book only lasts the reader an hour or two. If I went through with purchasing every book I wanted to so much as try out, not only would my book budget balloon to four times the size, but I’d be turning around and possibly having to let go of another twenty volumes of  manga and a dozen trade paperbacks each year, and you can bet I’d never start to invest in 27 volumes of something even if it’s a new favorite. Instead, I give a story a run and give it back risk-free, so there’s no harm in trying ten different authors until I find the one that clicks.

For all the opportunities the library brings, I almost feel guilty for only supporting them with a trifling of my taxes and the $10 I spend on printing per year.

And that’s just from their famous primary function. There’s also the regular used book sales, plenty of programs that I’m way too old or young for, its potential as a study zone or work space. It even saves the headache of owning and maintaining a printer (and, at a dime or a quarter per page, it’s probably cheaper than owning a printer if yours isn’t seeing use multiple times a week).

So patronize your local public library, folks. It’s a treasure hoard of geekery, and it’s yours for the taking. Go get some.


2 thoughts on “Claymore and Tsundoku

  1. If I ever get done reading all these blog posts I should see if library in my backwards corner carries manga. I kinda doubt it, but we have statewide lending, so somebody’s got to.

    As it is I’ve still got half dozen more Terry Pratchett books to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Statewide lending sounds like it should create a super-wide pool if you’ve got the patience for it. Very useful for comics/manga where single-volume stories are the exception rather than the rule.


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