Susie Dent Top Ten

Susie Dent’s Top Tens: 10 words for book lovers

Embrace the book lover in you with these amusing and heartwarming words that capture the essence of reading.

Susie Dent invites us to embrace our inner bookworm with these amusing and heartwarming words that capture the essence of reading.

There are logophiles, and there are bibliophiles. Many of us are both. The first are word lovers: those who collect the beauties of our language and savour every new discovery. The second are, of course, lovers of books. But a true appreciation of books comes in numerous forms, as the following ten terms – some old, and many new – will testify:


Most of us know one; some of us might even be one: a biblioklept is someone who borrows a book (or several) and never returns it.

Beautiful young female customer reading book at bookstore

A biblioklept can be an ordinary-looking person, but be sure to keep tabs on who you lend your books to


Quite simply, one who loves to read in bed.


Speaking of the above, if you are someone who reads multiple books in one go, you might appreciate the word ‘Ballycumber’. It comes straight from The Deeper Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd and refers to ‘one of the six half-read books lying somewhere in your bed.’


This Japanese word exists for anyone who has accumulated a mountain of books that, so far, stays resolutely unread.


tsundoku is a Japanese word used to describe people who buy stacks of books and never read them, just like you reading this, eh?


Is it ever possible to read to excess? This term suggests so, for bibliobibuli are those who simply read too much.


In the same vein, this neatly invented word describes the fear or panic of being bookless.


A word that emerged during the pandemic when bread-making and book-reading became the hottest hobbies, evidence of which was then duly posted on social media. A photo of your bookshelf was thus called a shelfie.


See above, should you feel that your shelf is superior to anyone else’s.


A beautiful word coined by John Koenig in his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. There he defines vellichor as ‘the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.’

What more could anyone possibly add?

george r r martin

George R R Martin, Game of Thrones writer


Few things are more distracting or soothing than a gripping book, which explains why the word bibliotherapy exists. Whether it’s an escape from, or a better understanding of, reality, the words of the screenwriter George R R Martin sum it up beautifully: ‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one’.

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