The Anguish of FOLORM

My Irish friend Sean O’Sullivan is the CEO of a software company and thus travels a lot. Recently he gave voice to a shared obsession–FOLORM. That stands for “fear of lack of reading material”. It was Caterina’s post on forgetting her book that reminded me of this acronym.

Whenever I travel, whether for business or pleasure, I inevitably pack twice the number of books than I could reasonably read. I know I’m not going to read them all, and know that they sell books whereever I’m going (except, perhaps, Cuba) but I simply can’t not pack them. I’ve resigned myself to this, and just pack less underwear.

A related phenomenon is that I regularly pack some book that I should read, but never will. There are a couple such volumes in this stack of books I gave up on. I think I’ve taken Karen Armstrong’s Buddha on two trips, but have never finished it.


  1. I do the same thing! Last spring, I brought about seven or eight books for a 5-day jaunt to Mexico. We spent most of our time poolside, so I actually did use up a lot of my books. I even started pacing myself in case I ran out!

    I bought some audiobooks for listening to on the plane when we flew out to my fiance’s family for Xmas, but I still felt like I needed something to read on the plane.

    We also enjoy watching DVD’s on my Sony VAIO TR3A while flying; very nice, and if you’re a Netflix subscriber you can just stick the discs in their sleeves in the laptop case.

  2. I pack WAY too many books on every trip. When I went to Mongolia, I had books hidden in my computer case and various side pockets. My mother knows that books are my security and tries to help me weed them out, which makes me resort to hiding them.

  3. I couldn’t get through “Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk. I tried a few times, but was never truly *interested* in the characters. As it is, I tend not to read on the actual vacation, but rather on the trip to and from the vacation.

  4. As the originator of the acronym, I feel obliged to add that it is not only books that contribute to the problem.

    I also find myself weighed down with my own bodyweight in magazines – Vanity Fair, Stuff, Wired, GQ, assorted Mac mags, and of course Newsweek, Scientific American and the Economist. All driven by the latent fear that halfway through some flight, or indeed stuck in some hotel bedroom, that I might “run out” and have “nothing to read”. Maybe there’s a self help group somewhere.

  5. Reading is a compulsion when – if you do run out of reading material – you will read the airline safety card or the duty free magazine or start reading over your seatmate’s shoulder, just to have *something* to read. I can’t wait until we have iPod-like reading devices (with “.bp3”). I envision eye-friendly paper-like screens with book-feel. Ha!

  6. Pingback: Adieu, Boredom

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