Monday, August 29, 2016

My messed up book selection process

or "Why I have seven years worth of reading on my to-read shelf, yet pick up and read books that aren't even on it."

Last week the brilliant AJ of Read All the Things included a link to a calculator that estimates how long it will take you to get through your current TBR pile.  Basically, number of books on your list divided by how many books you read last year.

Mine says it will take me seven years.  Which is, of course, innaccurate because 1) I will be continually adding to the list and 2) I read more last year than I usually do.

And also 3) my TBR list is kind of a joke.

Here's what happens:  I'm reading a blog, or looking at Goodreads, or looking over an email from my library, and I see a book that looks interesting.  Knowing that I am a bear of very little brain, I need a way to remember this book, so I click over to Goodreads and add it to my TBR.

The next time I'm at the library, I see a book by V. E. Schwab on the shelf.  I keep hearing her name, so I grab the book, which is not on my TBR.  When I get home, I realize that the book I grabbed is the second in the series, so I order the first book (which is also not on my TBR).  When it comes in, I read both books, and I adore them so much that I grab the only other V.E. Schwab book at the library the next time I'm in.

And no, that one wasn't on my list either.

So now I've read three books that were not even on my TBR.  In the meantime, I've continued to receive information about other books, and have added books to the list.

At this point, my TBR list is over a thousand books, and the idea of going through and weeding out books is overwhelming.  (After all, I could be using that time to read!)  Also, I kind of like having this huge list of things I might want to read someday.  It's a pretty harmless form of hoarding, and I imagine it speaks to the same basic need--security.  I know I will not run out.

I HAVE made a little progress in the actual hoarding part.  Whereas for the last few years I've always had between 50 and 100 items checked out from the library at any one time--more than even I can read in three weeks, even with renewals--lately I've kept it more like between 25 and 50.  Part of this is that we no longer check out as many picture books, but part of it is me getting better about not checking out way more books that I can get to.

Things still pop up that make me lose control--just this minute I have a professional book and the sixth volume of Saga waiting on the holds shelf--but I am trying really hard to not keep bringing books in.

So I'm wondering--those of you that have six books on your TBR shelf, how do you do that?  I don't think there's a wrong approach.  I imagine that there are some personality type differences between those of us with a never-ending list and those of you whose list is more of a plan that a dream.  When you go "off-plan," does it bother you, or are you a fan of serendipity?  Has your TBR exploded since you started reading book blogs?  (Mine has.)  Share your thoughts!


  1. I look at it this way: My TBR has exploded since I started reading book blogs, but also the quality of my reading has exploded.

    There. Doesn't that make you feel better?

    1. Oh Deb, it makes me feel GREAT! Such a good perspective.

  2. I also laughed at the calculator. It says it’ll take 3 months to read the unread books on my shelf, but it doesn’t know that new unread books show up every few weeks.

    I’m a control freak, so having a giant TBR list and a bunch of unread books stresses me out. When I see a book that interests me, I put it on my TBR list. Every few months, I go through the list and delete the books I’ve lost interest in. I try really hard to avoid impulse buying books, but I’m not too successful at that. My TBR always feels too big.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. I don't have a plan when it comes to reading. My TBR is just a place to list any book I might ever possibly interested in so that I won't lose/forget about it lol. My TBR on Goodreads doesn't even include all the free books I've downloaded onto my Kindle or books I've just added straight to my wishlist on Amazon. And the vast majority of the time the books I actually end up reading are ones that were never even on any of my lists but I just stumbled onto them lol. The only reading I actually plan and keep track of is review copies I have, and I generally keep myself to less than 20 of those at any given moment. So really I'm always off-plan. Or I'm never off-plan since I have no plan. Depends on how you wanna look at it :-P

  4. Don't feel bad, my system is so messed up that I wrote 3 whole posts trying to define for myself.

    Hasn't Killed Me Yet: Living with Chronic TBR Overflow (Pt1)

    1. Maybe it's the people who have really organized TBRs that make us feel like we're supposed to have a system. It sure isn't something I worried about before I started reading book blogs.

  5. My TBR pretty much matches yours exactly - and the growth is ridiculous as well. There's no way I will EVER read all these books. I have even gone through and deleted books from my TBR from time to time, but it's a relatively fruitless effort. Sometimes when I think about all the books I WANT to read, I get a little overwhelmed and panicky feeling (literally - my chest starts to feel tight as I write this). Obviously this is not healthy. I'm way better off just forgetting the TBR completely and focusing on what I want to read next. I'll stay way saner that way. (Though still not TOO sane.)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Oh, and I did that fun calculator - it tells me it will take me 5 years to read my TBR. If only that were true!


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