Saturday, January 21, 2017

Finding and Prioritizing Titles

Throughout my many (many!) years as a reader, the way I've discovered books to read has gone through several significant shift.

As a kid, I received books as gifts, acquired my older sister's used books, and went to the library once or twice a month.  At the library, I'd browse the stacks, taking 10-12 books out at a time.  Inevitably, at least one of those would be a re-read, and others might be new-to-me books by familiar authors.  The remainder, maybe half of my stack, would be books that caught my eye on the shelf, and then that had a promising jacket blurb.  This is the stage of my life is where I learned how to carry a big stack of books using my chin to stabilize it.

In high school and college I continued to read books my friends and family recommended.  I read a bunch of mystery series and fantasy series as well.  This was also the stage of my life in which I read a lot of classics and "important" books.  Dickens and Hardy, Vonnegut and Potok, Walker and Kundera.   My college roommate took a short course on Canadian authors and we both read a bunch of Atwood.  I read essays by Le Guin and delved into works by "serious comics" like Thurber and Tom Robbins.

SO serious.  Just a tiny bit pretentious.

In my twenties and thirties I was living in a town with a less than stellar library, but a decent county-wide network.  This was the era of requests/holds.  I'd go to one of my favorite independent bookstores--or "bookstores" as we used to call them--and browse.  When I found a book that sounded interesting, I'd jot down the title on the margins of my checkbook or on the backs of receipts.  Then I'd go to the library and search for all the titles I'd collected.  Not all of them would be available, but enough were to keep me quite busy reading and exploring.

In 2009, I discovered Goodreads through a book club I was in.  My to-read list suddenly exited in a more trackable format than penciled notes on scraps of paper.  I started looking at lists and at "Readers Also Enjoyed" sidebars to books I'd liked.  Soon, my to-read list was in the hundreds.

Then I started reading book blogs.  Whoops!  To make matters worse, I started writing one.  Now I know to call my to-read list my TBR, and it's massive--well over a thousand.  Last year I put together a list of books I hoped to actually get to, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to that, so it didn't help much.  This year I'm doing a formal challenge, the Mt. TBR challenge, so I've added specific books to a shelf and have managed to knock off four so far.  I've also decided to be pickier about what I ADD to my to-read list.  (No report yet on how THAT is going to turn out.)   First step: not adding every single book from every single person's TTT suggestions every single week.

Of course, I still go to the library and bookstore, and I still end up finding books that look interesting even though they aren't on any list.  (Or my favorite--when I get a book I've been wanting to read, then later find out I hadn't actually put it on my TBR, so I'm reading without whittling that list down at all.)

That's the finding part--I could write another post about how I actually identify books that "sound good" to me, and another one about how, with a TBR shelf over a thousand titles long, I decide what to read next.  Maybe I will.  But for now, I think I'm going to go read.

What about you?  Where do you find new books you want to read?  How do you track and prioritize them?  How do you decide when enough is enough?  (If you have an answer for that one, I really need to hear it.)  


  1. What I read depends entirely on what’s easily available. I can’t afford new books, and I don’t like the library, so I wait until I can find cheap used copies of books. I’m very picky about what I add to my TBR list. I have to be 100% interested in reading the book. I go through the list every few months and remove the books I’ve lost interest in. I think there are around 100 books on the list right now. A lot of them are hard to find, though, so I don’t know if I’ll ever read them.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. So disciplined! Why don't you like the library? This distresses me. Libraries are the best!

  2. I'd say my trajectory is pretty identical to yours though currently I only have 820 books on my Goodreads TBR, lol. I have a terrible memory so I like to capture any book that catches my eye on my TBR BUT that does get seriously overwhelming and I feel like it could use a good clean out. But when I go in and start looking I just get excited about the books again. One idea I had was sorting by average rating and eliminating everything below 3.5 but I don't always agree with the masses so what if I eliminate the one book that would have changed my life? It's a sickness. At some point I think I just need to embrace the chaos and decide that as long as I am happy with what I am reading it's a win, regardless of the size of Mt. TBR. Good luck with Your TBR challenge!

  3. I think I discovered book blogs around the same time you did and it was not great for my TBR. I also started using paperbackswap which wasn't great for my TBR but did have the advantage of at least helping me get rid of the books I'd read but probably wouldn't reread. Book blogs have made my TBR go into the fetal position because things have gotten seriously out of control. I'm struggling with prioritizing non-review books because my brain wants to stick with a first in first out system but that ends up with me not getting to the books I really want to read. I'm trying to focus more on those and not worry about the volume of books I have left to read. Great topic!

    1. It's surprisingly difficult to keep one's focus, isn't it. And I certainly don't want reading to feel like a chore, ever!

  4. I mostly look at what's being reviewed frequently on book blogs and decide if that interests me or not. I typically end up starting a series when everyone starts writing reviews for the third or fourth book as it releases. Otherwise, I find interesting looking books on Audible sales :)

    ~ Michelle @ FaerieFits

  5. Yep to all of this. When I was younger, I found books at the library or through the science fiction and fantasy book club I subscribed to. Nowadays I find them all on blogs and my TBR has exploded!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  6. When I was younger I was all about the library. I started blogged at the beginning of the year so now I'm often finding things through blogs, recommendations on twitter and browsing Netgalley for something that catches my eye. My TBR list is definitely growing!

    This week I finally joined the library after moving into the area over a year ago, there were a couple of authors I knew I wanted to find some books by in particular but for me, like you, one of the best things about going to the library is just finding something on the shelf, something that you weren't looking for but just jumps out at you. It's a great way of discovering new books and authors without the fear of spending hard earned money on something you don't enjoy.


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