Hello friends! Today I have an interesting post for you all, one that I’ve actually been wanting to write for a while. With all the ARCs I got at YALLFest recently, I figured now was the perfect time to discuss all the struggles of having an insane TBR!
First, I suppose I should define what I consider to be a TBR. For some readers, their To-Be-Read list is simply a list of all the books they have an interest in reading. This is what most people have on their Goodreads “Want to Read” shelf. I define my TBR as all the books that I own, but have not yet read. Those books are also what I put on my Goodreads TBR shelf. This is how I know that I currently have 148 unread books in my possession, either in print or e-book format.
I know, I know. I can practically hear the sounds of a child weeping and a helpless woman screaming for mercy over that atrocious number. How it got to be that way? Well, I started buying YA books on a regular basis in 2014. Then I kept buying. For three years. I don’t read nearly as fast as I’m able to buy, apparently.
You’re probably thinking, what can a person with such obviously bad TBR problems tell me about managing one? The truth is, I can’t. I really don’t know a sure-fire way to get your TBR under control, if there even is one. But I’ve also tried a fair number of gimmicks to limit my TBR, some of which have worked more than others. So I’m here today with a fancy list of non-examples to help you manage your TBR!
THE BOOK BUYING BAN
Ahhh, what a classic. We’ve all tried it. We’ve all failed. I’m here to say, with multiple attempts to back me up, that book buying bans never work (unless you’re a responsible human or something). Every bookworm is a little different, but in my case I tried to refrain from buying any books until my TBR hit a certain, less heart-attack instilling, number. But the story always went like this: a few weeks into my ban, I’m feelin’ good about how long I’ve lasted, and suddenly that four-letter word appears—SALE! I’d convince myself that I could “cheat” for a day, and buy one book (curse you Barnes & Noble, and your constant onslaught of 20% off coupons). Another week would go by, and I’d find a new release. Well, I’ve already cheated once, so who cares if I buy just this one shiny new beautiful release that I OBVIOUSLY can’t wait another day for?! By that point, I’ve given up entirely and returned to my normal state of buying. Or, in some worse cases, the book buying ban had a rebound effect on me. I went so long without buying books, I’d find a sale, give in, and buy AAALLLLL the books.
THE BOOK JAR
So, I’m guessing most people have heard of this, but it doesn’t seem like too many people actually use one. In case you’re not familiar, a book jar is literally a jar with little slips of paper (some people fold them into origami stars or cute shapes; if you’re hopelessly boring like me, you just use post-it notes) that have book titles written on them. Book jars are really intended to help you decide what to read next, but in theory, they can also help with your TBR. Instead of constantly reading all the new releases, or mood-reading random books, a book jar gives all your books—even the super back-listed ones— a fair chance of being read. Good news is, I’ve found this works slightly better than buying bans. Bad news is, if you’re like me, you never listen to your jar. I pull out one book, generally give a “meh” response, and say “Well, I’ll just pull one more slip and pick between the two.” Next thing you know, I have ten post-its sprawled on my bed and am ready to have an existential crisis about all the books I have to read.
Okay, this one isn’t really a “TBR control method” as much as something you should stay away from. I think one of the things that finally put the nail in the coffin of my TBR doom is ARCs—or really, Netgalley. I signed up for Netgalley about 6 months into starting this blog, and I gotta say, I kinda regret it. Now, I’ve read some of my favorite books of the year through Netgalley! But having an entire catalog of upcoming releases at your fingertips is a dangerous, dangerous thing my friends. I’d venture to say that half the books I read this year were ARCs, and waaaayyy more than half were 2017 releases. If you want to have any hope of reading those books you bought back in 2014, ARCs have to be avoided at all costs. Well, maybe not at all costs. But new and upcoming releases should be read in great moderation.
Of all the methods I’ve tried, this is by far the most successful. If you want less books on your TBR, the easiest way to do that is to simply get rid of some. Several months ago, I actually wrote a post on how to do an unhauling, as I found it to be a very cleansing experience. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t quite enough. Due to YALLFest, my TBR is right back where it was before my unhauling. So my suggestion is that you should always get rid of more than you think you should. I can think of at least five books sitting on my shelf that I definitely should have donated in my first unhaul. Also, it probably helps to not come home with 20 books at once, just sayin’.
BOOK BUYING BAN – LIMITED EDITION
What’s this? We’re revisiting the book buying ban? Let’s just say that after failing at the “original” version, I came up with my own buying ban, based on a ratio. I told myself that for every two books I read, I could buy one book. The idea was that my TBR would slowly be cut in half. Seemed simple enough, considering all I had to do was read two books and I could continue buying! The thing is, how often do you find yourself buying one singular book at a time? Chances are, you probably buy a couple online (why pay for shipping two separate times, when you can pay once for two books?), go to a book festival and bring home an entire haul *cough*, or it’s the holidays and you get a small stack from family members. There are plenty of times in life where you get multiple books at once, so it’s somewhat unrealistic to stick to a ratio.
THE BOOK JAR (x 2)
Our last featured non-example is also a revisit of sorts! This year, since having one book jar didn’t seem to help me reduce all the back-listed books on my TBR, I actually created a second book jar. This one contained only the titles of books from 2017, so essentially all the new releases. The rest of the books on my TBR stayed in the original jar. This way, I could control whether I was reading an older book or a new one, while keeping everything randomized to a certain extent. Of course, the problem remained that I don’t actually read the books I choose from the jar. Also, having two separate jars didn’t really motivate me to read the back-listed books like I thought it would. Instead, I always just pulled from the 2017 jar.
Well, now you all probably think I’m thoroughly insane for having tried so many ways to lower my TBR, and failing at all of them. The root of the issue is just buying too many books! But with so many beautiful stories out there, it’s tough not to want to enjoy them all. So, I’ll leave you on a more positive note, and tell you the trick I have lined up next!
DOWN THE TBR HOLE
This one is a little different from the others, because Down the TBR Hole is a meme created by Lia @ Lost in a Story! I’ve seen quite a few bloggers participate in this, and decided it would be an easily-managed way to try and knock my TBR down. The goal is to pick the first 10 books on your Goodreads to-read shelf, read their synopses, and decide whether or not to keep them on your list (then continue the process in multiple blog posts as you work your way down the shelf). As most people put more than what they own on their GR shelf, all it requires is taking titles off your account. But in my case, I plan to use this meme as a way to guide a gradual unhauling of my real shelves. Rather than doing one big unhaul, where I might be more intimated to remove some books, I’m hoping that taking my TBR in sections of 10 will help me decide what I truly want to read! So keep an eye out for my first Down the TBR Hole post coming soon (and let’s pray it works)!