Taming the TBR Pile - Can it be done?

Taming the TBR (To Be Read) Pile. Now that's a thought. Well, that's my goal actually since my TBR has grown exponentially since I've started blogging and hanging out on Twitter. When I say TBR, I mean these are books I own, sitting on my bookshelves.

I've never had this huge pile up of books before. And I have all of you to blame for this hardship on my wallet and bookshelves - if they could groan, they would. Yep, talking to you. *eyes everyone* Nearly every week, one of you will post about a great new book that I gave me that itchy-twitchy "gotta have it now" feeling for that book. Again. And again. It a vicious love-hate cycle. Love because I've found a book I want to read, hate because the TBR pile just grew by another book. And you know what? I don't regret not a one of these books.

The TBR situation has lead me to I settling myself down this past weekend and going through my bookshelves including all the little piles of books I had scattered throughout the house. I weeded out the books that I know I will not read for one reason or another and rearranged my books into the read section and the TBR section. Time I was finished I ended up with 170+ books in my TBR. Phew! *wipes brow* From what I've read around the blogosphere that's about average. *looks around anxiously* Right?

Now, I need to come up with a strategy to get this lion of a pile under control. Here's a few ideas:

  • I could join a few book challenges. - I probably I wouldn't stick to them, honesty is the best policy here.
  • Tough Love: Promise not to buy more books. - Ah, yeah. Sure...
  • Read the stand alone books first then read the series books back to back. - Stand alone could also be the first book in a new series.
  • Or mix the stand alone books in between the series books.

As you can see I'm not a good strategist and need some ideas. So, what you do to keep the old TBR pile in a manageable condition? What does your TBR look like? Or am I asking the impossible here?


Anonymous said...

Well, the way I'm dealing with my TBR is to plow through half. No more book buying til half is gone. Except for an occasional book that I've been waiting on. Otherwise, in the second half, I plan on going 1 for 1: 1 new book for 1 TBR book.

So far it's working. 8D;;;

Donna said...

TJ - That sounds like a good idea. Food for thought here. Thanks!!

My biggest problem will be self control. ;)

MrsMixx said...

Ahhh this is THE question....how can we manage the TBR pile? I really don't know, i'm facing the same problem. It never happened before i started blogging ever. I had 3 books on my TBR pile at the most, now in les than 2 months it grew to 32 books...which is ridiculous in comparison to 170 lol but it's growing quickly and i'm worried i'll never be able to catch up.

The worst part is that now i'm facing the same problem you mentioned...what strategy should i adopt?
I don't know what to read next, i've spent the last 3 days trying to decide which book i should start first. I ended up watching TV instead because it aggravated me!
I'm already doing the 'wait for a few books in a series and read them in a row' but it can only last so far lol

If you find the answer to this question i'll be happy to hear it ;)

Anna said...

Every so often I go through the books(tbr) I own and clean house. Cause I know some books I'm just not gonna read.

Last year in October I did a small personal challenge for myself. Where I picked a stack of books that had been on my list since forever and I said "I'm reading these by the end of the year" It went pretty well, I think there only two on the list I didn't get to. I might do that again this year, cause my tbr has gotten huge once again.

MrsMixx said...

oh and i forgot to add that:
•Tough Love: Promise not to buy more books. - Ah, yeah. Sure...

NO POSSIBLE! i said i would stop buying books until i read all those on my TBR pile but i can't, it makes me cranky as hell
lol ;)

Lexie said...

To be perfectly honest, I've always had a very large To Be Read pile, even before I learned what TBR meant. I buy almost anything that catches my interest, especially at thrift stores and book sales, so out of my 1600+ books I probably have a good 300-400 books I haven't *read* yet for whatever reason.

My official TBR pile is pretty much the books I know I'll get to in a relatively soonish time period--whether for blog review or for site review--and that list is about 40 books long and grows and shrinks on a daily basis (the week before last it was closer to 60 books long, but I finished many of the books and dropped a bunch due to disinterest).

I haven't adopted a strategy and likely won't truthfully. I'll feel so restrained and constrained I won't want to read the books I have listed even if i've waited years for them!

I look at my very large TBR pile this way--one day, in the future, when I have no money I won't have to worry about reading material because I'll have enough to last me for several months until I *do* have money!

Leontine said...

I don't have any sound advice that will make you TBR pile smaller Donna :S

I have a TBR pile of 350 books and I know that isn't the highest pile out there. I also lack self control only I have one big advantage, I don't glom and author (buy the backlist of author). If an author is new to me I buy one book that sounds super duper and try that one out. If I love it I'll buy a next one. If I hate it, it goes on the pile of books to be sold or I give them away.

Keri said...

I wish you the best of luck in trying to figure out how to tame the beast. As for me, I've had that difficulty since I started buying books on my own, and I don't see it ever changing. But there could be far worse things in life. :)

Michelle Greathouse said...


My tbr shelf is 210 right now. :) I just make sure it stays as neat as possible and I keep on buying the books I want to read cause I know one day I will get to them. LOL

I am not much help, I know. But I love books.

I decided to dedicate this month to clearing out the YA shelf. So far, that has gone very well and I have really enjoyed the books I've read.

I have several books on the shelf by the same author, so I may dedicate next month to those books that are sets or series. :)

Enjoy and Happy Reading!!


Janicu said...

When you come up with a reliable way to get the TBR down let me know! The 170+ number sounds about right. :)

I know what you mean about other people making you up your TBR number. It's like we're all feeding each other's addiction! I'm happy when I get people to try a book I liked, but I also feel a bit evil. :P

Donna said...

pattepoilue - I wish my TBR was only 32 books, then that would mean I'd already read and enjoyed 138 books. If I figure it out, I'll definitely pass the word on. :)

Anna - I like that idea, go thru the TBR in batches. Really, really good idea!

Lexie - I understand, that's why I can't do book challenges - I feel tied down. I like your attitude on the TBR!

Leontine - Wow! 350 is a big number but your right I've seen others post higher numbers. I used to buy the back list of new authors but I learned my lesson on that one and I don't do it anymore. I bought Christine F.'s Dark series up to Dark Curse and I could finish book 4. Expensive lesson learned. :(

Keri - Yeah your right, but I still want to get TBR number down a bit before it gets any higher. I'm not stressed because I can remember when I had NOTHING to read and would go scrounging for something.

Donna said...

Michelle - That's another good idea, do a themed approached. And I know I won't stop buying books either. Why promise something you know you can't handle? :)

Janicu - I know! Oh, great evil one! Your one of the ongoing contributors to my TBR pile. But I'm glad for it, I really enjoy your reviews.

Unknown said...

Commiserating in these sorts of problems is fun, especially when its too many books to read. Before blogging and goodreads I was having troubles finding something I could finish.
I am certainly going to subscribe to the follow ups on this post - for a potential solution. I am hopeful. :)
Now I have a tbr list that is not complete on goodreads which is currently at 769 books huge and growing weekly. Oh dear. If this is the worst of my problems I am so lucky. lol.

SciFiGuy said...

TBR solutions? Give up. Admit defeat. It is impossible. Just revel in the fact that you will always have a good book to pick at your leisure not matter what.

Kimberly Swan said...

Hi Donna - I have no good answer for you, sorry. I was bad before I ever started reviewing and have gotten worse since that time. I have 2 piles...the books for review, and the books that didn't show-up for review, but I've still just gotta have them. The best suggestion I can give is that the books that you really want to review should be in their own pile so that you're sure that you can get to them the soonest. (yep, big help with that, right? lol)

Jeff C said...

Good luck with it! My TBR pile is about the same size, though I recently went through all my books and purged a bunch..maybe 75 or so! And that still means that I have enough books to fill 9 bookshelves (and I only own 6). My biggest issue is the lack of space. No way I can agree to stop buying, though. My newest resolution is to stop buying the same book in both hardcover and mmpb. Now if I want a portable edition of a hardcover, i buy the ebook instead of mmpb.

ediFanoB said...

I'm afraid there is no real TBR solution. Mine is about 160 books.
I read all the comments so far and the interesting thing is there is a reason behind the growing of TBR piles. It seems it is related to blogs :-) I must admit that since I started reading blogs and now contribute a blog I buy a lot more books than before.
That means to shrink the TBR pile just stop reading blogs and blogging. You get more time for reading and less recommendations for new books!! It is that simple!! But to be honest who wants to stop blogging?? IMPOSSIBLE!!

From my point of view there is a slowly but surely way to shrink your TBR pile.
Every month always read one book more than you buy or win. That means in one year you shrink your TBR pile by 12 books. Some figures:
12 books per year
120 books per ten years
Not bad and in the end better than nothing.
I try to follow this rule since July 2009. In July I read nine books and bought six books. Would have been a good result. But in the end I failed due to my birthday. I got 12 new books.
In August I bought five books and read three.
Now I try not to buy more than five books and read at least six.
Anyhow I read more books in autumn and winter than in spring and summer.
I will try my best.....

Jenni @ Falling Off The Shelf said...

Eh, I need a major overhaul on my bookshelves! I don't keep anything that I've already read once...so, as soon as I've read it and if no one in the house wants to..I either sell it online or swap it for something else at places like Bookmooch and Paperbackswap.

Thanks to those 2 sites, my shelves are literally overflowing. I started out with 1 bookshelf with 5 shelves. I now have 1 more of those bookshelves, plus another 4 shelf one, yay! Thats not including the rubbermade totes I have and bags and boxes..and..ones that are just sitting on tables and what not.

Trust me, I've weeded, I just can't seem to let some of them go because they look so good! The last time I weeded I got rid of over 150 books..yeah! I probably gained about 300 since then though, lmao.

Good luck! If things work out, let us know your tricks!

Mandi said...

I do weed out my tbr on occasion..put books on PBS that I know I will never read. However, I have learned that no matter how much planning I do or scheduling, there is always going to be a new release or a book or author you have never heard of pop up, week after week to ruin your plan! Plus, I can't read any faster than I am currently, so I know my tbr will always be there to haunt me. I like it though...I never lack for something to read :)

Erotic Horizon said...

I second everything that Lexie said - I have always always have shelfs and shelfs of TBR material (honest i diddn't think people count their pile) I have been sneaking pass mine for about six months now..

I don't have a solution for you - but I join Sci-fi guy and say give up on that plan, read them when you get to them, toss it out if you know are not going to read it, and if all else fail tough it out and sneak pass it and commit yourself to adding more to it every chance you get...


Donna said...

Shellie - I know exactly what you mean! And can I say? "Wow!" That's a loaded TBR. ;)

Doug & E.H. - *big grin* I like your solution of "not having a solution" and I actually don't worry too much (most of the time) but how do you get rid of that feeling that your missing something?

Kimberly - That's kinda what I do now. Nice to know someone else is doing the same.

Jeff - I don't buy multiple copies of books unless it was by accident. I'm not picky about whether a book is hardback, etc. as long as I have the book I want to read. :)

Donna said...

ediFanoB - Looks like you have a workable solution for yourself but I don't think I would stick that. I would have to ban myself from the online shopping and one trip to the bookstore would blow my numbers out of the water. Plus I just don't read fast. :)

FOTS - I'm just now starting to use Paperback Swap so it sounds like I might be getting into trouble there too with the TBR!

Mandi - I hear ya! I get the "OMG! I need read X book!" Especially when there is a new release in a series, like Alpha & Omega. I have them but haven't read 'em. This is when the TBR panic sets in.

Amy C said...

Hi Donna!

I didn't read through all the comments, but SciFiGuy's answer did catch my eye and I agree with him! Just admit defeat and always know there is a good book waiting to be read! I have come to that conclusion. I don't much think about it anymore :). It makes my head hurt if I do! LOL

Kristen said...

I'll have to join the 'admit defeat' camp. My Goodreads to read list is around 130 right now but I can't bring myself to stop buying all the great books I hear about.

If I don't snag them now, what if they go out of print and I can't find them later? Plus I kind of like having a large number of books to choose from at anytime. And its great to keep buying books so people will keep writing them.

Or at least that's what I tell myself. All of those are true, but really, I just can't help myself.

Donna said...

Amy & Kristen - I just got through doing some blog hopping and you know what? Your right - just bought two more books! It's a hopeless cause. I need to just sit back, relax and rejoice in the fact I'll never want for something to read. :)

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

I'm of no help to you here, because I'm having the same problem. Erotic Horizon was asking the same question, and said that some people actually use spreadsheets to help organize their tbr pile.

Challenges don't help the pile-they just make it worse. I found that out the hard way. :)

Donna said...

Colette - Seems there are a lot of folks with a huge TBR. Some worried and some not. I think the best thing to do is just keep moving forward, turn a blind eye to the ever growing mountain of books and be happy I have stacks of books to chose from. *g*

Vickie said...

I wonder if there's a phase of the moon or what, because I am going through the same kind of deal. This week, I cleared some books from the shelves after reading about 80 pages of a book by one author and absolutely ready to trhow it against the wall, it was so bad. I found the books on the shelves by same author and that led to more books I knew I would not read....the used bookstore is going to benefit hugely.

Mishel (P.S. I Love Books) said...

You're super awesome for even trying. I have maybe 30ish books that I physically have on my bookshelves to be read. When I refer to my TBR list I talk about my virtual list of books that is over 1000 that I want to read and eventually will (hopefully).

Anywho, I like some of your straetgic ideas. Reading the stand alone novels and then reading the series ones back to back. I think that's a great idea. I basically read the ones I have to review first and slide in the other ones that I own between them.

I'll develop a system later hopefully. Or just keep doing what I'm doing now...and read what I can when I can.

Good luck on not buying anymore books. Ha, I know I'll never be able to do that. And you know what, that's okay! My love/hate relationship with books leans way to heavily on the love side. It's an addiction really =)

Kudos to you though, seriously!

Donna said...

Vickie - Funny you should mention the phase of the moon, because I agonize over the TBR periodically. It's not something I worry about all the time though. Today, I'm okay with TBR. Next week who knows? Good luck to you also on clearing the TBR!

Mishel - Thanks for the kudos! You must be doing something right with only around 30 books in your TBR. That's super! Kudos to you!

Debbie's World of Books said...

I'm in the same boat as you although probably worse :) I have almost 200 books that I own and need to read. I just started making headway by severely restricting the number of books I accept to review. I'm slowly whittling that pile down to leave more time for my own books.

Donna said...

Debbie - Most of the times I find it's hard to stick to reading schedules but if you have review obligations that's one way of whittle the TBR pile. Good luck on the TBR! And thank you for stopping by. :)

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