Cleaning up the Lists

I had a tidy pile of Christmas money to spend this year, so I decided to take a long look at my wishlist and determine what to buy. Given that part of my commitment to the TBR Double Dog Dare challenge means no new books until April 1, I wanted to be sure that anything I might really want to read in the coming months was one of my purchases.

For reading, I keep two separate lists: my wishlist, which consists of books I do not own but would like to read, and my TBR (to-be-read, for those not familiar with bookish jargon), which consists of books I own but have yet to read. Both of these lists are long and slightly baffling. A lot of books are getting dusty on my shelves. Some were gifts. Some I failed to finish. On others, I’ve never even cracked the spine. This alone should serve as a warning.

While I know I’ll always have a running wishlist (it’s a good reference), I need to do a better job of cleaning it out from time to time. So that’s what I did this week. As I went through everything and decided what to purchase, I deleted items I have passed over again and again. And I admit, most of my purchases were from the top of my list, recent items I’ve added over the last year. It seems I’m more likely to read something if I can still remember whatever drove me to add it to the list in the first place.

The harder part for me is tackling the TBR: I know I won’t read all the books on my shelf, but once I own a book, I’m generally reluctant to part with it. I guess I believe there’s always a chance the mood will strike. Maybe it’s time to give up that belief.

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6 comments

  1. I am very selective in adding books to my list so I usually want to read the books on my list at some point. I am now working on reducing a pile of books I gathered since the beginning of September and will not buy new books until I read them. I actually have people looking at me who gifted me books because they have not seen the review yet.

    Good luck with cleaning up your pile and once you cleaned up some books you will enjoy spending the gift cards more because you know you have time for the books you will buy,

  2. ” It seems I’m more likely to read something if I can still remember whatever drove me to add it to the list in the first place.” I notice this too, which is why I want to get better at writing little notes to myself about why I want things. But yeah, my interests do change over the years, and the books that are currently at the bottom of my wishlist are not ones I particularly covet anymore. I should probably follow your example.

  3. Ciska, you are clearly more disciplined than I am! I always think I am doing well by only adding 3-5 books a week to my list. (Out of what? 20 or 30 books I read about a week through book blogs or bookish online sites? Probably more than 20-30.) Still, I don’t think it’s adding books that’s the problem–it’s more about regularly reviewing the list and realizing which books were probably a whim. I did buy a couple of books that I know have been on my list since 2008.

  4. Ana, I tried that for a while. I kept notes in a spreadsheet where I added everything. Somehow I let it go and went back to just jotting down titles on whatever notepad was handy, and then I’d transfer those to Library Thing or Goodreads or Amazon. (Oh yes, I have 3 lists, which doesn’t help at all. Next step is to get them aligned and choose a primary source!) We do evolve as readers, though. I cannot believe how different my list looks than it did years ago.

  5. A few weeks ago, I had an impulse to just delete my whole online TBR list, partly because I couldn’t remember why a bunch of the books were on there and because I know I’ll never get around to reading them all. How could I when I add books at a faster rate than I can read? But as I went through the list, a lot of the books on it, even near the bottom, still seemed potentially interesting, so I didn’t go through with it. I am pretty choosy about what I put there, so not much gets added on a whim. Sometimes my interest in a certain type of book wanes, but even then, I may keep books of that type on my TBR in case I get interested again.

    I think I need to just keep reminding myself that the list is just a pool of options, not a list of books I definitely plan to read. I do need to stay choosy (or get choosier) about what I purchase, because buying a book does feel like a commitment to read it.

  6. Teresa, I toyed with deleting mine as well. I thought about simply buying books (or checking them out of the library) as I found them. Like most people I don’t have a bottomless fund for books, so I considered it might help me be more discerning. But, as you mentioned, when I looked at the list again I realized that it is only a list of options–not a MUST READ NOW list. I do think that going forward I will try to do a better job of reviewing it periodically. I did end up buying some books that have been on the list for years, and some that have only been there for months. I deleted a good number of books; I could definitely tell which ones I had added on a whim.

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