The Never-Ending Story (of Book Bloggers)

I went through a bit of a humbling exercise today. We’re having strange weather for May here in Atlanta—rain and highs only in the mid-50s—so the run I planned to do at the Chattahoochee today was simply not going to happen. Instead, I read some of The People in the Trees and ran some errands, and I finally decided to sit down and tackle a small project that has been nagging at me over the last few weeks: my to-be-read (TBR) list.

Things have simply been getting out of hand. In no way am I unusual in having an out-of-control TBR. That, indeed, is the never-ending story of most book bloggers. I have yet to meet even one who does not have at least a small pile of unread books waiting to be tackled. Last year I even decided not to renew my library card so that I could tackle the TBR. Instead, I am pretty sure I had a record-breaking year for book buying. I also could not seem to stop myself from requesting things from NetGalley. I was so out of control that I simply could not keep up with reviews, even though I had a really terrific list of books at my disposal. I would start one only to put it down and start another, and when I grew completely frustrated I would simply go shopping (something that’s way too easy to do on a Kindle—a definite con).

Today I decided to face the music and make a TBR list and post it here on the blog. The Kindle list is comprehensive, but the physical book list only includes books I can see from my desk or that are piled on my nightstand. I have more stored on shelves. Some of the books on the list have been loaned to me, some of them over a year ago. *cringes*

I certainly don’t expect the list to keep me from buying books, or from putting them on hold at the library (right now I am thirty-something in line for both Boy, Snow, Bird and The Signature of All Things, for example). For sure I will buy the new Sarah Waters and the new Tana French. I recently bought myself a subscription to the New York Review of Books Classics. My wishlist has about 300 books on it, and I doubt I’ll stop adding to it. But really, something has to be done.

With so many good books at my fingertips—something for every mood, really—I have no excuse not to read my own stuff. I’ve been thinking about what an effort Cathy is making at 746 Books to stop buying books and read what she’s accumulated, and I think it’s definitely time to make a dent. Some books I haven’t picked up on purpose. Even when I want to read some of the non-fiction titles, they take me much longer to read and I worry about slowing down and losing momentum. I am not a person who can read several titles at once. Also, I travel for work, so lugging a big book through airports with everything else isn’t easy. (Why, why did I buy all those non-fiction books in physical form? What was I thinking?)

And so, without further ado, I hereby announce that I will do everything I can to ensure that I read at least two books from my existing library every month. (You might think that’s low, but I don’t get much time to read these days, so three to four books a month is about all I can manage.) Hopefully in December I’ll see some strike-through marks on that list of titles…just in time for Christmas shopping! (I kid. Or do I?)

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11 comments

  1. I like to keep my TBR down to one bookcase, but that doesn’t always happen. I think I’ve got an overflow of about a dozen books right now.

    Since the TBR Dare ended in April, I’ve tried to read at least one book from my TBR for each book I get from the library, which seems like a good way to make a dent. Plus, I’d been avoiding review copies all year and not missing them. But then I was bored one day and logged into Netgalley and Edelweiss to see if anything interesting was coming out. Of course there was, so now I have to work all those review copies into my plan. Sigh.

  2. D’oh…sorry. Good list, especially on the Kindle. I only have one of your titles on my Kindle…The Passage. Unread, of course.

  3. Good luck! I’ll be cheering you from the sidelines! I find it harder to control the invisible ebook library (out of sight, out of mind), but my print collection is a bit manageable at this point.

  4. Teresa, I did the TBR Dare in 2012 and 2013, and stuck to it, but this year I didn’t make it. And yes, I bought books. The review copies definitely do not help me stay focused on my own stuff…even if I want to read one of my own books, sometimes the review copy has a deadline and I have to pick it up, and then when I’m done I’ll find I’ve changed my mind again. Never-ending, indeed!

  5. Athira, my Kindle was exactly what drove me to put everything in a comprehensive list. I use the app so typically in my “library” I can only see up to 25 titles at a time, and if I’ve been reading a lot then most of what shows up I can flip through and say I’ve read. when i look at the master list, though, it’s a different story, clearly. Way too many unread titles, and it’s so easy to keep buying!

  6. Yay for you! An excellent resolution! I think I need to go back and do the thing I was doing for a while in 2012, where I took all of my TBR books and just piled them in the middle of the floor of my living room. They were a big mess. It was very motivating to read them just to get them off the darn floor. But then, of course, I had a guest to stay and I had to clean them up, and they went right back on the bookshelf to be forgotten about.

  7. Good for you! My goal is usually to read 50 percent books I own, 50 percent everything else, but I’m always a little low on that. And then I add books faster than I read — a vicious cycle. I’ve been trying to take control of my TBR by getting everything cataloged in LibraryThing, which is a good exercise in seeing the volume of books and culling out books I’m not interested in anymore.

  8. Jenny, ha! That’s an interesting solution. My bigger problem is the Kindle, where it’s simply so easy for me to forget I’ve even purchased something. Manhattans and Amazon do not mix. I currently have a lot of unread books piled on my desk, though, so I am sure feeling like I am working in a book fort that is about to topple might at least lead to me picking up one or two and actually reading them…

  9. Kim, making the list was definitely a huge step, even if I haven’t gone so far (yet) as to catalog what’s in my library. My problem is that over the last year I have read mostly books that are my own…but then I just kept buying new ones. As you say, a vicious cycle!

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