How I survive my TBR

I am part of a book club on Facebook with a few thousand fellow readers and a question I see very, very often is how people survive their TBR lists or piles. Those posts are usually followed by hundreds of comments of people who don’t really have a clue how they would or debating if it is even possible. I am one of those people. A true reader doesn’t survive their TBR, they live through it.

Last year, I decided get a bit more serious about my passion for reading. I started a bookstagram to both learn about new books and encourage myself to read more. There I learned about Goodreads, the site where you can have digital shelves of what you have read, what you are reading and your horrifying long list of books you want to read. I was so innocent at first. I just added to 30 or books I owned at that moment, tried to recall the books I read in the past (and failed) and started adding a hand full of titles I encountered on instagram. After a while, my TBR was completely out of hand. As we speak, I have got 585 books on my ‘Want To Read’ shelf and I honestly am caught in between pride and fear.

Having so many books you want to read can be quite overwhelming, especially if you lose the overview easily, for example if you have got autism like I do. So I decided to think of solutions to make my booknerdish life a little bit easier. Even though having a TBR of almost 600 books is still disastrous, the following tips can make it more bearable.


1. Sort out what you own

This may sound absolutely stupid, and people have told me it did, but it’s the step to start with. For quite a while, I kept wondering what to read next, so I bought about five books every month while not even reading that amount. At some point I just didn’t realise what books I had anymore and forgot to read them or rather wanted to read that one other title I saw on instagram five minutes before. Then there was a moment someone told me you can make extra shelves on Goodreads, name them and you could choose if the shelf was exclusive or not (A book can only be on one exclusive shelf at the time). I immediatly made a shelf called ‘Owned’. Seeing the number of books I owned and were unread encouraged me to catch up and put myself on a book-buy-ban. It gave a certain kind of peace.

2. A tiny pile of books on your nightstand

The idea behind this started when I released myself from my book-buy-ban and ‘suddenly’ had a pile of books that have not yet been given a place on my shelf just laying on my nightstand. I started to like that when I was done with a book, I just picked up the book on top and continued reading without having to stand hopelessly in front of my shelves trying to decide what to read next. Thus it continued. Whenever a new book arrived or I decided which book from my shelf I wanted to read soon, I put it on the bottom of the pile.

I never have to stand in front of my shelves again to pick my next read, I only use the sudden inspiration I get sometimes, for example when I think: “ I really want to read that book soonish.” After which I put it on the bottom of that pile.

3. Seperate ‘shelves’ for your TBR over a period of time

As I mentioned earlier, Goodreads has the option to create more ‘shelves’ on your profile and I believe other similar apps and sites have that option too. Last week I kept reciting which books I wanted to read this year, also with eyes on some new releases coming up. I kept forgetting some titles and I wanted to write it down. Later it just came to me that I could also make a ‘2018-tbr’ shelf. Whenever I see a book on my book shelf I’d like to read at some point this year, I add it and when I finish a book on that Goodreads shelf, I remove it so that it only the unread books will be shown.

I did this ‘trick’ with a list for the entire year, but you can also do this per month, per quarter of a year or any other period of time you prefer. I might experiment with the seasons one day.

4. Actually read

It sounds obvious. It really does, but alot of people forget this. A big bunch of book bloggers spend hours at their PC writing the perfect post and bookstagrammers are diligently trying to take their best pictures during the day. I have done this too, guilty as charged. I was so busy with all the fuss around books and reading, I barely had time or energy left to actually read. This way it took me so much longer than necessary to finish a book and I got into a reading slump after a while. I had to take a break from blogging and bookstagramming to get my reading pace back.

What I am trying to say is that you don’t always have to rush to get a picture ready for that day or spend the evening rubbing your eyes at your screen just to post something. It is perfectly fine if you skip a day of posting something or call it a day half an hour earlier than usual. If you spend most of your days busy with everything around reading without actually reading, you not only run out of content after a while, but also the passion you feel (and emit in your content) will decrease and makes that huge TBR pile you have in the corner of your room look even more daunting. So turn off your pc, put away your phone and go sit on the couch with a steaming cup of tea and just read.


I use these four points to keep some peace of mind around reading. Eventually I will be able to get through my TBR faster than I add new books (or so I dream), but for now I just focus on smaller chunks and enjoy what I am reading at that moment.

Let me know in the comments how you survive your TBR (or don’t)!

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6 thoughts on “How I survive my TBR

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  1. I don’t worry about my TBR…until there were platforms like Shelfari (RIP) and goodreads (you’re no shelfari) I mostly looked for the next book from a few favorite authors and read what sounded good inbetween. My tbr on goodreads is 1340ish (I say this because when I was forced to import my TBR from shelfari many titles on my TBR got sent over as “read” although they are not.) I read what I have available, I add books to my TBR whenever and I don’t worry too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe partly this is because ever since I’ve worked in libraries I really don’t buy books any more. Perhaps I would feel differently if I were spending $ on titles and not reading them? Never considered that…

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  2. Well said! Although my bedside table is a bookshelf… so I feel like I’d be misusing that point a little bit. But I certainly like the idea if I had a normal bedside table! The last point is so true as well, sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, that last point was really a thing for myself too. I was so busy with my instagram and blog that I always stayed up later to read just 30 minutes. It didn’t make me happy. So I decided to share it all in this post to remind others aswell.

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  3. This post is so helpful. I think we have pretty much the same ways to survive our TBR list. Most of the books that I would like to read are just one arm away from where I sleep. 🙂 I love reading before I sleep and after I wake up so this works really good for me.

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