The TBR Pile
I don't know about you, though I'd be surprised if any book blogger anywhere didn't have this same problem, but I have a lot of unread books on my shelves that I need to read. Some I've bought new, some I bought second-hand, some I've swapped, some I've won in giveaways, some I've been sent for review. And all are unread.
Two or three years ago, I decided to make a list of these books and post them on my blog and every few weeks or so I'd update the list crossing off the books I'd read and also add at the bottom any books that came into my possession in that time. It took me a frighteningly long time to notice that the number of unread books I had always hovered at least over 100 with the lowest number at one time being around 130 books but usually around 150-180.
That's when I sat down and did some maths. Roughly speaking, at the time of making these hard decisions, I had 180 books and I was getting 15-20 books a month from publishers for review which equals about 180 + 180-240 books a year. In recent years I have only read about 200-220 books a year. At the same time, I was also acquiring at least 10 books a month which added another 120 books to my shelves every year.
(180 + 180-240 + 120) - 200-220 = an out of control TBR pile
Continuing at this rate meant an approximately 0% chance that I would ever have a manageable TBR pile. I figure between 30-50 books is 'manageable.'
I figured it was time to for some drastic action... and here are some of the steps I've taken lately.
My first action towards severely reducing my out-of-control TBR pile was to recruit some guest reviewers to the blog. Currently, Kulsuma and Hayley are two of my lovely guest reviewers. Every once and awhile I will gather together some (mostly review) books I've had for awhile or that are low on my list of priorities and offer it up to these two and send off monthly packages. What I love about Kulsuma and Hayley is that they are both incredibly lovely, wide reading and really thoughtful reviewers. It's nice to both lighten my TBR shelf AND to be able to have access to some easy blog posts on a regular basis. Thanks, you two!
Personal reading challenge
My next step towards a TBR pile wipe out was to challenge myself to read at least 10 of my own books every month. I really wanted to tackle the books I'd acquired myself that by definition of buying these books myself meant that they were already of a low priority. So far this year, however, I believe I've only read 10-15 of these such books (as opposed to 70 if I'd stuck to 10 a month) and I've failed pretty miserably since this personal challenge was issued.
Target specific books in my TBR pile
Everything needs to retain some amount of amount of fun, right? And for me, I love setting myself reading challenges. So far this year, in order to lower the number of books on my TBR pile, I've set myself very specific reading challenges. First there was FinishItFeb which meant I read only books in a series. In April, I focused on books with LGBT characters and story lines. In June I tried reading as many books by authors attending YALC as I could. What I love about these sort of challenges is that they're just short bursts of reading but at the same time if I put off reading books (in a series, for example) during that month at the end of it I can probably say that I'm more likely not that interested in reading it ultimately. More on this farther down the post...
Being picky over review books
So far my tactics weren't doing that well. What I needed to do, besides sending out more books and putting priority on reading the books I already have is limit the number of books coming into my house. So I make a conscious effort when I get blogger bulletins and the option of requesting books for review that I make good choices. No longer do I request every book I want and instead I hold out for books I'm excited about reading. Those books that mean I'd drop everything in order to read them. Cutting out books that I'm only mildly interested in as has a low but important impact on the state of my unread shelves!
Giving up on books more easily
This and my next tip have easily been the most effective means of cutting down my TBR pile. When I really looked at my pile of unread books, there were loads of books that I owned that I didn't feel that excited to read any more. So instead of keeping these books on my shelves for no good reason, they go straight into boxes either ready to be offered to my guest reviewers or into the to-be-donated-to-local-secondary-schools boxes and are gone forever. I also have chosen not to feel that pressure I sometimes feel to carry on with a book that's not grabbing me. It's difficult sometimes but I don't want reading to feel like a chore. If it doesn't hook me relatively quickly, I'll move on. Very simple. Culling my shelves in this way has drastically decreased my numbers and I can feel the load coming off my shoulders as well as my book shelves.
Book buying ban
This was my hardest decision. And every one I spoke about this to during the ban was pretty shocked and amazed. To be honest, so was I. That is because I managed a full 6 month buying ban. I did not buy one single physical books within that time period, however, I was still receiving books sent for review and also splurging a bit on Kindle books. Every time I considered breaking my ban, I would remember the maths equation at the beginning of this post. With all these books coming in, something needed to change.
I spoke to somebody else recently who had also been on a buying ban and she said something particularly important ... she said 'I want reading to be the exciting thing, not buying or receiving books.' and I think that's a wonderful thing to remember.
Since applying all of the above, I have reduced my TBR pile by around 100 books. (the current number of physical books I have unread is 88 books) That's happened through reading many books, sending some books to my guest reviewers regularly, donating many unread books to charity shops and local secondary schools and by greatly reducing the numbers of books coming into the house both by buying fewer books and requesting fewer books from publicists.
This is how I deal with my TBR pile. How do you deal with yours?