Friday, August 01, 2014

Book Blogger Problems #2

I had a much different blogger problem that I planned to talk about today but then on an absolute whim, I decided to count up all of my unread books on my shelves and after doing so, decided to talk about...

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.

Guest reviewers

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?


  1. My TBR list is out of control! After 5 years of not reading due to study I feel like I'm 5 years behind. I'm not a book blogger but I work in a library and whenever I see new books they get added to my TBR list. Crazy times!

    But I kind of don't want it any other way, I'd hate to run OUT of books!! :)

    1. Ah, yes. This is definitely not a problem only book bloggers face! ...and I don't think anyone will EVER run out of books. I think every year from now on will be crazy exciting for new YA releases so if we're all holding on to books we'll never read, we'll never have the space (or time, or energy!) to read them all.

  2. For as long as I remember my TBR has been out of control. This year I've really had to be stricter with myself especially when it comes to accepting review book requests because we've been decorating and most of my books are in storage right now. I'm terrible for thinking "I might like that so I'm going to say yes" I've only been accepting books that I'm really excited for and as a result all of the books on my TBR look really exciting to me which is a nice change!

    1. Yes, I think it makes a huge change to just cut out those books you're on the fence about. Now, at the end of the month I look at my TBR shelves and think 'there's a reason I didn't read this book this month' and do something about getting rid of it...

  3. I wish I had a manageable tbr list. If I could just read all day... Also, I need to be in a certain mood to read and a certain mood to read a certain genre. I find it really hard to give up on books. I think I must finish it, but I am realising that I could be spending my time reading a more enjoyable book.
    I do love reviewing on Fluttering Butterflies!

    1. Thank you so much for all your hard work! I really appreciate it :)

      I was never much of a finisher of books if I didn't enjoy it. My problem was that I'd let those books sit on my shelves for ages afterwards 'in case I wanted to try again another time' UGH. Such a bad habit. Good luck to you getting your TBR pile down!

  4. Since the beginning of the year I've been a lot pickier about which books I request for review and how much more a book has to work to stop me from putting it down.

    My biggest problem is buying books - I only have to walk into a bookshop and I normally come out with something!

    Great post as always :)

    1. Thanks! And I know the appeal of buying ALL the books. But after my ban, I feel like I hold more of the power and can resist buying a lot more now than I used to!

  5. I feel like this is a problem most book bloggers have. I actually have no idea how bad my to-read list is at the moment, but recently my sister mentioned she didn't know what to read as she just bought 5 new books and I just looked at ehr and said I have at least ten times that many to choose from.
    I also applied some of your tactics, specially being more picky with review books, when I just started book bloggging I teneded to accept every review request and sometimes it's still difficult. I also learned to DNF books earlier, it's just not worth it to struggle through a book when I am not enjoyign it, although once in a while I still come across a book where I think it has to get better and end up struggling through the whole book before deciding it didn't get better. And sometimes I go through your to-read list and just remove the books I don't want to read anymore, I guess I'll have to do that soon again.


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