Sunday Coffee – Overflowing TBR

A combination of 1) not-really-reading-much over the last 18 month, 2) several new sources of book recommendations, and 3) listening to podcasts instead of audiobooks, has led to my TBR growing larger than I’ve seen it since 2014. There are currently 55 books on my TBR, excluding those that have yet to be published. That’s not much compared to most of the book bloggers of the world, but ever since my massive book purge in 2010/2011, I get anxiety if my TBR hits 30. I’m WAY overdue for some culling. It’s time to pull out the big guns – the techniques I used back in 2010/2011 to shave my TBR from nearly 400 to less than 10 books.

For those who have been reading a long time, this is an old story, so feel free to skip this paragraph as a recap of this particular technique. Basically, this is what I do. First, I make and organize a list of all the books, and order as many as are available from the library. When they arrive, I sit down with them in a pile and read the first five pages of each. After five pages, they go in one of three piles: yes, I still want to read it; no, it gets culled; and unsure. The unsure pile gets another five pages read, at which point, it goes into one of the first two piles. I got very good at this method of culling, and 99% of the time, I can tell when a book is a yes or a no within those first few pages – if not the first few paragraphs. (Note: Nonfiction takes longer for a yes, but not for a no.) The No books go back to the library. The Yes books get sorted into ones I want to read before returning, and those I’ll read later and keep on the TBR list in the meantime. For books that aren’t available through the library, I use other methods to try the first five pages: ebook previews, local bookstores, Audible previews, etc. Very few books aren’t available to preview somewhere. If a book is too hard or costly to find, I tend to drop it from the TBR unless the premise is super intriguing or the author is one I implicitly trust. Note: I do not buy unread books except under special circumstances, so buying them is NOT an option. Also note: I’ve never once regretted dropping a book from my TBR.

Okay. So now that that recap is out of the way, it’s time for me to start on the culling process. I would like to have my list down to as few as possible by the end of October. The first part of this process involves organizing the list, which I’ve already done. I’ve split the titles into:

  • those that I know I definitely want to keep on the list, no preview needed
  • owned books (audio and physical)
  • requested from the library
  • books I can preview at B&N
  • downloadable samples from Amazon*

In the week since making this list, I’ve been able to sort through a huge number of books, mostly off the library and Amazon lists. I’ve culled a total of 25 books in the last few days. There are still four in my library holds that have longer queues, and I’ve finished all the Amazon samples. Five books have moved over to the Yes group, and two books are currently in a nebulous “maybe in the future” pile that could go either way. Most of what’s left is from my Audible** to-investigate list. Unfortunately, most*** of these audiobooks can’t go through the same process. Audible offers a preview already, and I listen to that before buying the book! Narrator is very important to me, so I would never buy an audiobook without testing the narrator. I can’t do as much culling as actually listening to these books. (That’s not to say I won’t get further than a preview in one or two, and decide I don’t like the book, and return it. They aren’t definitely on the Yes list.) Thankfully, nicer weather is almost upon us, and soon there will be some long walks in my future! It’s time to prioritize the audiobooks over the podcasts for a bit.

There’s still work to go, but things are starting to get manageable on my TBR. Altogether, there were 55 already-published books on my list, and that number has now dropped to 27 – a full halving! That’s definitely progress, but I need to keep going. There are quite a number of publishing dates that’ll pop that 27 upwards in the near future, and already 27 is very near the top of my limit. So I just need to keep pushing, especially re: the audiobooks, and get this TBR pile under strict control!!

*Amazon is my last resort because I’m trying to move away from using their business model (please just ignore that I’m still on Audible…), but I’m glad they generally have ebook samples available. I didn’t have a single book that I had to remove from the list for being too difficult to find, thanks to these samples.

**I’m a little irritated with Audible right now because for some unknown reason, they’ve flagged my account so that I can only make returns by going directly to customer service. They can’t tell me why and they say nothing’s wrong with my account, but it’s irritating because I’ve bought hundreds (if not thousands) of books from them in the last decade and I’ve returned maybe a dozen, so I’m definitely not abusing the system! I want to get through these ASAP, do any returns I need to do, and straighten out my stupid account. Anyway.

***There are a few that Jason owns, and because we previously had an Amazon family plan, I have access to all of his purchases. Most, I’m not interested in, and didn’t have downloaded or on my TBR, but a couple were added. Those I can preview like I would any Audible purchase and choose yes or no like any other book.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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5 Responses to Sunday Coffee – Overflowing TBR

  1. Only 55 is impressive. I must have at least 50 books actually physically present in the house waiting to be read, about 50 more on my Amazon wishlist, and probably well over 50 on my Kindle!


    • Amanda says:

      In 2010, I started having panic attacks when I had about 400 unread books on my TBR, and at least 250-300 were books on my actual shelves. It was just too much. I’m a minimalist at heart. After I culled the pile down to zero, I didn’t buy any unread books for years. It was all library or other free sources, and then I’d buy books that I loved enough to keep. The exceptions were 1) books by specific authors that I trusted (like Brandon Sanderson), and 2) Audible audiobooks, because if they didn’t work out right, I could return them. Now that Audible is making the return process more difficult, I definitely won’t be as casual about acquiring books from them!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Melissa F. says:

    Sitting Pretty is absolutely fantastic and has been one of my most recommended books over the past year. I think you’ll like that one a lot. I’ve also been listening to more podcasts vs. audiobooks. And as someone with a physical TBR that is around 800 and a total TBR that is pushing 4,500, I am quite envious of a TBR in the 30-55 range. 🙂 I like your method a lot, though, and may need to try that!


    • Amanda says:

      Eeek I think I just had a heart attack reading that 4500 number!! Wow! And tbh, I think that altogether, Jason and I own maybe 150-200 physical books, period. I just don’t keep/buy that many. We don’t really have the space for it. Now, perhaps if we still lived in our house from the early 2000s in rural WI, which had an entire library room with built-in shelves…


  3. Pingback: October 2021 in Review | The Zen Leaf

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