TBR Management + A New Way of Thinking About my TBR

Posted September 8, 2015 by Stormy in Books / 21 Comments

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my TBR. I’m talking about my physical TBR of owned, unread books that sit on my pretty bookshelves. This isn’t a surprise, since I started doing a tackle the TBR project a few months ago. I have a LOT of books I haven’t read on my TBR. . . so much so that it was beginning to stress me out. When I first made my TBR spreadsheet, I had about 188 unread books on it. I’m now at 150 unread books, which is SO. MANY. I realize that.

Doing this project has made me realize a lot of things about my reading and book buying habits. . . mainly, my taste change. There’s a good chunk of books that are on my TBR that I no longer WANT to read. When I first acquired them, I was excited about them, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t buy a book I had no plans on reading. But some of them have sat on my shelf literally since high school, and I think it’s time to face the fact these books will probably never be read, and I don’t *want* to read them. Every time I pick one up, the act of reading feels like a chore, which I never want reading to be.

Here’s the thing, though: I have such a mental block about getting rid of books I haven’t read yet. 

It feels like such a waste of money, and doing this project has made me realize how many. . . hang-ups? entrenched ideas? about how I spend money on non-necessities. I grew up in a TINY rural Texas town with LIMITED book access. You know where you buy books here? There’s a small display of mass market paperbacks at the grocery store and another at the dollar store, mostly thrillers and romance. You can drive twenty minutes to a neighboring town’s wal-mart for a small smattering of best-sellers(yes, my town is small enough to the point where we do not have a Wal-Mart). If you drive forty minutes to the slightly larger town, there’s a used bookstore and a Hastings. The library is likewise tiny, and as much as they try to fulfill request, there’s only so much they can do.

I grew up without easy access to *owning* books, basically. There were plenty of options at the school library and the public library, so I got to read a lot, which was great! But I’ve always loved owning books because I love re-reading. When I got to college, I was FLOORED by the options. There were three bookstore chains. Three! Plus three used bookstores and big box stores. I had bookish options!

This lead towards a bookish hoarding tendency.

I felt like I HAD to buy all the books I was interested in right away, because book buying had always been a special occasion reserved for the scholastic book catalog or the trips when my parents would take me to the bookstores to spend my holiday gift cards. I never got used to having that kind of access to books, I think, so when I saw books on sale I just gobbled them up.

That was factor #1: feeling like I had to buy ALL THE BOOKS at once.

There’s another contributing factor to my giant TBR: my need to be frugal. I hardly ever buy books full price. Really, I only do it if I a)have a gift card, or b)it’s a part of a series that I LOVE(like Harry Potter, the Raven Cycle, Lunar Chronicles kind of love). I would say at least 50 of the unread books on my shelf came from my college town’s giant friends of the library book sale(which I attended probably 5 out of 7 years I lived in that town?) I would also wait until the bookstore had deals like $2.99 for all used books. Because the deals were so good, I again felt like I HAD to stock up. Who knew when those opportunities would come around again?

Of course, rationally, I knew there would be other sales, other bargains. But this excitement was combined with the remaining feeling that book buying was a special treat and not something I could do every day if I wished(not that my wallet could have handled that. . . but the stores were close enough that had I the funds, I COULD have gone every day).

But now I have TBR: status doom.

Here is the thing: Those factors I mentioned above? That’s why I’ve accumulated such a massive TBR. It’s also why I have a lot of trouble paring it down. I paid *money* for those books, even if it was only $1.50(which is what hardbacks cost at the friends of the library book sale in my old town). If I give them away without reading, it’s hard for me not to see that as a waste of money.

Most of the time, I like being a frugal person. It’s something that was instilled in me very young, and I like that. I had a lot less knee-jerk purchases than my college friends did. I do research before I buy things, as much as possible. I’m good at saying “NO” to impulse buys. BUT this frugality has been contributing to my stress towards my TBR.

Here was my light bulb moment: the books on my shelf that I dread reading are STILL costing me. . .

I may have bought to own all the books on my shelf. That money’s gone and has exchanged hands. But the books on my shelf that I don’t really want to read and seem to mock me every time I glance at my TBR? They’re still costing me. They cost me the stress of finding my TBR unmanageable, which is something I never want. Reading is my hobby, and I want to keep it as stress-free as possible. They would cost me energy and time to read them, and do I really want to spend my energy and time, both limited resources, on a book I don’t really want to read because I bought it for three dollars five years ago?

It’s harder to quantify what time and energy cost compared to money, at least for me. It can be a bit of a toss-up at times in the cost vs benefit, but I think what it comes down to for me is that it’s not worth it to read a book JUST because I bought it on sale years ago. This realization is helping me remove books from my TBR, even if they’re unread. I really would love to see my TBR in a more “manageable” place by the end of the year.

LET’S CHAT: If you buy books, do you ever have trouble managing your TBR? Are you better at it than I am? Do you ever get rid of books even if you haven’t read them yet?



21 responses to “TBR Management + A New Way of Thinking About my TBR

  1. I love TBR posts (obviously!). It’s such a freeing feeling to let that book go that you bought 6 years ago and don’t care about anymore. Honestly, the “I am wasting money” thing? Yeah, I still have guilt about that. But then I consider that I’m working very hard NOT to impulse buy now and to keep my TBR down at this manageable place that took so long to get to, and the guilt subsides a bit. You just have to let yourself let the books go, promise not to backslide, and move on! Taking the books I didn’t want to read and just donating them to the library was very freeing because they were no longer sitting around, a constant visible reminder of the dollars I wasted impulse-buying them.

    • Stormy

      Yeah, I think it helps that it’s not like I’m continuing to accumulate books @ the same rate and then get rid of them without reading. I can’t say I’ve totally curbed the impulse buy, but I’ve definitely lessened it. I’ve noticed this particularly with Kindle daily deals & bookstore browsing–even if it’s cheap, if I don’t want to read it pretty much RIGHT AWAY, I don’t buy it. Now, in November when the library book sale happens there will definitely be some impulse buying. . . but since that happens once a year I’m more okay with that. And even for that, I’m making a list of books I WANT to look for. That doesn’t mean something won’t catch my eye that wasn’t on my list, but I think having a list will at least keep me focus.

    • Stormy

      I generally do! It still feels like I wasted some money, though, because I generally don’t get back what I paid.

  2. I can really relate to this post… not because I’ve lacked access to books in my life, but mostly in that I’ve come to the point that I really feel no (ok, much less) guilt getting rid of books I’m never going to read or reread. (Though right now I’m dealing with trying to accept that it’s time to get rid of grad school books for good, which is somehow hard to let go of, the fact that I have decided not to pursue academia any further.) The only time I really allow myself to buy physical books any more is at the library book sale. It’s a $2 hardcover… if I never read it, no big deal… I’m at least sending the money to the place where I get more than half of the books I read. And while I allow myself ebook purchases where a library copy is not readily available, I try to only buy them at the pace I’ll read them (this was something I tried to do with physical books back when I was still visiting the used bookstore a lot, but it had mixed results) and only with gift cards. I’m lucky to have an amazingly well-funded library system in my town that has completely revamped my book-purchasing habits. I’m actually happier without a ton of book clutter or a shelf full of books that I just don’t want to read any more.

    • Stormy

      Shedding that guilt(or trying to) feels so freeing! I have the same feeling about the library sale, though of course that means I tend to buy a lot of books. I hope to get to the point of not having a shelf full of books I’m not really interested in anymore!

  3. I’ll admit, my book buying has increased EXPONENTIALLY over the past year and a half since I started blogging! It is starting to get a little stressful, especially since I’m in the middle of moving and it really makes you confront how many books you own. I’ve compensated by paring down how much I borrow from the library so I can prioritize my owned TBR first, but I’ll admit, I’m not great at giving away my books! There’s such an attachment!

    • Stormy

      Yeah, book blogging did wonders(depending on how you look at it) for my bookshelf. A huge part of it was that I just hear about more books that sound good. I have to admit I haven’t used the library much recently at all! I’d like to one day get to the point where I have only a few books left unread + can use the library without feeling guilty for my books left behind(as silly as that sounds).

  4. I won’t get rid of a book I bought, until I’ve at least given it a shot. But, shedding it after the fact doesn’t really bother me. I figure someone else is going to read it and maybe love it more than me. There are certain books I won’t get rid of despite not loving them because they look pretty, but that’s a whole other issue. My physical, owned TBR isn’t as crazy as 150, but when I add eBooks never read it gets much bigger. But I don’t think about those too much since they don’t take up physical space and aren’t staring me down and making me feel guilty.

    • Stormy

      Well, my 150 books do include ebooks, but I would say the majority of them are physical. I feel you on not getting rid of pretty books, though! Mine is always Not a Drop to Drink. I’ve taken it off my shelf so many times, but I love the cover and it’s signed to me.

  5. Haha! I had a similar situation, tiny town, no books available, had read just about everything at the library that interested me. Then I moved away to a much more populated area and about died from all the book options! I do need to go through my TBR shelves soon, but like you I have such a hard time getting rid of my books for fear of wanting them at some point (I even refuse to get rid of books I have read but didn’t like). I have taken to putting the books I may not read on my TBR list inside an empty dresser (but of course it is full now) and only displaying the ones that I feel like I might reach for in the next year.

    • Stormy

      Ha, I’m actually typing this comment as I sit at the library, and the shelves are so sad! So few books. I don’t have a problem getting rid of books I didn’t like, though. Probably because in my mind it makes room for new books(even if I shouldn’t acquire more books anyway.)

  6. Cee

    I haven’t thought about or try to figure out how many unread books I own because it’ll legit make me cry. I’m sure that 3/4 of the books I own have not been read, and it’s always freak me out to see the pages yellowing with age.

    I think some of the books on my shelves should be deemed “books I no longer want to read,” but there’s a voice in my brain going, “you’ll read it later when you’re in the mood,” and that’s the worst because when could the mood ever hit, y’know? I have the books for over five years, and still haven’t read it. WHEN?!

    I totally experience that mindset you have when buying books and trying to get rid of them. I spent money on this, and it’ll be a waste to get rid of it because it’s like getting rid of money. Trying to be frugal is always the worst though because you don’t necessarily need the book (or whatever item you’re getting), but you feel like you need to buy it because it’s cheap. It’s like we’re buying these books for a rainy day that might never come (does that make sense?).

    • Stormy

      Ha, I do feel better that even though I have around 140 books I haven’t read, I do still own more than I have read. But I think if you’ve had a book unread after five years, it’s safe to pass it along. . . or so I’m trying to tell myself. TRYING.

      Yeah, I’m trying to learn that spending $2 on a book I’ll never read is not actually saving money. But the learning curve is tough.

  7. I honestly have the same problem. I buy a lot of books. They’re books I’m interested in and really WANT to read, but I think it’s more about OWNING them. I have a shelf with around 150 books and (I counted) I’ve only read about 50 of them.

    I just reorganized my shelves and am in the process of putting all my books in a TBR spreadsheet. I plan to start my own TBR challenge next month. Luckily, I read pretty fast and don’t have a problem putting down a book I don’t like, so that’ll also help me start a giveaway shelf. Lol.

    Good luck, darlin’!

    • Stormy

      That’s my thing. I do want to read most of the books I own(I did a culling recently where I removed books off the shelf if I was no longer interested in them.) Having a TBR spreadsheet has really helped me curb my book-buying, I will say. It’s nice to be able to glance at it & my TBR in a quantifiable number.

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