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?