Why I Want a Zero TBR

I’ve talked before on my blog about wanting to shrink my TBR pile, but it’s a topic I wanted to revisit in light of Olive from abookolive’s recent video, “I don’t want a zero TBR,” and Rincey’s response on the Book Riot channel in the video “What is your ideal TBR number?

Plus it’s just something I’ve been thinking about a lot more lately as I work on sticking to my goals of reading four books a month from my 2017 TBR pile and reading all of the books I purchase in 2018 within three months of bringing them home.

I want to stress before I go too far into this post that what people do with their TBR piles is completely up to them. I don’t want this post to come across as judgy in any way or make anyone feel that I think my approach is the only acceptable approach, because that’s certainly not meant to be the case! You do you! And for the purposes of this post, I’m referring to books I own but haven’t read when I use the term TBR (to be read).

Personally, I want to get close to a zero TBR. It doesn’t have to be all the way down to zero, but I’m thinking five to 10 could be a great number. Even right now, I have about 25 on my shelves that I’ve bought in 2018, and I know it’s going to take me several months to read them all. Which is fine, but those aren’t the only books I want to read.

I feel like by putting books on my shelves and committing to reading them, I’m taking time away from the books I could pick up on a whim because someone recommended it to me. Even now, I have a few books on my shelves that people have gifted me, and it’s going to take me a while to finally get to them. Not that I don’t want to read the books I’ve purchased, but once they’re on my shelves, it starts to feel a bit more like an obligation than it did when I just marked it as “Want to Read” on Goodreads.

A large part of my motivation in getting close to a zero TBR is the recognition that my tastes change, and sometimes I forget why I was excited to buy a book in the first place. I’ve totally gone through my unread books and gotten rid of stacks of them that I never read, and that’s not a practice that I want to continue in the future. If I read books within a few months of purchasing them, then I think I greatly reduce the chances of that happening again.

I know Olive voiced concerns about running out of books to read if a freak snowstorm hit and she couldn’t get to the library (which could totally happen!), but it’s not something I’m concerned about because I have access to such a great library system and can download things instantaneously via OverDrive. Plus there are so many books on my shelves that I want to reread, and I almost feel like I can’t because I’ve got so many books I’ve never read before sitting on my shelves waiting for me.

I’ve also become so committed to reading my own books that it kind of stresses me out to see a bunch of unread books sitting on my shelves because it’s a physical manifestation of so many books, so little time. I don’t look at my shelves and see all of the possibilities of what I could be reading; I see all of the books that I want to read right away but just don’t have the time for because there are so many!

Now, I do have exceptions. I know I won’t finish reading all of the books I bought in 2017 during the course of 2018 because a number of them are history books. I still want to break the habit of accumulating books I’m not going to read for a long time because they just take up space and create a commitment that I could change my mind about in the intervening time, but I think Olive articulated really well why I’m ok not getting to those books this year: they represent knowledge I hope to accumulate one day. I’m a lot less likely to lose interest in reading a biography of John Adams or Harry Truman than I am the latest overhyped YA book that made its way onto my shelves. Plus sometimes I need a physical copy there to force myself to pick it up and read it.

While I might not have the same position on a zero TBR as Olive, I really appreciate that she shared her perspective since getting a zero TBR (or at least getting a smaller one) is a pretty common goal, and I really like hearing her reasons for not wanting one. If I had a lifelong learning project like she does with Russian history, I’d definitely be less inclined to push for a zero TBR! Or at the very least, I wouldn’t count those as part of the TBR I’m actively trying to keep small.

And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get to my zero TBR and realize it’s not what I really wanted after all. And lord help me if I ever find a good used bookstore near me, because I only have so much willpower and won’t be able to stop myself from snapping up all of the books!

Where do you fall on the size of your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

22 thoughts on “Why I Want a Zero TBR

  1. While I don’t have the same hopes for my TBR as you have for yours, I COMPLETELY understand why you feel the way you do! In my case, I literally have 5 bookshelves full of books on my TBR, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I know that new books will release or I’ll learn about books that I want to read and those will then take precedence. The books in my home, both the ones that I’ve read and still need to read, are comforting to me. I like having books around. A lot of things make me anxious, but piles of books that I need to read isn’t one of them. In fact, the more I have, the more excited and motivated I am to read as much as I can!

    What you said at the beginning is absolutely right, though. Everyone has their own opinions on the subject and it’s very interesting to read others’ opinions! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Five bookshelves is so many!! I’m torn between thinking that’s awesome and starting to low-key stress out at the thought of that many unread books. Also, five bookshelves’ worth of books is total life goals. My apartment is way too small for that right now, but hopefully one day!

      I’m glad it works for you and motivates you to read as much as you can! And I 100 percent agree that it’s fascinating to find out what works for different people. Thanks for sharing your opinion!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Zero TBR is the dream! My TBR pile is so big and daunting that I often ignore it or struggle to pick which book to read. I think I need to do a big cull of my shelves and really have a look at what I will read and what I need to get rid of. Like your goal, I really need to break my habit of accumulating books 😛
    To be fair though, I agree a TBR pile of around 5-10 seems like a really manageable number but zero would be lovely to get down to at least once in my life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I think I want to hit zero just once, and then try to stick to five or 10, but we’ll see what happens! I’m a long ways away from that point.

      Good luck if you decide to cull your shelves! It can be so cathartic, and hopefully makes your TBR less daunting. Sam from Thoughts on Tomes has a great video called “Konmari-ing My TBR” that you might find helpful, or at least interesting to watch.

      As for accumulating less books…we really need to start a support group! It’s so hard!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s time to face the fact that I’m never hitting zero across all the platforms I read books through, BUT I am really overwhelmed by how many ebooks I own right now. Forcing myself to take stock and start whittling that down is my current focus. For this week anyway. Haha

    But I do think it’s interesring to examine what books are languishing so I can potentially stop purchasing books in a certain genre if I know I’m just not reading them. For example, every adult book on my shelf currently. 😂 except romance, obviously. Also, having used bookstores so close is, um, definitely an issue. Haha

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol. Good luck in your endeavor to take stock of your ebook collection. Those can be so sneaky because they’re not sitting on your shelves and staring at you!

      And you’re right, there’s a lot of value in paying attention to what books we buy but never pick up. I feel like a lot of the ones I get rid of are books I think I should read but in reality just don’t want to (largely classics or literary fiction), or overhyped YA books that I don’t read quickly enough and then eventually lose interest in. Maybe one day we’ll manage to stop buying the books we never actually read!

      And thank god I don’t have a used bookstore nearby. I accumulated a ton of books that way in high school because Fargo has so many good ones, but used bookstores are hard to maintain in New York since rent is so expensive and they’re not the most lucrative business, so at least I don’t have to deal with that temptation!


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