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!