How I Organize My Unread Books

I’ve had a few conversations lately with people about how I store my unread books — both physical and digital — so I thought it might be fun to go more in-depth and talk about it in a blog post!

Let’s start with my unread physical book shelf! Yes, I have a literal TBR shelf for my unread books. I did have this down to zero at one point, but then I bought so many books last year to support indies through the pandemic that it’s a little out of control again. I’d prefer to keep it in one cubby, but as you can see, it’s definitely expanded past that right now! I’m hoping to bring it back down again over the summer.


As far as buying physical books, I actually buy a lot after I’ve already read a digital copy. I like to have them on my shelves because they’re pretty and I can see all of my favorites at a glance and it makes me happy to be surrounded by books, but the reality is that I largely read on my kindle! It’s just so much more convenient, especially at night when my husband is ready for bed and wants the light off but I’m not ready to stop reading. Or in the morning when I’m too lazy to turn on the light and just start reading right away!

When I buy books I haven’t read yet, I generally try to buy ones that I think I’ll want a physical copy of after I read it, because let’s be honest, I definitely check out library copies of books I own and read them that way. Did I mention kindle copies are super convenient to read when laying down in bed? I read a physical book the other day, and it was a pain to keep trying to prop it up when I switched pages while I was laying down.

Anyways, as a result, that means I wind up buying a lot more nonfiction, because I think it’s easier to predict based on the topic whether it’s something I’m going to want to keep around. Romance I tend to either read my faves in arc format, read as soon as I buy the physical copy, or just read on my kindle (either owned or library copies), so that’s why you don’t see as much on this shelf even though that’s the majority of what I read.

I would say most of the fiction books I have on my TBR shelf, either romance or fantasy, are things I wouldn’t normally buy but picked up to support indies (except Black Sun, I love Roanhorse’s Sixth World series and totally did a preorder of that to get a signed, personalized copy with some cool swag. Sadly, I just haven’t been in the mood to read fantasy for a while, which is why it’s still on the TBR shelf. Winterkeep and Rule of Wolves were preorder offer purchases, too).

Screenshot_20210510-113653_KindleSo yeah, that’s the state of my physical TBR shelf! As for kindle books, I’ve started organizing those into collections on the kindle app on my phone. I’ve been reading a lot on my phone the last few months because I upgraded to a new one after several years, and I’ve been immensely enjoying the new technology (though I’m about ready to go back to my kindle device). So I have my books organized into collections: Favorites, Library, Read, TBR, TBR: Arcs, Unread, and xMisc (xDan is books I’ve bought for my husband and don’t want messing up my system!).

Favorites, as the name suggests, are some of my favorite books that I like to keep on hand. Library is library copies of books, since it’s impossible to tell until you click to download if it’s a book you own or just one you borrowed from the library. By dumping them all in one folder, it’s easier to keep track. Read, again as the name suggests, are all of the books I own and have read. And xMisc is honestly a lot of crap I picked up in high school and college that I don’t want to delete, but don’t really want to organize. I put an x in front of the folder name so it’d be alphabetized at the end.

The remaining categories are where my unread books are. I keep the arcs in both the TBR folder and the TBR: Arcs folder. I keep a separate one so I can keep track at a glance of all the ones I still have to read, but I multi-home them so I don’t forget about them when I’m scrolling through my TBR folder, because that’s the main one full of books I want to read. Anything I spend more than two dollars on goes in this folder, as does anything I’m really excited to read. So when I’m looking for something, I tend to check here. Meanwhile, Unread is for books I own but haven’t read and don’t really care if I do. I absolutely pick up a lot of free ones or one dollar deals that I…don’t feel too strongly about reading? Like, I will probably enjoy it if I read it, but it’s not really on my radar. So they get collected here.

On my phone, I further organize books by keeping the ones I most imminently want to read on the home screen. We’re talking maybe five or so books go here. If there start to be too many, I clean it out. But if there’s a book I’m hoping to read soon, I’ll often download it so it shows up on the home screen as a reminder.

As for my physical kindle device, I don’t really use my collections there. I would if I could just keep a collection open (like my TBR one) and have it show all the covers, but I don’t think it works that way. So instead, I just have it show the covers, and then download the books from my TBR folder and my Favorites folder on there. That way I can always have access to some of my favorite books, but my kindle is primarily full of books I’m most excited to read.

And that’s it! I used to be better about keeping my TBR shelves on Goodreads up to date with what I owned, but I’ve fallen behind on that and frankly don’t really care anymore since I can find stuff quickly this way, so I don’t need to have those shelves. I will say, the exception is the TBR shelf, which I do keep updated with the physical books I own and haven’t read. But the others — arcs, audible, kindle, kindle deals — are definitely out of date. Maybe I should just delete them? Idk.

Now as far as the books I want to read but don’t actually own, I tend to keep pretty good track of those on Goodreads with varying genre shelves. I wish I had a system organizing books I’ve read by genre and trope, etc, but mostly I just star a book and organize it into a shelf with the year I read it so I can see my yearly reading at a glance, and that’s about it. The bulk of my organizing on Goodreads is putting books I want to read onto genre shelves. I actually went through and cleaned up my Goodreads shelves recently, so I’ll talk more about those in another blog post!

How do you keep your unread books organized? Does my system make sense to you? Is it too elaborate? Do I need to reign it in?? I love talking organization, so definitely let me know in the comments!

10 thoughts on “How I Organize My Unread Books

  1. Most of my books are sent to my kindle as review copies, and I haven’t bought a lot of physical copies recently. I definitely need an organisation system! Currently, I just delete the books off my kindle once I’ve read and reviewed them. But I sometimes forget and start re-reading them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a solid system! Does your kindle/app put a little “read” flag up in the corner? Or let you filter by read/unread? I don’t think it’s always accurate, but that could be a good way to help you clean out the ones you’ve already read so you don’t accidentally start rereading them

      Liked by 1 person

      • It gives me a percentage, but I don’t think it’s always accurate either! Sometimes it’ll give me a 0% for a book that I KNOW I’ve read. I definitely prefer reading physical books, but kindles are a great alternative!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so interesting, I have been kind of eyeing different ways I could organise my unread books! I have to admit that currently my unread books are just slotted in between read ones: in my bookshelves I just organise by genre and size, and unread books are here and there. On my ereaders, the books are just scattered in the order I purchased them. Definitely not a system that serves me well as finding something to read is always a bit much – so I think I’ll also look into creating a shelf specifically for unread books! The kindle collections are a great idea too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s something about just seeing them all in one space that makes it so much easier to remember what I haven’t read, so it really works for me! Plus I can wave my hand at my shelves and say I’ve read everything except this one shelf, which is super satisfying 😂 I hope you find a system that works for you if you decide to attempt some organizing!

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. I think your organization makes so much sense! If I would separate out the ones that I’m loosely interested in from the ones I actively want to read, I feel like I would be less overwhelmed by choices!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do itttt!! It feels so much less overwhelming. I pop so many freebies in there, so they’re there when I want them, but aren’t clogging up my list of books I’m most excited to read. Of course, some freebies wind up in the TBR, and some books wind up in the Unread section, and I go through and curate it every so often so it’s easier to find something to read!


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