Thursday, June 9th, 2011

How Big is Your To Be Read Pile?

Fallen Stack of BooksMy to-be-read pile fell over.

It’s been threatening to do so for quite some time, but I haven’t heeded the warning. Good thing I don’t tend to stack things taller than myself.

I may have been hurt in the ensuing avalanche.

I’m also lucky that only a little more than half toppled over. The other bits are on a small, sturdy book shelf, with two large baskets (full of books) on top. Those survived the descent into messiness.

What I need to do is go through the pile and determine if there are any that there’s no hope I’ll ever get to …and then give them away.

(Seriously: with so many new books being printed, where will I find the time to catch up on these?)

But it’s so hard to choose which should go: old sci-fi classics with outdated science, but “necessary” for me to read to complete my education? The literary fiction which I know will probably bore me to tears?

(Disclaimer: I have read *some* lit fic I’ve enjoyed, it’s just that with me it’s hit or miss.)

What about all those gift books by well-meaning friends, who don’t have a clue about what I’d actually read if I’d picked it out myself?

Ahh, I see one about angels right on top. I know someone who may enjoy it more than I. I think I’ll pass that one along at the first opportunity.

There are more than a hundred books in this pile. (Yes, there are others stacked up elsewhere. Don’t tell the Husband of Awesome™.)

I suppose I could re-order them by length (rather than haphazardly putting the newest acquisitions on top), and read the shortest ones first. That might weed out several in a fairly short time. Similarly, I could read all the YA first, since they’re usually quick reads for me.

Or, I could toss out all the oldest ones, thinking that if I haven’t gotten to them yet, I probably won’t. But then, how will I know if I’m passing up a good read?

How do you tame your pile when it gets so large that finishing them seems like a monumental task?


Note: The photo above is not the photo of my poor, beleaguered books. Nonetheless, it’s a fairly good representation in both amount and subject matter!

20 comments to How Big is Your To Be Read Pile?

  • Heather

    OMG. I was just considering that same question, Kelly. Here is what I tend to do.

    I read a lot of side books in between the releases of authors I read regularly. I prioritize those further by interest. (I’m still behind on Wicked Lovely series and Vampire Academy!)

    However, if something comes up needing review, that takes priority!

  • Ann A

    I knew I wasn’t the only one out there with “a” pile. Don’t bother sorting, just straighten them. Sometimes I don’t know what I feel like reading. I start by reading the titles along the shelves, piles or whatever. If a single title doesn’t shout at me, I’ll pull three that sound interesting. Then I’ll read a couple pages of each and go with the one that grabs me. And I’m rather strict when it comes to the “read on or give up” question. If I don’t like the person’s style or story after spending time on it, perhaps an hour (I read fast), then I give up. One recent book made me push the limits. I read 100 of 300 pages and still felt like something was missing. I shut the book and it sits in the “headed to the used book store” bag.

    • Hi Ann. Thanks for dropping by.

      I like the idea of trying more than one book to see what I might be in the mood for. I’ll have to give that a shot.

      I’m new to the “give up” idea of book reading. For the longest time I thought that once I started a book, I had to finish it. Now I figure that life’s too short…and there is such a thing as a bad book (or at least, one that doesn’t appeal to me).

      Thanks for the ideas!


  • I have over 150 books (mostly samples) in my “To Read” folder on my Kindle, plus another 20-30 paper books. I pick whatever appeals to me at the moment. If I don’t like the Kindle sample, I delete it. But I don’t think I’ll ever read all of the books on my Kindle–I add them faster than I delete them!

    • Hi Sandra! You bring up another problem I’m grappling with: I’ve got several electronic books stashed for reading, but they’re falling prey to the “out of site, out of mind” syndrome! How do you manage to keep them in the forefront?

  • Sounds to me you have identified 3 related problems: (1) your to-read pile is too big and you’re wondering if you’ll ever make a dent, (2) which books to throw or give away, thus admitting you’ll never read them, and (3) in what order should you read the books?

    As to (1), abandon all hope. You’ll never make a dent. Reach acceptance on this fact and appreciate how much you DO read.

    For problem (2), I’d figure out some kind of book age test. If it’s been sitting there unread, unpicked, for too long–give it away.

    Regarding (3), I like the answers you got already from Heather, Ann A, and Sandra.

    You know, insurance companies do offer flood insurance. Oh, wait, I think they mean WATER floods. Never mind.

    • “Abandon all Hope!”

      Thanks for the giggle, Steve. (Not quite the sentiment I enjoy inviting into my life…but most definitely what I’d like for the characters in my books to consider…)

      I think I’ve thought of another idea: pack up large quantities of the books and bring them to my critique group. Let them read and determine the better books. Accept back any tomes deemed worthy.

      What do you think? 😉

  • When weeding out the TBR, I put the books to two tests. I read the first few pages, then I go randomly go deeper and read a bit. If I’d like to keep reading, then it goes in the keep pile. Gift books might as well be guilt trips. If you didn’t buy it, didn’t ask for it, pay it forward to a place where its wanted. And who has time for literary when there are so many FUN books to read? (grin)

    My visible TBR was reduced to a tidy 20 books by this method. Now my digital TBR, its a much more difficult prospect. Though I did go through it last night and weed out a few (insert glow of virtue here- grin).

    My current rule is that I can’t buy a new book until I read something–though its more of a guideline in practice. (grin)

    • Hi Pauline! Using your method I might be able to get rid of 50 or more books today….if I make the time to sit down and paw through them. Of course, there’s the distinct probability of met getting sidetracked (i.e. sucked into a good book and staying there).

      Hhhm….giving much thought to this method. If I get my writing done, I can reward myself with a visit to the pile, and then it won’t matter if I’m lost for the rest of the day.

      Thanks for the suggestions! (And the absolution to get rid of the gift books!)

  • Hi Kelly,
    Well, I can just share some thoughts from my own process of downsizing my bookshelves, which I have been doing for several years now. Perhaps some of these ideas will work for your to-read pile.

    Try removing all of the books that your ego thinks you should read, but which don’t really interest you.
    Try removing all the books that represent the “old you”–interests you once had but that don’t really resonate with where you are in the present moment.
    Try removing all the books that a friend or family member sent you that you feel you should read, but don’t really feel drawn to.
    Try removing all the books you have picked up more than twice yet never finished.

    You get the idea. When it’s all said and done, if the to-read pile is still humungous, then I would take a look at whether you are allowing yourself all the time you want and need to actually read.

    Lots of juice in this question!

    • Hi Alix! Thank you for dropping by. I appreciate all of your suggestions.

      It’s very difficult for me to give up the books I think I should read, but don’t interest me…but I think I’ll try your suggestion (even if I only pile them somewhere else for a while. Maybe pushing them aside will let me release them later.) I think that’s the impetus I need right now. There are probably quite a few books here that meet that description!

      As to not giving myself enough time to read: is there EVER enough time to read? 😉 The perfect job IMO is sitting on the couch (or at the beach, or on the deck in a lawn chair) and reading all day.

      Here’s to hoping someone hears my plea and offers me this job.

  • I’m big on preventative measures, so I’d like to make a suggestion for the future: Learn when to say “no.”

    If a well meaning friend gives you a book you know you will never read, put it aside to give away instead of in the pile.

    Don’t get a book because you “should” read it. There’s no set reading list for education or success–besides, you’re already a successful writer without having read some of the “shoulds.”

    Be picky about what you review. If you are overwhelmed with review books, then you’re not doing the person any service if their book sits lost in your pile, anyway. If you don’t have time to do a review, you can always interview them to post on your blog so that they still get publicity.

    If it’s a genre you know is hit and miss with you, read a couple of pages and decide before you put it in the pile (or better yet, before you buy it.)

    Good luck with the pile!

    • Hi Karina! Nice to see you here!

      I’m giggling about your learning to say ‘no’ statement. I’m a compulsive book buyer. It’s easier to say ‘no’ to friends and family (whose tastes might not run along the same as mine) than saying ‘no’ to myself! 🙂 I’m one of those people who can walk into a shoe store and walk out with a book. It’s weird how that happens.

      But you’re right: I need to think long and hard about bringing books into the home. I’d actually declared a moratorium on books back in October….which I promptly failed on a week later.

      Looking back, I see that in October I only had 30 books in my TBR pile! How did I gain more than a hundred more in eight months? (Don’t answer that!) 🙂

      I might have to put a little ticker up on my blog to keep me honest about acquiring books…

      Thank you for all the suggestions!

  • yeah, getting lost in a book is always the risk with my method. LOL! When we moved from New Orleans to Houston, I had to reduce not just my books, but a household of stuff. I used to watch those decluttering shows to get tips on how to let go. From them I learned to only keep those things that enhanced my life and to let go of the guilt trip type stuff. If I think I HAVE to keep something, I’ve learned to ask myself, why? I’m getting old enough that “have to” doesn’t work as well as it should and in the end, none of it will go with me. (grin)

    • I’m better about parting with books than I used to be. I’ve gotten rid of several hundred over the last few years. The trouble is, I (apparently) have been buying more than I’m getting rid of!


      Love those decluttering shows! I just can’t be as ruthless about somethings as the hosts are…

  • I can’t really help too much with the personally-acquired TBR pile… I have a pretty good one, myself. I still have stuff I bought in ’09 that I haven’t read!

    What makes it worse is I rarely buy one or two books at a time anymore; I buy the occasional single-book, but typically, I buy a pile at the conventions I attend and that (plus MASSIVE amounts of review copies) tides me through ’til the next time.

    If we’re talking about review copies sent by publishers and authors… well, I have a list of policies you can borrow from at:

    Basically, I don’t promise to review a book; they can either send it or not. And I list what I like.

    I’ve also read somewhere that if you haven’t read a book within six months, you probably never will.

    And your culls might make decent contest giveaway fodder, too!

    • Hi Lincoln. Thanks for stopping by!

      I’m so with you with that can’t buy a single book thing…it’s a disease (just like writing)! 😉

      I do like your review policies message. Having that would definitely make me less pressured to get some of these items off my pile!

      Do you hold contests for books on your blog? I would love to hear about how you structure them.

  • Margery Ritchie

    Kelly, I believe that life is too short to spend time reading books I don’t enjoy (unless of course I have to for an assignment of some sort). If a book fails to ignite interest or arouse sympathy within 20-50 pages, it’s a goner. I’ve cataloged TBR items by genre,title, author, keywords and location (Box #1, Box #2, etc.). The list is on my computer; the books are boxed, list on lid and stashed in my garage. They’re out of prime living space, and I can retrieve a title when I want. If I haven’t read them by some future date, I guess I’ll get rid of them, if I can stand the emotional strain. I too, have told myself NO MORE, but who can resist a good title?

    • Hi Margery! Seriously? I am in AWE!

      I don’t think I could catalog my TBR pile and shove it out of sight! That old ‘out of sight, out of mind’ adage gets me every time. If I can’t fondle the books every once in a while, I’m not sure I’d know what to pick up next! (Of course, this could work well for those lit fic books I keep complaining about…or some of the really old ones on my shelf…)

      Hhm. I’d give it some thought, except the whole cataloging bit scares me a little! If I had that much spare time, I might get to read a few of these books!

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