Random Thoughts: The TBR Pile

Review Stacks

If you’ve been a reviewer for more than half a minute you probably have a TBR – or more specifically a To Be Reviewed – pile that’s similar in size to mine. And yes, I’m not even thinking about the eARCs and eBooks received for review.

When you stack all the books up that are either still to be read and reviewed or just to be reviewed – because you just couldn’t help reading them the second they arrived – it becomes more than a little bit daunting of a task. Especially because you know you just can’t refuse the latest and greatest next book and you actually plan on reading and reviewing some of those eARCs you have sitting on your Kindle, nook, kobo, iPad or computer.

Some of the books may be requests you made which give you all sorts of guilty feels. Many, however, are books that just showed up that you want to read and review or think you might want to someday.

So you’re not quite ready to part with any of them… not until you’ve given them the review you feel they deserve.

And so they sit. And time passes. And more books get added. And a few get taken away. And yet more books get added. Until you find yourself in need of another book tower or bookshelf or plastic bin.

Now, these may not be the only books you want to read and review. They may just be the ones you received for review. Of course there is that other stack of books – the ones you purchased – that are begging for a read and hoping for a review. But unless they are on the tippiest-top of your must read list, they, too, fall by the wayside as your need to read the books from your review stacks takes precedence – for a tour, to beat the book’s release date, to fulfill a promise to an author or publisher, to not be the only person who hasn’t read the hottest title.

Having a TBR pile – or a to be reviewed pile – is not a small thing for a blogger. Most bloggers will say their TBR piles run in the hundreds, if not thousands, of books. And most bloggers will acknowledge the fact that the TBR pile is more a wishful thinking reads pile versus an actual pile to be read. Because, if we’re really being honest with ourselves…



… to us, the definition of TBR (as Epic Reads so kindly defined it) is the one associated with #2 in the above graphic.

Perhaps there are a few of us that don’t mind having books in the hundreds still to be read and reviewed. Perhaps some of us don’t mind missing a release date or not fulfilling a hoped-for ideal of clearing our piles. But most of us do tend to freak out about our to read or to read and review stacks. Especially when they sit there, growing larger every week, taking up… and most likely overtaking… space.

But not enough to prevent us from grabbing that next book.

So how do we get out of this never-ending circle that doesn’t ever seem to tip in our favor? How do we reduce our TBR piles without giving up altogether and just giving those books away or hiding them in closed boxes so we don’t have to stare at the evidence of our guilt?

There are actually a few ways to do this, though most aren’t easy or even realistic, and a few may result in tears and anger. But it can be done.

Here are just a few suggestions…

  • Pass along books you’ve received that don’t quite pique your interest enough to read within a month of receiving them to another blogger who would definitely want to read them. Or invite a guest blogger onto the blog to read and review select titles that you know you won’t get to before their release date.
  • Temporarily or permanently shut down your review request option. If the temptation to say “yes” is too great, don’t put yourself in that position in the first place. Even if you receive unwanted or unsolicited requests, they will be fewer than if you said you were accepting requests for review.
  • Temporarily or permanently ignore emails from publishers with their catalogs attached for your requesting pleasure. It may be tough to resist opening those emails and taking a peek, but if you do view them it’s likely that you’ll be adding at minimum one new book to your TBR pile.
  • Email publisher contacts and ask them to take you off their auto-send lists. If those stacks of books arriving in the mail fill you with more dread than excitement it’s time to make the shift to a request only arrangement.
  • Change your passwords on NetGalley and Edelweiss to auto-generated ones that don’t automatically log you in and hide those passwords for a length of time that will allow you to slim down your eTBR pile.
  • Set a time to stay away from the bookstore – online or brick and mortar. If reading books you’ve purchased makes you feel guilty for not reading those review books, it’s a must… for a short time, at least. If purchasing books you never get the chance to read because of your review pile, then save some money and refrain from making those purchases until you have the time to read them. It’s possible you might end up missing a mid-series cover redesign by holding off.
  • Set a schedule for yourself and get organized. If your read or review pile consists of books older than one year or more, think about adding one or more of those earlier books to your reading pile each week or month. While this won’t reduce the size of your TBR pile, as you’ll still have new books getting added, you will feel less guilty when some of those long-ignored reads finally get read.
  • Admit defeat. Recognize that you won’t get to tackle those older books and give them away to readers who might want to read them. Even if they won’t get a review, you will potentially be introducing someone to a new author or book they’ll fall in love with. And isn’t that the point of blogging?

While I’m sure there are other ways to get those TBR piles reduced – though wishing for a book thief or book fairy to make them disappear isn’t an answer – unless you plan on taking a hiatus from the rest of your life, take a speed-reading class that allows you to read three times as many books as you’re reading now, there really aren’t a ton of ways (aside from just saying “no”) to make those piles smaller.

Just know that you’re not alone. The stress and guilt due to enormous TBR piles are feelings that most, if not all, bloggers live with on a daily basis.

Oh… and yes… regarding those two book towers pictured above: They house almost all of the books I feel I must review. (I have five review books in my living room waiting to be read and reviewed, a bin of signed books – most of which are read – that I’d like to review, and several hundred eBooks and eARCs that are either read and not reviewed or not yet read.) Of course I have over five hundred, and likely closer to seven hundred, eBooks I’ve purchased that I really should read… someday.

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