Weeding your TBR

I started out 2019 with more than 1500 books on my TBR. Now at the start of 2020, I have a whopping 29 books. For many of us that is a horrifying change (unless of course I read them all, but trust me I didn’t). When I decided to realign my values I took a look at my TBR list on Goodreads. Even looking through the first page I found books I hadn’t thought of in years, books I couldn’t remember at all, and books that just sounded bad to me now. This post will list reasons you might want to weed your TBR and a few methods that can help you to do so.

My list had grown from including only books I intended to read in the next year or two to books that other people might like, books I liked five years ago but would never go near now, books that sounded “interesting” but not interesting enough for me to actually go looking for them. Unless a book is interesting enough for me to search it out in a library or buy it from Powell books then it’s not going to be read because the chances of it falling from the sky and into my lap are fairly slim.

Read on for a list of reasons to weed your TBR

You’ve changed as a person

                What you enjoyed reading five years ago when you put that book on your list has probably changed at least a little bit. I had nearly every YA book imaginable on my TBR but at least half of them sound hokey to me now.

Is your TBR more than you can read in a year?

                Even reading 200 books a year my TBR would have taken nearly eight years. And that was if I read only books from my list! If 30 is your usual number for a year then 30-60 is a safe limit, lower if you can handle it.

Remind yourself of the worthy books

                You don’t remember all the books on your TBR. By going through the list you can remind yourself of the books that truly draw you in. I created a “read soon” bookshelf that later became my TBR based only on books that I knew I was willing to search for or buy within the next two months.

You can prioritize better

                It is easier to prioritize 20 books than 50 and the same is true for 200 instead of 500. With 1500 books I always felt bad when I chose to read a book that wasn’t on my list because it felt like I would never make a dent in it. Or I would add a book to my TBR and think “well that just disappeared down the rabbit hole.” My TBR was so big I didn’t even bother consulting it when I looked for a book to read next. It was a slush pile, not a legitimate To Be Read list.

You actually want to read the books now

                If a book has been on there for years that doesn’t have to mean that you aren’t going to read it, but the chances are much higher now that you remember the book exists. So the books I feel a strong interest in surface at the top of the pile and, in my case, become my new TBR.

You realize there are books you want to reread

                If you’re too focused on your TBR pile, especially if you’re using the Want to Read shelf on Goodreads then there’s a chance you’re ignoring all of those wonderful books that deserve a reread. I started a shelf of “read again” so that those books I’ve been ignoring for the last few years can finally be brought to the light again.

I spent hours going through my TBR and laboriously weeding out books that I knew I wouldn’t read or wouldn’t enjoy if I did read them, but at a certain point, I realized if I really wanted to read a book it was going on my “read soon” shelf. Once I had enough on my read soon shelf to last six months I simply deleted every book on my Want to Read and transferred my read soon books to the Want to Read shelf. I plan to keep my TBR weeded and free from unnecessary extras. If I don’t read it in six months, then I’ll either move it to the top or remove it as necessary.

So if you’ve started to lose sight of the books you want to read in favor of a mounting pile of maybes then it just might be time to weed your TBR. You don’t have to do anything so extreme as removing nearly 1500 books, but a quick look through your list couldn’t hurt. Remind yourself of what really draws your eye.

If you want to know some of the ways to start weeding your TBR read on.

There are myriad ways to begin weeding your TBR. I’ve laid out some of the methods myself or others have used. Some of these are contingent upon using Goodreads, but others are not.

By rating

I know some people who weed anything with lower than a 3-star rating. I hadn’t added many books with lower than a 3-star rating so this only helped for a little bit, but for others it’s useful.

By popularity

How many people have rated it or read it? Or when was the last time you heard someone talk about it? I don’t advocate for reading books just because they’re popular, but some amazing books rise to the top because so many people have read them. Also, you may invert this, like Offbeat YA, so that you only read books that are less popular or less rated.  

By added date

Did you add it in the last year or five years ago? Many of the books I added at the very beginning of starting my list are not of interest to me now. The few that were left were immediately moved to the top of my list so that I would read them soon.

By published date

Some readers have specific interests and only want to read something that has been published in the last ten years and others can’t stomach anything written after 2000. It depends on your interests, but for some, the publication date can help narrow it down.

By description

This was the number one method I used. Books that sounded entertaining to me years ago now sound like badly written overdone tripe. I enjoy fluid and lustrous writing with a solid storyline though I can handle a flatter writing style so long as it is good. If the description talks mainly about love triangles or overdone tropes then it was gone for me.

By cover

Some readers skip books with bad covers while others prefer a simpler or even “bad” cover so long as the description is good. For me it really depends. I don’t mind a cover that isn’t fancy, but I dislike covers that are poorly done. For example, a post-apocalyptic book, in which people are running for their lives, shouldn’t have a girl with perfect makeup as the cover.

On the fence

If I was on the fence about whether or not to read a book I would check if it was in my local library or the library that I work in. If not, I would check its price on Powell books and decide if it was worth the cost of buying it. If the answer was no, then it got cut.

I hope these tips helped you decide if it’s time to weed your TBR and, if so, how you’ll do it.

Let me know if you weed your TBR and what your methods are in the comments below

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3 thoughts on “Weeding your TBR

  1. I like to weed out the TBR every now and again, usually several times a year. I first removed books I didn’t have access to (didn’t own, not at eLibrary). You mentioned many of the other things – no longer my thing being a big factor, and I will admit, if the average rating falls below 3.5 stars, I am less likely to keep it, unless it appeals to me in a big way.

    1. That’s really cool that you do it so often. If I had that habit my shelf wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand. From now on I plan to weed it at least every six months. I didn’t realize how much I had changed as a reader until I looked at some of the sillier books on the list. It’s great to know people have similar methods 🙂

  2. First off, sorry I’m so late! I read your post as soon as I got the notification email, but since I knew I would probably write a long-ish comment, I had to wait until I actually HAD time.

    “I started out 2019 with more than 1500 books on my TBR. Now at the start of 2020, I have a whopping 29 books.”
    😲 I mean…congrats! it sounds like you took the task of weeding your TBR list seriously.

    “Also, you may invert this, like Offbeat YA, so that you only read books that are less popular or less rated. ”
    Haha, I was wondering how I could have inspired this post (since you let me know in advance I did). To be honest though, it’s not like I go in search of obscure books on purpose. But I seem to be drawn to less popular ones (whether indie or small-pub), and I did embrace it back when I started blogging (7 years and 5 months ago). Then again, sometimes I do read a book or a series that more people know about (e.g.: Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire). It’s not like I shun popular books on purpose, but most of the time, the blurb does nothing for me, or they’re not in a genre that I like (I rarely read contemporary, and never contemporary romance; I do read some urban fantasy, but never high fantasy; I don’t like the idea of retellings). So, it’s not like I have what you would call a method for choosing my books…except going for the path less beaten (as you said, “If the description talks mainly about love triangles or overdone tropes then it was gone for me”).

    As for ratings, I do have a method: if a book sounds promising, I start by reading a handful of 1-star and 2-star reviews. If they mention a trope I hate or a pet peeve of mine, the book is gone; but sometimes people seem to have reasons for hating a particular book that would be reasons for loving it in my case (e.g.: the Dark Passages duology by Ilsa J. Bick. Many readers seemed to be confused or reject the very things I look for in a book, so I decided to take a chance on it, and it repaid me with two 5-star reads!). Now THIS is a reversal of the usual way of doing things LOL.

    Thank you again for the shout-out! And I’m a little proud to have inspired this post 😉.

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