My Next Reading Experiment: Project TBR

I have a book problem: I have a lot of them. I have a healthy amount of bookcases (one tall 5 shelf plus top, four 3 shelf plus tops), all of them filled, some with multiple rows. Yes, at least one bookcase (a Wayfair bookcase that was trouble when I got it and hasn’t improved any) is buckling under the weight, the joints pulling apart because apparently books and gravity exert their own forces that defy the laws of physics and incur penalties in this reality.

No, wait, I realize this isn’t a problem like “I think my leg is going to fall off, it’s kinda purple and green on one side” or “payday is a week away and my cat needs a liver transplant by Tuesday.” But I do have quite a few books, which in itself isn’t so bad, excepting I haven’t read all of them. I’m not even sure if I’ve read half the books I own. I think I have. Maybe?

I didn’t mean to get myself in this position. Sometimes, especially with ebooks, it’s because I spy a book I want to read on sale. I know I’m going to read it eventually, so I go ahead and buy it when it’s down to a buck or two. Other times, I find myself being a completist and buying the rest of a series I enjoy so that I can just continue reading [side bar: this habit has bitten me badly a few times, and saved me others. Not all book series continue as good as they start.]. There’s a third case, but I’d rather not go there. Let’s just say it ends with me and books. Not helping is learning that if I wait to buy a book, it might not be available any more. Too many of the books I enjoy go out of print, making copies of them harder and harder to find (and more and more expensive, begging the question of whether it’s worth having the physical copy).

Which leads me to my next reading experiment: Project TBR (To Be Read) (my last one was the Penguin Summer, which is still ongoing, never mind the actual season outside). I’ve got it in my mind that I want to tackle this mountain of TBR I’ve accumulated. It’s a rather large pile of books, both physical and virtual. Enough books, in fact, that I think I could have something to read every day without gaps.

The first part of my attack plan is to read two books at once (normal). One book will be from my “classics to read” list, the other a book from my mountain. If a new book comes to my attention, I will put it in a list I’m maintaining, with the idea that at the end of my experiment I will go through the list, re-evaluate what I’ve marked, and make a batch of purchases.

Obstacles? Oh, there’s plenty. The biggest is that I tend to read by mood. It hardly matters if I have a complete book case of unread epic fantasy (I might) if I’m in the mood for something a little more modern and horrific, or if I’m really ready to get a good space opera on. In fact, it is mood that is largely to blame for my TBR being the way it is.

In order to combat that mood issue, I am going to let myself get books from the library (“let myself.” Hah. Hold your mockery for now, please.). Although library books don’t entirely fall under the TBR moniker, they also don’t increase the clutter of books that is my life. I also can’t say no books that are gifted to me at the holidays, can I?

How long will I be trying this? I gave that question a lot of thought, and have decided to start with a three month trial, beginning September 1st (yes, days ago as I write this) and ending December 1st. If I haven’t completely abandoned the experiment and am still able, I will extend another three months to March 1st. At that point my birthday is only a few weeks away, and no amount of self inflicted control will be able to stay me from wanting to get a few books to celebrate.

And yes, I have the TBR to support this attempt for more than six months if I am good about it, have no fear. What about you? Have you ever tried to tackle your TBR? I’m of course assuming that if you’ve read this far, you’re either judging me horribly (fair), or you too suffer from an addiction to good reads.

4 thoughts on “My Next Reading Experiment: Project TBR”

  1. Well, you’ve given me another idea for a post! My TBR tends to be the audio books that I buy, mainly because they take up no physical space. I signed up with Audible in February 2013 and as of this writing, I’ve got 1,090 titles in my library. Given that I’ve read (or listened to) about 500 audio books since February 2013, I’ve got at least 500 in my TBR list. Every now and then when I can’t settle on what to read next, I tell myself, go through the unread audio books in order of purchase and the decision is made for you! In reality what happens is that I go and buy more audio books.

  2. And then just as I finished writing that comment, I came across this at Brain Pickings: Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are More Valuable to Our Lives than Read Ones. The key part in that post for me, and applicable with all of my TBR books (and possibly yours), is this:

    Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there.

    If I think about this for half a minute, I realize that this is precisely what I have done with my library, both physical and digital. I have a lot of unread books on subjects that I want to know more about. It just takes time to get to them.

  3. Not jugding at all and funny enough, I am currently on a TBR-Project as well. This has more somehting to do with the amount of unread books on my shelves. Those books I often come by when I am looking for another one and think to myself: Oh, I didn’t know that I have this one and maybe I should read it … later.
    And you can judge me there, there were several instances in the 2020 (which was my worst reading year, but that is another story) where I bought books that I already own and for examples I ordered to different issues of Orwells “1984” within a week. That made me thinking. By the way, those orders where my “Penguin”-Winter – and it lasted for exactly one book which was “Frankenstein”.
    So my TBR is now, no buying new books until 2022 and reading what is there.

    1. All of this. I am hoping by making my way through some of the pile I’ll feel less guilty next year when I go to put a new book on the shelf and have to move a stack of well intended TBR’s.

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