The Project TBR Update

Over a month ago now, I set off on what I called Project TBR – a concerted effort to work my way through my TBR pile while also avoiding adding to it. This is my long overdue status update.

Let me begin by saying I am maintaining the course so far, but it’s tougher than I anticipated. Since the start of the experiment, I have finished five books, had one DNF (just wasn’t the right time to read the book), and currently have three books in progress. That seemed like a lot to me when I saw that stat, until I looked back over the last year on Goodreads and saw that my monthly average is five books.

Here are my observations so far.

The Hard Parts

  • Finding my next read. I thought this would be a lot easier since I working from an established TBR pile. Not even close. When I started, I knew that there are times when nothing in my library hits the right spot and that I would need to refer to the public library to fill that gap. What I didn’t anticipate was that just two months in and I’ve done that three times already.
  • I miss getting books in the mail, and that’s the stupidest part. Day to day, I prefer digital books (my choice of reader? now that’s the source of an entirely different, longer debate). I like being able to pick up my phone and continue a book while Dad Taxi waits on a kid somewhere. I do dishes every night, and I am not the, ah, most careful dish washer. In other words, when I finish dishes, it looks like someone might have thrown water balloons at me. Whatever, it’s how I work and the dishes get done, but more importantly, afterwards I can’t hold paper books without fear of ruining them. There are so many reasons to like and enjoy digital books. AND YET…and yet the sheer joy of getting the mail and finding that a book has arrived is obscenely wonderful. I do read paper books as well, mind, but (complicated answer here).

The Good Parts

  • It’s not all gloomy angst. My original intention was to finally get to books I’ve been meaning to get to, and I am. I finally pushed my way into the Sword of Shannara trilogy. It was tough going at first, and then the hard part was behind me and it was a joy.
  • My TBR pile is finally getting smaller for the first time in years. That feels rather nice.
  • No books being delivered means there’s money staying in my pocket, at least for now. 😉

So where to now?

For now, I’m going to continue. My reads for October are practically mapped out, and that just leaves November to fill in until I reach that midpoint in my original post. After that? I may re-evaluate again.The unfortunate side effect of an experiment like this is that it transforms reading from that pleasurable thing I do to escape, randomly flipping around as my attention drifts, into a chore. There is little room for discovery or exploration because I am by definition limited to what is already on hand.

When I posted about my intentions, Jamie Rubin countered good naturedly with his antilibrary post. Now a month and a half into it, I wonder if Jamie (and Umberto Eco) weren’t right in the first place.

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.