At last count (this morning, after struggling to find shelf space for the various bookish goodies I’d accumulated over the holiday season), I have a TBR (consisting of four shelves, one dented box, and three lopsided piles) that, in its entirety, amounts to 269 books. Now, I could sit here and tell you, hand to my heart, that I don’t have a problem—after all, it’s not my fault that there are so many great books out there, and it’s not my fault that so many advantageous sales just happen all the time, and it’s not my fault that I stockpile comics the way a squirrel stockpiles nuts for the winter. But if I did that, I’d totally be lying, and we all know it, so what’s the point?
I don’t even know how this happened, to tell you the truth. I regularly donate books that aren’t my thing (and there are plenty), I’m vigilant about waiting for sales (40% or bust), I use my Kindle, its smartphone app, and ComiXology when I want to try out something that’s brand new and looks interesting. I absolutely love my books—but if I don’t find some way to whittle down my TBR, a problem that’s a bit of an eyebrow-raiser right now will eventually become unmanageable.
Luckily, I do have some idea of how I got here (maybe?), and if you’re also looking for ways to cull your shelves (or your boxes or your stacks or your tabletops or whatever), maybe this will help you, too:
I don’t know why this is something I insist on telling myself every time there’s a series that I want to check out. I can only remember binge-reading one trilogy in the last three years, Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian’s Burn For Burn books, and by the last one, I was burnt out and frustrated because I’d devoured the first two, and the third one was an absolute devolution of everything I’d come to love about the series. I should have learned my lesson then, but no. There are some series I bought and started, but others, like Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy, Michelle Hodkin’s Mara Dyer trilogy, and several massive omnibi, haven’t even been looked at. I did this again literally two weeks ago with Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series, which I love so far, but I went directly from book one to book two, and I’m reading two other novels as well. Realistically, I could have put off purchasing books three and four until I was ready to read them, but they’re part of the TBR tower now, so they’re staying. Will I get to them anytime soon? Who knows. New mantra: I do not (and should not) buy an entire series at once, because I will not read it faster.
In college, I was too busy to read for enjoyment. But after every exam I took, I’d treat myself to a fluffy, uncomplicated read to uncramp my brain. That’s how I discovered Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series. I managed to read the first four books in the thirteen-book series before real life called me away again. I sat down to reread recently, and found they weren’t exactly as wonderful as I remembered them. Luckily, I didn’t buy all 13 books (just the first six), but now I’m wondering if I have it in me to power through the whole thing, when revisiting the first two felt like such a disappointment. I should probably get rid of these books; some other frazzled student out there will appreciate them.
I don’t even know how many unread books are on my Kindle. What I do know is I have far less impulse control with buying books digitally than physically. I should probably make a list of the books I know I want this year, make a few exceptions (like, a five unplanned books rule?), and refuse everything else.
If I were to divide all my TBR books by from Book Outlet and not from Book Outlet, probably a quarter of my unread stuff would fall in the first category. Book Outlet has unbeatable pricing and crazy bargains all the time, and because of that I pretend it doesn’t exist, with the exception of only three or four purchases a year. But each time, I’m buying upwards of 10 books. I don’t actually need that many. No one needs that many. Book Outlet may be the worst thing for my TBR tower. I’m not saying I’m straight-up banning Book Outlet from my life, I’m just saying that until I make it through the last box of books from them, maybe I should cool my jets.
I fully intend to storm my TBR tower and turn it into a reasonable pile by the end of the year. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but out with the old, in with the new. I’m kidding. I don’t need any more books. Right? (Why am I like this?)