Thoughtful Thursday: TBR

Stack of booksThe other night I was getting ready to go to bed and was struck by the urge to clean off my bedside table.  By the time I was done, among the five pairs of earrings (that end up on the table because I forget to take them out until I am in bed, and then don’t want to get out of bed to put them away) a tube of cortisone cream from my rather disastrous discovery last month that I am extremely allergic to lavender oil,  five pens (four of them purple, two without lids) and three notebooks for jotting down dissertation ideas as they come to me as I am drifting off to sleep, I found 17 fantasy books, five of which are in some state of being read.  I think that can be classified as my TBR pile.  Of course, that’s only my active TBR pile. I also have two boxes of books my mother and sister have sent to me to read, which I am not counting, and am also not counting the book in my work bag.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsI know I am not the only one to have a TBR pile of largish proportions.  So, dear readers, I call on you to ‘fess up: What’s the state of your TBR pile, and – perhaps more importantly – how do you keep it under control?

Leave a comment on this post and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win Kelly Meding’s Three Days to Dead. (Read about Three Days to Dead on our Kelly Meding page. Read some of her short stories at Suvudu.)

Oh, and Tami Frank wins Midnight’s Daughter, which Kelly has reviewed on our Karen Chance page.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. What is the state of my tbr pile… Well, I was just talking about this this morning. I have the books all laying down on my books shelf so I know I have to read them, with the spines out so I can see the titles. They all haunt me every morning when I get up and every evening when I go to bed. The Shelves are in my bedroom and I see them everytime I go in. I start to get very anxious when I see them because I just can’t wait to read them all! Now if only I could get through my current book I could get through the next one quickly, this current one seems to be slowing me up.

  2. I’ll be honest–my TBR pile is absolutely ridiculous. I’m usually reading more than one book at once, unless one particular one grabs me so insistently that I can’t concentrate on anything else. Right now I’m actively reading three.

    Beyond that, I have 8-10 things that are on my TBR list because of reviewing for FanLit, and so those are kind of priority. Then, I have a whole bunch of other books that I bought on my own or swapped for on or borrowed from friends, that I mean to get around to someday. There are probably about 30-40 books in that category. That’s not even getting into books I want to obtain but haven’t yet. Yikes.

  3. Oh, and the overdue or much-renewed library books…

  4. I’ve been dying to read this. The publicists forgot to send me one and I’ve been in purgatory ever since :)

    My TBR pile is for the first time in a long time completely under control. Shocking, but true :)

  5. Okay, I counted. There are 41 real-live print books in my physical “stack” (mostly nicely shelved, of course). Then there are about 15 that are on my computer in audio form (or in my library). This does not count the many that I consider to be in my TBR stack but that I don’t yet have physical or virtual copies of.

  6. I’m on GoodReads all the time, mostly for the book discussions, but also to keep track of the unread books I own and the ones I need to review. I apparently have 63 books on my TBR pile, all of them either fantasy or SF. I could probably add about 100 that I want to read but don’t own yet, but I’m trying not to buy as many books as usual until I reduce the TBR pile a bit. I’m usually pretty good with this, as long as I don’t go into a bookstore or log on to Amazon.

  7. Oops ya got me. I am out of control. I love used book stores and find one or two books from a series or trilogy, grab them up and then wait to find the missing links to sit down and enjoy the read (some of which we are talking years). I also, of course, must also keep up with the new stuff coming out (which backs up the old TBR stuff even more), So, I have a list in Excel of the books I have (alphabetical by author) so that I don’t re-purchase them on another search. It has gotten so carried away that I have actually taken over a dresser that is full of books, alphabetical by author. Paper backs fit just right.

  8. My TBR is pile just keeps getting bigger and since real life has been getting in the way more than usual lately its not getting any smaller. Therefore the way I get it under control is simply that I don’t LOL.

  9. As soon as I get a book, I add it to my TBR list in Excel. It’s the only way I can keep track for close to 900 books. They go on the book shelf alphabetical by author and everything that doesn’t fit goes in those big rubbermaid containers in my closet. Out of all of those books, I make a pile of the next 7 or so books I want to read and put them on my desk next to the computer, so I can just grab a book when I’m running out the door without paying attention and know it’s something I’m looking forward to.

  10. What’s the state of your TBR pile,


    and – perhaps more importantly – how do you keep it under control?

    Stare at it really hard.

  11. I vaguely remember a TBR “pile.” I think that was 1987. Then it was a TBR shelf, then a TBR bookshelf, and now holds roughly steady at a 4 x 4 3-shelf unit, a 6 x 12 4-shelf unit, the front of two shelves in a recessed shelf area, a growing few on the Kindle, and yes, even a small “pile” on the dresser.

    As for management–the books to be reviewed go on a prominent shelf, after that it’s “each book for itself”–I let them sort it out. Sometimes it gets ugly (those poor novellas don’t stand a chance against those history books). Sometimes I have to sweep up torn scraps of copyright pages, press a few dislocated formulas back into place in the physics books, herd the sensitive poetry books out from under the bed, separate the YA’s (damn teen hormones). Sure, a few go missing (torn to shreds, found a more attentive reader), but it’s the best system I’ve got.

  12. Well I usually get my books and read them immediately. My TBR pile consistsof books I started but was not in the mood to read at that time. Like a collection of Conan stories, the last book of the livership traders trilogy, the first book from the dark tower series, a song for arbon,the prelude to foundation, the second elric book. I intend to read all of them except from the elric one. It may take some time. For example Conan stories are a fun read for summer. There’s nothing better than lying under my umbrella and reading Conan.

  13. I have about two shelves worth of books for my tbr pile. Not to mention all the library books I have and are constantly renewing because I can’t read them fast enough. The only thing that is getting my tbr pile under control is I am banned from buying books until Christmas is over. I tend to buy books that family members already bought for me, oops! :-)) My goal is get my pile down to make room for all the new books from Santa!

  14. I have multiple TBR piles. The oldest ones are on the bottom shelf of the bookcase in my den. Then I have about two piles of newer purchases on the dresser in the guest bedroom. Library books and really new purchases are on the dining room table (these move to the guest bedroom whenever we have company and need to use the dining room). I try to only buy as many new books each month as I read. Unfortunately that doesn’t really work since I love book stores.

  15. yeah, it’s pretty ugly. Most of the books I keep are TBR, I loan out or trade the others on paperbackswap, unless it was something I really liked. I have three large shelves filled and a bunch crammed in horizontally. Not to mention the totes..oh the blessed totes. If they burnt to a crisp would I really ever know what was missing?…probably not.

  16. Bill (aka William), I’ve noticed that no matter how I shelve my textbooks, the social psych books end up all together.

    Tiah, how do you alert your family about what to buy for you? Do you use one of those Amazon wish lists?

  17. I have them all as samples on my Kindle. Much less intimidating than a huge pile of DTBs!
    Me=grinning smugly!

  18. I never have more than a two or three books in a my TBR pile. Most of the time that is just because I have bought the whole series and I have just started the first book.

  19. Ah…I have a child, so I am forced to keep some semblence of order. I have a book shelf entirely devoted to books I’ve received/bought that are TBR, and a whole other shelf of books checked out from the library. PLUS, a Shelfari account for books I hope to read but don’t have in my house at the time….so….I try. :)

  20. Hi ;)
    My TBR pile is overflowing my bookshelf. *glances at it warily*
    I grab a book from it when I can and hastily retreat lest it fall upon me, trapping me beneath its voluminous words.
    Happy Holidays,

  21. I think my TBR pile evolved into a mountain range about 15 years ago. I gave up counting. I just buy them as a hedge against retirement when I’ll actually have time to read them. But I have to buy them now in case they go out of print in the meantime. If I can’t die until I’ve read all my books, I’m gonna live forever. Bookshelves full of books also make good insulation right?

    Actively reading 2 books of short stories, and 3 other books (1 SciFi, 1 mystery and 1 fantasy. 4 books on the I’ll get back to them soon I promise stack, and a few scattered around the house so I have one wherever I sit down for a few minutes.

  22. Oh yeah, and I control it by periodically lending boxes of books to my mother and sister. Now that my daughter is away at school, she gets to temporarily house some of the overflow as well.

  23. Anonymous /

    I suppose I have a system in place: I have unread/unreviewed books on my shelf that are tipped forward a little, which eventually get moved to the TBR pile on my coffee table, which then get moved to the bedside table. Once they’re done, they go back into the bookshelf.

    There are those that need to be read quickly, either because they’re for the site or because they’re library books, and those that I’ve never read before, and those that I just really feel like reading.

    And now of course there are the books that I’ve brought other people for Christmas that I want to read before giving them away. Just to make sure they’re good.

  24. Anonymous /

    Er, that last comment was from me, Rebecca. Not sure why my name didn’t show up. I guess I’m not logged in.

  25. I got two shelves sort of dedicated to shelving TBR books and I keep it in some sort of a queue. My TBR shelf:

    Re-posted your contest at:

    mischivusfairy-inbox12 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  26. My TBR keeps growing as books are released, and my favorite series add a new book. I honestly have not figured out how to control it. I never have enough time to keep up, so I’m hoping to see some good suggestions from others.

  27. Ive done a lot of work to get my TBR pile under control lately and have managed to get it to 1 shelf. It was hard and I had to limit my buying :( but I did it. If I bought a new book from a favorite author or series than the next book I read had to be off the TBR pile was one of the ways I did it. I tried to make it a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio that also worked a couple times but always at least a 1:1. Being a semi-fast reader helped too.

  28. What’s the state of your TBR pile,

    It’s the size of a state, maybe Alaska? Something large, sprawling and covering several times zones

    and – perhaps more importantly – how do you keep it under control?
    I pretend it’s an integral part of my ‘interior design’ concept.

    The joy (or maybe the problem) is that everyone knows I love books. When people sort out their books for any reason they pass them in my direction. I have also inherited books from friends and relatives.
    I have certain collections I will never give up and children’s book in English that I loved and would like my children to read.
    I also have text and reading books I use to teach English.

    To give you some idea of how bad the problem is when I reached 300 counting the yet unread books I own I stopped counting. I wasn’t even half way through.
    In a desperation I recently sign up for Bookmooch – so far I have listed 3 books :0(

  29. I have about 30 books currently in my TBR pile and it keeps getting bigger when i learn about new books and releases dates. Also if im reading a series and they happen to have a book coming out that adds to the pile.Ii have a book buying problem :) I read about 1-2 books a weeks to try and minimize the pile but ever time i look back at it, it seems as i didn’t even make a dent or it has gotten bigger.

  30. I have a TBR shelf that is overflowing with books, a TBR pile by my bed that seems to be expanding even though I don’t remember adding books to it, and a TBR file on my computer for my ebooks…then there’s my TBR list which seems to double every week or two….
    So how do I manage them? Not very well apparently.

  31. My tbr pile is HUGE!! I probably have at least 800-900 books in my possession. (I haven’t tried to count them lately!) My spare bedroom is full of bookcases and sacks of books, like someone said earlier, if I have to read them before I die, I’m going to live a LONG time!!
    I keep my immediate buys close at hand, cause I have to read them first!!

  32. I have always kept up on my to read pile until I started blogging. Now, I have about 30-40 books sitting atop one of my bookshelves and the publisher giveaways/arc keep getting placed at the top of the pile. So at my current reading rate of only 3 per month, I’ll never get through all the ones I’m looking forward to. Arggh.

  33. I have entirely way too many books in my TBR pile… I’ve got several dozen from the library, and that’s not including the 4 bookcases that I have filled and am now starting to double stack. It has gotten so bad, that I’ve been buying my favourite authors books, and I haven’t had a chance to read them because of all of the library books that I am trying to run through. (I also have several boxes of books in storage too…) I’m glad though, that I’m not the only one in this predicament! :)

  34. I didn’t realize that if I posted on this topic I’d be entered into a draw… the only drawback from this is that I actually bought the book in question this past weekend… so there is definitely no need to add my name to the draw! :)

  35. My TBR just keeps growing and growing and growing. And I usually average reading 2-3 books a week. Somehow this isn’t fair.

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