Monday Musings: To TBR or Not to TBR

That is the question!

Welcome to Monday Musings, a series where I review books that I read pre-end of 2017, when I started writing wrap-ups, talk about characters or topics that aren’t as relevant, or sometimes a surprise non-bookish thing. This week, we’re chatting about something I see literally every day–people making TBRs for the season, people bemoaning that they didn’t follow their TBRs, people saying to hell with TBRs because they’re a mood reader. If you’re in the book community, you definitely have an opinion on whether or not to set yourself a TBR and why, so here we are.


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I feel personally attacked.

We’ve all been here. We see a bunch of shiny new releases, and we buy them all, completely neglecting the pile of shiny new releases we just got a few months ago, and then all of those shiny new releases combined collect dust because we’re too busy with more shiny new releases that we’ll also not read for a minute.

Or a year, whatever.

This was me. For a very long time. I was infamous for buying a bunch of books, being just about the happiest person on the planet while I was doing it, and then thumping them down onto my bookshelf so that they could never see the light of day again. However, most readers will eventually get around to those. Slowly, yeah, but eventually. Me? Nah. I literally spent years buying books and rereading Harry Potter instead. I’m not joking even a little bit. It was awful.

So, 2016 rolls around, I’ve been out of college for two years, and despite being so damn excited that being out of college meant I could read ALL THE THINGS, I was reading approximately none of the things. I decided that I needed to change.

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Circa December 2016, I bought a big ole stack of YA books, the first YA books I’d bought outside of Maggie Stiefvater EVER, I took a picture of the stack and added it to my favorites on my phone so it was easily accessible, and then I made myself reference that picture anytime I was wondering what I wanted to read next.

And something amazing happened.

I started reading books.

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Oh my god, that was so dramatic, #sorrynotsorry.

I used this process for a good long while. I didn’t hop into the book blogging community until the end of 2017, so it was a solid year of just using those pictures as my guide. But when 2018 rolled around, I was ready for some more change. I started writing down a physical list of all the books I’d bought, and 2018 was the first year that I challenged myself to read everything I’d bought in 2017 before the end of 2018. It wasn’t that hard considering I’d gotten a grand total of 20 books or something, but it was the start of something great.

I started noticing that other people set themselves TBRs, and while I kind of half-assed tried it for a little bit, I was never really concerned with keeping to it. I’d read just under 100 books in 2017, and so I was setting my goal at 100 for 2018, and I thought it’d be a breeze. No big. I got this.

About halfway through the year, I was way behind. Like, starting to stress myself out. I had books from 2017 still leftover. I had a lot of books purchased in 2018. I was actually a little overwhelmed. About books!

Enter Rory Gilmore.

Duh, of course I’m a Gilmore Girls fan. Duh, of course I rewatched the entire show before the Revival came out. Duh, of course I relate to Rory’s reading on a very personal level.

But this scene? This scene gets me, man.

Because this was me. I would take four or five books on vacation with me, but I also wouldn’t read any. I would bring multiple books anytime I went anywhere, and yet, I wouldn’t read them. Okay, I thought. If I set a TBR each month and make myself stick to it, that’ll help. But I need something more, too.

I reorganized my bookshelves so that the top two shelves were everything I’d purchased or been gifted since the end of 2017, when I started book blogging, and this has been a game changer.

For my monthly TBR, I only set myself 5 books. Anymore would just be nuts because I am also a mood reader, and I do like to randomly pick up something, which is where the TBR shelf comes in handy. It’s all right there. No looking at pictures, no checking lists, it’s just right there in front of me, everything I already own that I should be reading.

But truthfully, making my monthly TBR mandatory has been the biggest help. I follow it almost every single month, and just looking at stats, I’m currently at 96 books read this year, which is way higher than I’ve ever been. I have a goal of 150, and I promise I’m going to exceed that. And at the end of the year, will I have anything leftover from 2018? Nah, bro. I got this. Because having a schedule works for me, and if I get behind on that schedule, well, I have to catch up, and that just incites me to stay on track.

Setting a TBR has helped me read more and efficiently, which wasn’t really something I realized that I wanted or needed, but it’s allowed me to access so many books that I never would have been able to before because now I have the time for it! No time to read all the books? My friends, I have ALL the time now! By setting a schedule, I’ve figured out the most efficient way for me to read, and now, I am buzzing through my TBR shelf and onto all the shiny new releases.

Really, there’s no answer to the age old question of To TBR or Not to TBR. It’s completely up to what works for you. For me, I buy a lot of books in the year, and I needed to find a way to efficiently get through those books. I also preorder a heck ton of books every year, and I needed to find a way to make sure I was reading those on time while still keeping up with what I already owned. Setting a TBR has been a game changer with me. Maybe it’s a good idea for you to try, too. Or maybe not. In the end, it’s just books, guys. There’s no right or wrong way to read them.

And that was how I stayed up all night rereading my favorite book. Whoops!

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Mary RYT 200 Tibetan Buddhism Gryffindor Part-time witch, full-time novelist. Lover of words, planets, dragons, and mountains.

2 thoughts on “Monday Musings: To TBR or Not to TBR

  1. This is quite the journey! I was definitely in the same boat for a while – reading Harry Potter over and over while ignoring the books I kept buying. Luckily, that’s not the case anymore! I really like your strategy of mandatory TBRs. It sounds like a great way to keep yourself on track and get through the books you actually meant to read! I tend to give myself a handful of books that I MUST read in a month, while leaving space open if something else pops up that I want to read as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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