Friday, January 20, 2012

How Do You Handle Your TBR?

Hardly a week goes by where I don't hear someone mention their TBR stack (pile, shelf, tower, whatever) – be it physical or virtual – and bemoan the fact that there’s never enough time to read everything.
courtesy of nkzs at
So let’s talk about our TBRs (that’s what I’m going to call them for the rest of this post).

Over on my group blog, Inkwell Inspirations, Debra E. Marvin once mentioned she was thinking about re-creating Stonehenge with her stack of books. I laughed at the image, but in all seriousness most of us do have enough books that we really could build something out of them. I know I’m happily guilty of the very same thing.

So I was wondering… how do you manage your TBR? Do you organize your books alphabetically, by author, by date of purchase, by genre, or in order of what you think you want to read next?

For my physical TBR, I don’t have an organized system. I have little stacks in the bedroom and computer room, a box in the garage, and some on a shelf in the hall closet. They aren’t in any particular order. Neither are my NOOK books. However, on the NOOK there’s a front page where you can organize the books you want to read by cover for easy access. I love, love, love this feature! I always put the newest most exciting ones there, but if I get a new book that I think I’ll want to read before that one, say a Julie Klassen or Vicki Hinze, I’ll just bump a few back into the NOOK “library”.

I do tend to read by genre first. Inspirational suspense is almost always what I’ll read first, followed by favorite authors, unless there is something so gripping that it has to wend its way up to the top. Like Dina Sleiman’s Dance of the Dandelion or Lisa Bergren’s new YA time travel inspirationals.

I know people who keep lists of every book they’re read, and every book they buy, so they can cross them off and make sure they don’t read them again. I can’t operate that way. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I just don’t have time to be that organized. I work hard enough being organized at my job, I can’t handle it in my reading life since that’s where I go to relax.

courtesy of nkzs at
For those of you who have a Kindle, NOOK, or other reading device (or even those who read on the computer) do you have a virtual TBR as well as a physical one? I do have to say my physical one has shrunk somewhat since I bought the NOOK, but I think it’s always good to have a physical book on hand just in case the battery runs low on the NOOK due to excessive all-night reading sessions. If any of you have ever found yourself without a book to read, you know exactly what I mean.

My next question is the biggie. How many books do you currently have in your TBR? Anyone care to share? Go ahead, go and count. I’ll wait. I’ll share mine, too. It did take me a while to count. Oh, and before you ask, YES you can count your research books but let’s put them in their own category. I think they’re fair game because most of us get as much enjoyment out of doing research as we do reading fiction.

So here’s my list:
  • Virtual: 151 (NOOK)
  • Physical: 38 (all I can say is WOW! When compared to the NOOK, I can see I've really depleted my paper TBR since buying it. It's better for my allergies, I suppose.)
  • Research: 44 (Okay, I know I have many more somewhere, but I'm not digging through dusty boxes in the garage to count them. And chances are, since they're out there, I may not ever use them again. But still...I have to hang on to them. Just in case...)
Wow. I have a lot of reading ahead of me, but I have five more months of heavy-duty schoolwork ahead with little time to read, so I know before I’m finished with school my list will have grown some more.
courtesy of cafe-ole a
So why, when we have these huge stacks of books do we continue to buy more? I’ll go out on a limb and say for me I think it’s a little bit of an OCD thing. I’m constantly searching for new books by xyz author because even though I know her next book isn’t coming out for a month or two, I want to make sure it doesn’t sneak out early. There was a time when I’d snatch the books up because if you didn’t buy as soon as they became available, they would be gone. That changed with the advent of Amazon, and you can get most any book now, even if it’s out of print. And then there’re the e-versions. If a book comes out electronically, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll be able to buy it when you’re ready to read it. But it’s hard for me to change that habit of constantly searching. Again, probably the OCD thing.

I’ve asked a lot of questions here, and I hope you’ll give me an answer or two: How do you organize your TBR? Is it virtual or physical or do you combine the best of both worlds? How do you choose what you’re going to read, and how many books are in your TBR?


  1. Hi Suzie!
    Oh boy... I get about 6 books a month to review and I TRY to read them all but... Life often gets in the way!
    I have my "must reads" in random boxes that lie around the house- my family is mostly understanding! Sorry for being no help at all!!!

  2. Cheryl! Hi! I've missed you. You probably snowed under all those books and couldn't get out to say hello. ;-)

    I remember when I used to review regularly - at least 6 books per month, sometimes more. That's all I did. lol!

  3. I have about 139 physical TBR and 118 on Kindle. I've had a Kindle for four years, almost since they came out, but I still have fewer TBR on my Kindle because I tend to actually READ the books I buy for it. The physical books, on the other hand, are mostly ones I already owned pre-Kindle that have been languishing ever since! I've recently started working more on trying to diminish the physical pile. I'm tired of guests plucking a book off my shelf, asking "How is this?" and me having to say I haven't read it.

  4. Ah, Kristin, I can sympathize with you on that physical pile. I had to force myself to put down the Nook and read a physical book so I could wean down the physical pile - with the exception of reserach books, of course.

  5. University list- Probably about 25 but thankfully I dont have to read 'em right through.

    Kindle- about 15.

    Phyisical- Frankly I've lost count. Probably about 2/3 of my bookshelf. Some will never be read cover to cover because those are the 'Hardcore' history books, which' frankly are not designed for it.

  6. Thanks for stopping by, medievalgirl. I'm trying not to be jealous of all of those history books. I love research books. As much as I love my Nook, I do think something about those books would be lost if we tried to read them on an e-reader.

  7. Surpringly some are going onto Kindle, but many many others never will. I have an aversion to the idea of a textbook or such on an e-reader, but that was before I started Kindle highlighting with impunity.

    That said, some do not convert well, and the format is almost unreadable on Kindle so certainly something is lost. I miss page numbers.

  8. As to the history books I would say only about a quarter are the real 'Hardcore' ones, and a lot of them are either so dull or hardgoing that they literally cannot be read right through. I do love me history books though.

  9. I have a hard time highlighting on my Nook. It's the operator, not the device. I did try to have a textbook on there for one of my classes, but I couldn't see the maps very well and it frustrated me.

    I agree about the hardcore history books. I can't sit and read them straight through. I use them when I'm looking for a particular subject and usually just read what's pertaining to that subject. Although, I do tend to get sidetracked and follow bunny trails.

  10. Oh, I meant to add... following those bunny trails is one of the things I love about history and research because you never know where it's going to take you.