I spent a lot of time thinking about my TBR as we went into 2021 and it got me thinking about all the other ways people might think about their TBRs. So I put together some questions and put a call out on Twitter and asked a few friends as well, and so this post was born.
Below are four questions answered by thirteen different members of the book community; we have some of my closest friends, some amazing book bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers. You’ll find all their links attached to their names in response to question one.
This is already a very long post, so without further ado, let’s get into the questions.
1. How many books do you have on your TBR? And how do you feel about it?
Amber @ Books of Amber: On my physical TBR I currently have around 200 unread books, but those are only the ones I have my own house. I left a lot behind at my grandad’s when I moved out, so I think I have about 200 there too. And my ebook TBR is around 200 too. Thankfully this is quite simple maths, so I’d say my entire TBR is at about 600. I don’t feel too bad about it because I love having such a huge selection of books to read. I’m a mood reader so there’s normally something for every mood I’m in. I feel a bit bad about ignoring my ebooks sometimes, and I need to transfer the books from my grandad’s house to this one, but otherwise I’m not worried.
Angel @ Angel Reads: I don’t know about the exact amount, but it would be over 200. While I’m not exactly happy about it. I have been collecting books for nearly 15 years. Add to that, that I’ve been working in a bookstore for the last 4 years and blogging for nearly 10. It’s not a horrible outcome.
Annemieke @ A Dance With Books: On my physical TBR 289 books. I mean I would like it to be smaller but then I have a total of 754 books on my shelves below and at the end of the day it is still only a portion of it. As long as I still own more read than unread books, I’m good.
Caitlin @ The Lit Review: In a given month, I usually have anywhere from 5-7 books on my immediate TBR. And that usually feels good and manageable. But my owned TBR is massive—around 400? And I feel kinda guilty but I also love having my own library.
Cara @ Wilde Book Garden: My Goodreads TBR is at 1,963 books right now (though my physical TBR is obviously smaller than that!) That Goodreads number is a little higher than I’d like but it doesn’t bother me too much since I do read a lot, and also because I hate forgetting about a book I want to read/look into so I’d rather have a long TBR than have things I’m forgetting!
Czai @ The Blacksheep Reader: I currently have 133 physical books and 53 ebooks on my tbr. Right now I’m generally okay with it. I was overwhelmed before but now I feel secure with them especially with how little I buy last year and still was able to read so much because I have a lot.
Eli @ SeverelyQueerly: 111 apparently… honestly I’m okay with it because I rarely go book shopping, it’s just that when I do I buy a lot.
Hana @ Linh Hermione: I currently have 31 on my physical TBR and I’m not happy with it – I know it’s smaller than lots of people’s in this community, but it’s still more than I’m comfortable with. However, only 13 of those are books I bought for myself; the rest are mostly random hand-me-downs, so I’m only actually *excited* about half of the books on there, which isn’t hugely motivating! I do want to read them all eventually though, and ideally I’d like to get to a point where I only own books I’ve already read, and any new acquisitions are read immediately!
Laura @ Laura’s Adventures in Literature: That depends on how you define TBR. If you mean my Goodreads “to read” shelf, then the answer would be close to 1,000. If you mean audiobooks on my BorrowBox reading list, then it’s about 20 because I deliberately try not to add anything to that list until I’ve listened to most of the audiobooks that were already on there. In terms of physical books that I have on hold at the library, I’ve currently got a lot less than usual (around 5) because I’m in the process of switching libraries. As for physical books that I own and have not yet read, I have… *takes a moment to count* about 30, which are a combination of books I received for Christmas, review copies and books from my last birthday that I haven’t got around to reading yet. I’m usually pretty on top of my physical TBR. If I think about the Goodreads TBR, I feel stressed because there are so many brilliant books in the world, and there’s no way I’ll ever be able to read as many as I’d like! I don’t mind (and actually quite like) the BorrowBox reading list because I can immediately see whether a book is available/how long I’ll have to wait before it will be. Sometimes I feel guilty about my physical TBR, because I know that being able to buy books (and being gifted them) is a privilege that not everyone is granted. I try to treasure my books accordingly. I have strong positive feelings about my library TBR because I know that I am supporting the authors while at the same time making a sustainable choice both financially and for the planet. I LOVE library books so much!!
Martha @ An Unwritten Life: Currently 1406 books. It’s overwhelming! I feel like I probably won’t actually ever manage to read all of them, because the list seems to be constantly growing!
Mel @ A Book Fiend Named Mel: I have 145 books on my physical TBR and 16 on my digital TBR. I’m actually surprised, I didn’t realise I had so many physical books on my TBR.
Michael @ wtb_Michael: If you mean physical books that I have piled up to read, it’s currently at about 10. I don’t love it – I’ve always been pretty good at only accumulating books as I want to read them, I’ve never much gone in for buying big piles of things I might want to read one day, so most of the time my TBR would be 2-3 library books or similar.
Riemmelth @ riemreads: So I used to keep track of unread books I owned on my “want-to-read” shelf on Goodreads and that has 145 books right now. But I have not updated that in a while so I would say I have at least 160 unread books if not more. And I think this used to stress me out more than it does now. I feel kind of sad for all those books I once promised to love, but other than that I am fine with it. I look at my unread books regularly and do donate any I think I will never read. So I still feel some kind of joy for each of my current unread books.
2. Do you track what’s on your TBR? Goodreads/other reading sites, spreadsheets, bullet journals etc.
Amber: Yes! I didn’t used to but recently I’ve started using a spreadsheet and also an app that scans the barcodes of my books and adds them to a list. The spreadsheet hasn’t been utilised much so far but I’m sure it will be in the future. My Want to Read shelf on Goodreads isn’t really my TBR, that’s more for every book that takes my fancy.
Angel: I really should, but no. I keep a track of all the books that I own, but that is for both books I’ve read and my TBR. I hope that this year, I can keep track of the books that I do buy though. So that is something.
Annemieke: I used to be more consistent with tracking what I bought and what I read of it or putting it into Goodreads but 2020 wasn’t really a good year for that. Almost all my books are downstairs so I can’t really forget about any of them either. They are always in my line of sight. I do put seasonal and monthly TBR’s in my bullet journal. And I want to see if I want to make a spreadsheet of all my owned books.
Caitlin: Yes! I’ve been using Goodreads for years but have been playing around with Storygraph a bit too. The last two years I’ve also used Ali’s spreadsheet from The Hardback Hoarder and am so in love with that set up. I also use my bullet journal. Anywhere I can track it, I do!
Cara: Mostly on Goodreads. Also two years ago I started doing a physical TBR tracker for the books I hauled vs. read and/or unhauled so I can better keep track of how my physical TBR is changing.
Czai: I mainly track them on goodreads but started tracking them through a spreadsheet last year. It really helped me see them better especially with all the details I add.
Eli: Nah, my shelves are my TBR. I only track what I’ve read on Goodreads.
Hana: None of the physical books I own are on my Goodreads TBR, but I do have a tab on my reading spreadsheet to track it (which also gives me much more control over what kind of information I want to keep track of!)
Laura: I have two main ways that I track my TBR. I have the basic “to read” shelf on Goodreads, as well as two customized shelves: ‘Australian work’ and ‘Disability and mental health rep.’ I try to read the books on those two shelves first, because those are the areas about which I am most passionate. The other way I track my TBR, which I’ve just started in 2021 and really like is with the ‘Notes’ app on my phone. I enjoy ticking a book off the list after I’ve read it. However, if I feel my TBR is getting too big/stressful, then I will handwrite a list and keep it on my desk or somewhere I can see it. Writing it out somehow makes it feel less daunting.
Martha: I track it through Goodreads.
Mel: I do, I use Goodreads, the cawpile rating spreadsheet and a reading journal.
Michael: No, I don’t have a list of keep any kind of record of my TBR. I keep a vague list of things I want to read one day, but not of books that I own but haven’t read yet.
Riemmelth: Yes, as said above I used to do it on Goodreads, but this is a great reminder that I should update it sometime soon.
3. Did your TBR increase/decrease during 2020?
Amber: I think it increased, but only slightly? I didn’t buy too many books myself, but I did get quite a lot of ebooks from publishers.
Angel: It decreased for sure. For a number of factors, we were in lockdown for a good part of the year and that means 1. I wasn’t at work so I couldn’t buy anything. And 2. I tried to limit what I bought to what I really wanted to read. I also did a massive cleanout of my books in 2020 and was able unhaul a few hundred books.
Annemieke: I apparently didn’t note down what my number was in 2020 but I’m fairly sure that my physical TBR did increase throughout the year. I think I was around 250 at the start of 2020 if my memory serves me well.
Caitlin: I’m constantly addicted to my TBR with books that sound interesting but my actual purchases went down last year because of LitLand. So I’d say I either maintained or lessened my TBR in 2020.
Cara: Definitely increased! Part of that is that I was pre-ordering more books than normal in an effort to support authors. (And stress shopping may have played a part as well!)
Czai: Decreased. 2020 is that one rare year where I read more than I bought.
Eli: Yesss because I bought 50 secondhand books for cheap so that didn’t help, otherwise not really, only a few from bday gifts and vouchers.
Hana: I read 19 books from it in 2020, but because of some new additions it only decreased by 11 overall, which is… fewer than I was aiming for, especially given how much I read total in 2020! (>170 books)
Laura: My TBR definitely decreased during 2020 as I was able to get so much reading done! My library did home delivery, and I had several boxes of books delivered. It was my favourite part of 2020, if such a thing could exist!
Martha: It definitely increased during 2020. I didn’t spend very much time reading that year.
Mel: It did, although more in December and January rather than in the middle of Tasmania’s lockdown.
Michael: Increased. I bought a lot more books than usual during lockdown in Melbourne and did a bunch of book swaps with local pals, so I had a huge pile for a while. Have worked it back down over summer and am reeling back my spending until I get on top of it again.
Riemmelth: Increase for sure. Not because I bought many more books (I put myself on a book budget in 2020, best decision ever), but because life happened and I had very little time to read in 2020. Hope to start reading more again at the end of 2021.
4. Do you have any TBR related goals for 2021?
Amber: Yes! I’ve challenged myself to reduce my TBR by at least three books a month. That doesn’t seem like much, and I guess it’s not, but I wanted to leave space for new books too! I struggle with balancing reading my backlist and promoting new books a lot. So my TBR challenge in 2021 where I read three books before buying another one should help with that. I’ve also decided to read those books that fit into a set theme every month, so in January I chose three short books, in February I chose three books with white covers. Finishing some series would be good too, but I’m terrible at doing that.
Angel: I really want to not buy more books that I read. Meaning I also keep my tbr down and not increase it a whole lot. I also want to go through my shelves every few months and remove books that I know that I won’t read.
Annemieke: My goals for 2020 aren’t really TBR related. However, I do like to fill in prompts like reading challenges with books I already own as much as I can.
Caitlin: Yep! I’m hoping to read 110 books. And I’d like to read through my graphic novel collection. I also want to increase the diversity of my reads in a lot of different ways.
Cara: Yes! I really want to focus on getting my physical TBR down and I’m thinking of trying a new tracking method to help with that.
Czai: Yes, one of my yearly reading goals is to read books I bought the year/s before.
Eli: I definitely want to complete the series’ I’ve started. Other than that, just try to mainly read what I already own.
Hana: I don’t have a specific number goal or anything, but I do want to get it down! 3 books a month would more than clear it all, but I’m not going to hold myself strictly to that!
Laura: Hmmm…I like this question because it’s not one I’ve thought about a lot yet. I think my main goal is to keep my TBR manageable and not let it get any bigger than it is currently. I make my way through the TBR in order of priority. E.g. if a library book is due back soon, that will take precedence, or I’ve been sent an ARC and the review is due, I’ll read that one first. No other goals that I can think of right now, but you’ve given me something to consider!
Martha: I’d like to comb through the list and dig out some of the books I added years ago and have since forgotten. I’d really love to knock a hundred titles off the list, but we’ll see!
Mel: Just try to read more of my physical unread books.
Michael: Just to get things back to where they used to be – I don’t see any point in accumulating books for the sake of it, so I don’t want to have this pile by my bed growing all the time.
Riemmelth: I had not actually thought about TBR goals as I still have very little time to read. I put my Goodreads goal on 5 for this year, so that says enough I think. I chose 5 because there are 5 books coming out that I think I will read for sure, busy or not. Other than that I have no expectations or goals I want to achieve. (Would love to start looking more at my TBR again towards the end of 2021 though.)
Well, you made it to the end! You might have noticed that I didn’t include any answers of my own, but I have something else planned for that so stay tuned. But as for this one, I want to personally thank; Amber, Caitlin, Czai, Eli, Hana, Laura, Martha, Mel, Michael and Riemmelth for taking the time to join in! And an extra special thanks to both Cara and Annemieke for helping me get the word out—I would not have gotten half of the responses I did without you two! And of course, thanks to Angel for pushing me to do the post and for listening to me stress about it.
And now it’s onto you, let me know your answers to these questions down below!