How I’m Managing My TBR in 2023

Over the last year or so, I got into the habit of snapping up physical copies of nearly any book that piqued my interest. And, after joining Bookstagram and getting back into the book blogging community, that was a lot of books. I bought a TBR cart to house the shiny new titles to be read and got a lot of joy from adding them to the shelves.

Except that the shelves got full. prettu quickly. And then there was a stack next to the TBR cart and on top of the TBR cart. I confess I started to feel really overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of unread books hanging out in my home office, a feeling I’ve never experienced before. Books are my happy place. How could they ever be a source of guilt and stress? And yet, the knowledge that I wasn’t reading them at nearly the rate I was bringing them in did start to make me feel guilty.

At the start of the year, I went through the TBR cart and got rid of a good handful of titles that no longer interest me. The books (mostly) fit on the cart now, and I feel so much better having some of the unread titles off to new homes via my Little Free Library and a trip to Half Price Books.

But one cleanout won’t do much if I don’t rethink how I manage my TBR. Otherwise, the room will just keep on filling up with unread books. So, this year I have some very specific goals around how I’ll be managing my TBR. They are…

Read primarily from the TBR cart and my NetGalley shelves

There are so many amazing titles I didn’t get to last year, so I want to spend some time catching up on them. If I can’t find a book I want to read on the TBR cart, that means I need to do another cleanout. I’ll still let myself grab highly anticipated new releases like the latest Emily Henry or Berkley title I didn’t get a ARC for, but I want to focus on the book I already have to start the year.

Use Goodreads to keep track of books I want to read

I stopped using the “Want to Read” feature and would just grab a copy of a book if I wanted to read it, which is silly because I can only read so many books in a year and tastes change over time.

Don’t buy a book if I’m not planning to read it in the next few weeks

This is largely brought about by seeing books I snapped up in hardcover come out in paperback before I’ve gotten around to reading them. I actually prefer paperbacks, and they’re less expensive, so it doesn’t make much sense to spend more for a book to sit around on my TBR cart for a year (looking at you, Matrix).

I’m really hopeful that these goals/rules for myself will help me read through the physical TBR backlog and avoid letting it stack up to the point of overwhelm again. There are so many great books out there, and I want to actually read the ones I’ve brought home! The rest will be waiting for me when I’m ready for them.

I’m curious, book friends–how do you manage your TBR?


19 thoughts on “How I’m Managing My TBR in 2023

  1. I don’t buy a book unless I KNOW I’m going to like it, or I’ve already read it and loved it. Does that sound silly? To some it might, but I love to reread books. I mostly use ARCs or the library to get new-to-me books. I also pretty much only read on my Kindle. I do have physical books, but those are either pretty collector hardcovers, or books I’ve had and loved forever. All our physical books are ones my husband and I adore. If its a book I’m not going to pick up again, I donate it or give it to a friend who wants to read it.

    I wish you luck on your TBR this year!! I highly recommend Project Hail Mary!

    • That definitely makes a lot of sense! I don’t tend to reread books any more, but I like to keep my favorites around. Otherwise they go in the Little Free Library once I’m done with them.

  2. Interesting post! I use a spreadsheet to track my reading including my TBR list. I notice that avid readers do a variety of things to manage their TBR shelf. I buy a very limited number of books for myself – and they will almost always be in digital form if I do. I’m just not a collector of books and rarely re-read a book .

    • The spreadsheet I use doesn’t have an area for TBR, but that’s definitely a good way to track them! Thanks for sharing–so interesting to know what other readers do!

  3. Great post with some really helpful advice.
    I’ve not been managing my TBR very well, either.
    Using the promise of no more new books hasn’t been cutting it! I need to get some new ways of managing the TBR so will let you know if they work.

      • 😂. I don’t think there is any magic solution, unfortunately, (it would make life so much easier if there was. But then, we might feel oppressed if there was only one and someone told us we had to use it.) However, I can certainly relate to the struggle!

  4. Good luck with all these goals. I think not buying a book I don’t plan to read in the near future can be hard. If there’s a really good deal on a book from my wishlist, I don’t know if I could pass it up.

      • Yes. Worrying about ‘perfect’ will almost certainly end up in an inability to follow any rules you come up with, in my experience. But focusing on progress, on the effort to limit them is more likely to be successful, I find. And then I can be proud of myself for any progress I do make, rather than being upset with myself for not ‘measuring up’ if I still have difficulty.

      • Exactly! I’m a perfectionist by nature but I try very hard not to let myself lean in to those tendencies. Progress is more important than perfect!

    • True. But I think it’s valid to make an exception for really good deals for one that’s been on your wishlist for a long time. Or for a high priority one, even if you know you’re not going to read it for a while. I suppose it all depends on what you put on your wishlist (and how exclusive, or stringent your criteria are for putting something on your wishlist). Come to think of it I think I have at least 2 or 3 different wishlists! 😂. The two main ones are “potential buys” and “Library reads”, the difference being which ones I’m pretty sure, or fairly sure are going to be keepers, or at least highly of interest, vs, ones that just look cool, or intriguing, but I’m not sure they’d actually be keepers.

      • Oh, are we counting *those* wishlists too?! Yipes! Well, in that case, I have… about 4 more, or is it 5? TBR lists… Last year someone online suggested making a top 10 list of books that have been on one’s bookshelves for many years, that you want to read in the next year. … I thought I could handle 10, so I ended up making … a few of those, for different categories, different moods. Including a “series I need to finish or reread” one. … And then I found out I was moving, and didn’t have time or energy to read much of anything for a few months… and I’m still playing catch up. …And reading other random things are completely not on any of those lists! 😂. But at least most of them are now ones I own and not library books I don’t!

        oh, and that reminds me, I guess there’s that series of lists of books from that pile of papers of old call #s from when I was in university – many years ago now – that I want to look up at my university library, or actually read from that library, when I get the courage to go back on campus again now that pandemic concerns have relaxed.

        So, ummm…. yeah, well… let’s just say I have very many TBR lists then, in several different categories!! 😂.

  5. I’m terrible at managing my TBR. I read mostly NetGalley books and occasionally read an audiobook from my TBR. Good luck!

  6. Good luck with managing your TBR AmandaKay. I don’t manage mine at all. I have several bookcases full of books even after donating several bags of books to my church’s used booksale. I buy what interests me, but I still use the library, KU and Scribd, so I don’t buy as many as I used to.

  7. I’ve had to resort to an annual (or thereabouts) cull of the books I own to keep them from completely taking over. Unfortunately, for a while there I was discovering that there weren’t many I was willing to cull, and far too many that needed to be read before I could decide if they were keepers or not. One strategy I decided on was making up a bunch of labels for the ones that I wasn’t sure I was going to keep once I read, and then attached them to those books (failing to consider that I’d want to remove the labels for those I wanted to trade at a used bookstore, or even donate to the little free libraries! Next time I’ll definitely buy the removable kind!), and then try to keep those books near the front of the shelves (as I pile some of the shelves three rows deep. Or two if there isn’t as much room).

    I’ve also had to establish certain rules for myself about how many books in a certain genre I’m allowed to have. Such as “only one shelf of this genre” or “I’m not allowed to buy any more of that genre until I read more of the ones I have and get rid of some (with exception for any rare, or series completer of an important title or series). Or “I’m not allowed to buy any more of that author, or that series until I’ve decided if I actually *like* that series, or author.” That one’s an important one!! 😂. And usually a successful one, once I”ve gotten to that point.

    Self discipline regarding books is hard though!!! Having a space you want to keep clean and tidy though helps too, I’ve discovered. Then you’re not as likely to want to clutter up the floor or other flat surfaces!! And at least I’m more likely to be disciplined about “read and get rid of some first before buying or collecting more.”

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