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Is your TBR a blessing or a curse? Let's discuss!

My love for Book Riot knows no bounds. Truly, I adore their varied opinions on all things books and they frequently challenge my thinking or introduce new books, ideas, and all sorts of wonderful things into my life.

Last week, Book Riot re-posted an article from January that I must have missed. The article is called "Throw Away Your TBR List: A Radical Reading (un)Plan."

My initial reaction was this.

But then I read the article and it gave me pause. I pondered. I thought. And then I realized I absolutely needed to discuss this with other readers and hear your thoughts!

Here's some highlights from the article.
"We remind ourselves that there are no “shoulds” in the reading life, that there are myriad reasons for reading, and that we can read whatever we want, whenever we want, for whatever reason floats our bookish boats. We are not beholden to the list of hundreds or thousands of want-to-read titles we’ve been tracking for years. We are not the same people we were when we began those lists, and it is not only okay but actually good for us to do some culling."

"If your TBR list has become a source of stress, get rid of it. If that pile of unread books in your home gives you guilt rather than anticipatory pleasure, spread those suckers out on the floor and yank out the ones you’re no longer interested in. If you really wanted to read that book you’ve had sitting around for a decade, you’d have done it by now. So what that you spent fifteen bucks on it back in the day? Donate it to a shelter or charity, and give yourself the gift of reading freedom."

"Go into each new book-choosing moment with an idea of what you want, and then pick up the book that feels right in the moment. Selecting books should be pleasurable. It should be exciting. It should promise you the thrill of discovery. It should not be about ticking boxes and satisfying arbitrary, self-imposed requirements. Goals for reading are good, and being mindful of the ways you’d like to expand your reading life is good. Forcing yourself to read books simply because you at some point in the past added them to a list is, well, kind of pointless."

"When you kiss your TBR list goodbye, you make room for serendipity. For that magical feeling of getting the right book at the right time. Miraculously, there’s no such thing anymore as, “I can’t read X until I finish Y.” You learn that giving away a book isn’t a waste, it’s an investment in your reading happiness and a step toward maximizing serendipity."

"Remember that your reading life is yours. Read what you want when you want to. Buck the pressure, fuck the haters, and make room for the magic."

So now I'm tempted to just that. To delete my To-Read list and just let the mood move me. To give up my TBR list altogether and read what I want, when I want, with no shits given.

But there is a part of me that just trembles at that thought! So I do what I always do when I can't make a decision. First, I talk it out. Second, I make a pro/con list.

Why I love having a TBR
- There is no way my brain can possibly keep track of all the books I want to read all the time. I am deathly afraid that great books will slip through my hands because I didn't remember I wanted to read it!
- It makes it easier to ask for advice on what to read next. Particularly with Gaby (my Epic Recs partner) since we use each other's Goodreads to know what's on our TBRs and make solid recommendations.
- I just really, really like being organized. Lists are my happy place.
- It stretches me and challenges me to read different genres and discover hidden gems.

Why I hate having a TBR
- I feel guilty when I don't read ARCs by their release date because I'm reading already published books.
- I feel guilty pushing already published books down my to-read pile because I have ARCs sitting there and I know that I am so, so lucky to have the chance to read ARCs so I try not to squander that opportunity.
- Sometimes I read books because I "should" not because I want to.
- I'm pulled in too many directions. Do I read something out of obligation or desire? How do I balance ARCs and published works? HOW?!

So. Let's discuss. 
Would you ever consider deleting your To-Read list?
Why do you keep a TBR list?
If you do NOT keep a TBR list, does it really free you up as much as this article suggests?
If you keep a TBR, how do you avoid the stress/anxiety that comes along with it? 

Lisa is a gamer, crafter, fangirl, mother, wife and unabashed nerd who is pretty ridiculous and it's best you know that up front. When she's not binge watching Netflix or crafting into the wee hours of the night, you can find her spending a lot of her time on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. "Deleting" my TBR would involve more effort than it's worth as they are mostly physical books in my home. I need the TBR list to know what I own sometimes ;) I don't think you should be beholden to it though. I have enough on mine that choosing can be serendipitous. Time is finite, so getting rid of a book after a certain amount of time of not reading it is almost like giving yourself deadlines too. So what if that copy of To Kill a Mockingbird is 5 years old? I intend to read it one day, when I'm in the mood for it. I guess if you've moved to ebooks, it's easier to just buy what you feel like at the time, but I love my rambling library of unread books.

    I get a bit stressed that there's more books in the world that I want to read than I can get through in a lifetime. Getting rid of my books or a digital list, isn't going to change that! :D

    1. Ah okay, see my TBR is just books I want to read that I don't own. I have a separate spreadsheet for my library. :)

      I'm so with you on that last statement. How will I ever read all the books? I WON'T.

  2. I think that there's an excellent message in there. I LIKE where this person went with their ideas because YES, it is fucking exhausting having to read what I "think I should" read instead of what I actually want to. Hell, it's one of the reasons I was burnt out for six months only to start a new blog where I read what I want. HOWEVER. Like you, I'm a list-maker. Love the lists and the organization. I think the balance is knowing when to ignore the list and when to use it. To realize you don't have to STICK to the list because that's rigid and constricting and no fun. TBR lists should be the jumping off point, an idea of where we want to go and HOW we COULD get there but we can also make room for deviations and detours. Discovering detours and hidden roads are the best part of looking at a map after all.

    1. List makers, unite!

      You make a great point about the rigidity of lists. We are responsible for how closely we stick to those or not. Using the TBR as a jumping off point sounds fun!

  3. I quite like my TBR pile. It lives in an IKEA trolley (mostly) and it's my little present to myself when I finish one book and need the next. Plus it's a lot closer than my local book shop ;)

  4. I hear you! There's definitely the self-imposed stress of what we "should" be reading. And I appreciate the freedom to choose a book at random. But the idea of deleting my TBR list outright actually causes me major anxiety! I'm like you, the list maker. I like to be organized. And I wouldn't want to miss out on books either!

    But sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the options--especially with all the unread books on my bookshelf! So I made a TBR jar to help with this. For me, it adds some much needed spontaneity to my reading. And there's also this excitement factor when pulling a book at random. Because they're all books I want to read, so it's like, "Oh, okay. That one. Cool."

    I've also seen people mention that they'll intentionally decide once or so a month to pull a completely random book from their public library. Just wander the stacks and pick something completely based on the cover and blurb--no TBR list required. So that's another possibility too! I haven't done it myself yet, but it sounds like it could shake things up a bit!

    Good luck!!

    1. I'm definitely keeping a list of the books I own that I need to read, but I just don't know about the Goodreads To-Read list anymore, you know? Maybe I should trust in my noggin that if I want to read it, I will remember it exists.

      LOVE the idea of a TBR jar! I've seen that around and I really want to give it a whirl! So fun. I've totally done the random book at the library before - it rules!

  5. I have a TBR list, but I don't really pick my books according to that list. I'm a mood reader and I know that, if I force myself to read a book, I will dislike it if I don't feel like it. That's why I always read several books at the same time, one of them is almost always an ARC, and I don't really stress out over my TBR. I feel better with having a lot of books to choose from then having stress I'm running out of them ;)

    1. I wish I could be a mood reader! I just feel so GUILTY. I sometimes read multiple books at a time to help with that, though!

  6. Great post! I struggle with this too. On the one hand, I LOVE making my seasonal TBR lists, but on the other hand I totally suck at sticking to them. I like having my TBR list there just, you know, for that one in a million moment when I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO READ (yeah, like that's EVER happened!). I know in my heart that I'll never read all the books on the list, nor all the books on my shelves....but I think my heart is okay with that. Plus, if the world ends or there's a zombie apocalypse and I have to hide out in my house to stay alive -- THAT'S when I will finish ALL THE BOOKS :)

  7. It's a love/hate relationship. I love having a list that I can just go to and decide 'I'll read THAT one!', but I also hate how I'll probably never tackle the list because if I read several books, you can guarantee that I'll add several more. I think the things that stress me out most on my TBR list are ARCs and review copies.

  8. Well, I usually consider my TBR a more informal list of books I have to read. I do like reading my ARCs ahead of schedule as much as possible, but I also allow myself to take several breaks and just read whatever I want. Like now, I've given up on ARCs and started reading Just One Day/Just One Year instead ;)

  9. My TBR list is a physical one in the form of toooons of books on my bedroom floor. I'm a shelver at my local library and I don't get fines, so sometimes I keep books a little too long. But instead of loving this pile, it's become a guilty reminder and overwhelming, to the point that I often don't read. Maybe it really is time to start culling...


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