The State of the TBR

It’s time to get serious.

This is the year I get rid of my TBR! (I can hear you all laughing from here, don’t worry.) I’ve decided to take stock of my TBR now at the beginning of the year to see if there is some way I can prevent books from entering my home this year as fast as I send them out the door. Can it be done? We’ll see!

First, let’s talk about the books I got for Christmas. My most recent additions to the TBR:


Yes, my Christmas tree is as big as the pile of books. For Christmas this year, I’m very excited to add the new Harry Potter box set with the covers designed by Kazu Kibuishi. I love these. I got chills opening the box and looking at all the covers. Thank you, Michael! I also got:

  1. Duplex by Kathryn Davis
  2. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Mitford
  3. From the Forest: A search for the Hidden Roots of our Fairy Tales by Sara Maitland
  4. Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins
  5. The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth
  6. Canada by Richard Ford
  7. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  8. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield (This was technically a gift from me to Michael, but I’m so excited to read it.

Now, onto the TBR. Let’s start with nonfiction. I cannot believe how much nonfiction I had on my shelves. I should have a Nonfiction Year instead of just a Nonfiction November:


  1. The Language of the Night: Essays by Ursula Le Guin
  2. Time Traveler by Michael Novacek
  3. Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia by Blake Butler
  4. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
  5. Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett
  6. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by James McWhorter
  7. The Beekeeper’s Lament by Hannah Nordhaus
  8. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
  9. The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want by Garret Keizer
  10. Migraine by Oliver Sacks
  11. The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker
  12. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  13. Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill
  14. Escape on the Pearl by Mary Kay Ricks
  15. Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David R. Dow
  16. A North Country Life by Sydney Lea
  17. Rocket Men by Craig Nelson
  18. Life After Murder by Nancy Mullane
  19. A Voyage Long & Strange by Tony Horwitz
  20. Island Practice by Pam Belluck
  21. The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble
  22. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
  23. Wendy & The Lost Boys by Julie Salamon
  24. Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl
  25. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Now fiction:

  1. The Green Mile by Stephen King (which I have read, but would very much like to reread in the coming year)
  2. Tokyo Cancelled by Rana Dasgupta
  3. City of Women by David R. Gillham
  4. Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
  5. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
  6. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
  7. A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias
  8. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
  9. Blood Fugues by Edgardo Vega Yunque
  10. Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
  11. Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan
  12. The Chaperone  by Laura Moriarty
  13. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  14. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
  15. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  16. Lost & Found by Carolyn Parkhurst
  17. Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
  18. The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin
  19. Waterline by Ross Raisin
  20. Snow Angels by Stewart O’Nan
  21. The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope
  22. City of Tranquil Light by Bo Baldwin
  23. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
  24. Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
  25. A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L’Engle
  26. The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle
  27. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  28. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  29. Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
  30. I Am Forbidden by Anouk Morkovits
  31. An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Arnuradha Roy
  32. Schroder by Amity Gaige
  33. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  34. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  35. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
  36. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
  37. Tandem by Anna Jarzab
  38. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
  39. Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
  40. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
  41. A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot
  42. Above World by Jenn Reese

That’s a total of 75 books that I would like to have to pass the shelf-worthy or not test by the end of 2014. Fortunately, quite a few of those are from international authors or are translations! Not as many as I would like, but a decent number. I also have more books at my desk at work that I use for when I finish a book on the subway and need something to read on the way home that I’m not including in this list (though I’m going to try not to add to that pile in 2014!) Let’s say I read 104 books in 2014. That leaves me with 29 books I can get from the library, acquire and read immediately, or borrow from friends.

Suddenly this feels VERY manageable! It helps that today I got rid of all of these books:

2014-01-01 12.48.36


These are all books that I have given a fair shot, were unsolicited review copies, or books I grabbed from the free pile at work without really giving it a good thought. Back to the free pile they go!

I think I’m going to start out with a few highly anticipated chunksters: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. From the nonfiction pile, I’ll pick Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David Dow and Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill. We’ll see how it goes from there!

Wish me luck. If prior years are any indication, I don’t necessarily have high hopes for this one! But getting rid of so many books I was probably never going to read makes me feel like I’m taking a huge step in the right direction. Plus, organizing all these books got me VERY excited to read them again!!

What’s the state of your TBR?


25 thoughts on “The State of the TBR

  1. But I’m not laughing AT you, I’m laughing WITH you! I have even bought a book I thought I wanted to read, only to find another copy was right there in my TBR! I wish I were better about checking it out! :–) Good luck!

  2. This is SUCH an awesome task, I can’t wait to watch it happen. I’ll be the first to admit that I would totally fail preventing books from coming in the door as fast as I read them, but (you’re totally right) there are already so many great books in our TBR mountains. I’m glad you’ll be starting with those chunksters (especially The Goldfinch – I wish I could read it for the first time over and over). And I can’t wait to see what you think of Duplex! I only know one other person who has read it and it’s one you just have to discuss.

  3. The one nice thing about traveling as long as Tony & I have done at this point is that I’ve gotten used to only acquiring books on my iPad (and given that I barely read anything last year—just 20 books! Eep!—I haven’t done much of that anyway). Somehow TBR piles are so much less intimidating/cumbersome when they are virtual! Good luck to you as you try to make it through these books… it will be hard to resist picking up all the good books that are undoubtedly going to be published this year, but I know you can do it (or have fun trying)!

  4. Yay, TBR tackling! You are in better shape than me. Even if I only read TBR books for an entire year, I couldn’t clear my shelves. On well, I’m giving it a try.

    I have quite a few of these on my shelves to. We should revisit the virtual book club idea to tackle a few together?

  5. I know you don’t want to hear this 🙂 –but if you do read Truth & Beauty, you’re then going to want to read Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. And you should–just to get another take on the subject of Ann Patchett’s book. Patchett also just released a book of essays that is wonderful–This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage. (Sorry–I guess I’m an enabler . . . 🙂 )
    Enjoy–you have some great TBRs there!

  6. I certainly think you can do it, and it’s really very freeing to get rid of that TBR! I haven’t had a TBR in two years now and I love that! I watch the library books as they come through Wowbrary and grab at random, sometimes reading, sometimes not. The only things on my Goodreads TBR are books coming out this year and ones I haven’t been able to get ahold of through the library. I think there’s less than 20. I have six unread books at home that I just got at the end of December for my anniversary and Christmas, plus three library books and some nonfiction about writing. It’s so not-overwhelming!!! About six months ago, I had this big backlog of 30+ audiobooks on my computer, and I finally sat down and either listened to them or decided they weren’t good ones (narrator or book) and now I have no audios waiting for me at all. That’s also really nice. Point is, I know you can do this Lu and it really IS worth it!

  7. I’m right there with you! There’s no way I can get rid of my whole TBR this year, but I do plan to make a huge dent in it. You have some awesome books here, and I’m wishing you all the luck and motivation! I made a give away stack yesterday and need to do a bit more of that, but we’ll see what stays and goes as I read through.

  8. You are so organized. It might not feel that way but you’ve made your TBR list into a manageable task. First Everybody was So Young is a great book that you should read for Jazz Age January. And you have tons of ther great reads in your piles. Totally doable. Way to go.

  9. What an awesome job you have done organizing all those books! I have to admit that I am a little bit curious about those titles given away. You know, the titles we can’t see. And appreciate that nonfiction stack. Rich reading there. My only caution would be about that J.K. Rowling read. I love her too but not that one. I tried and tried and tried and could not get through it. Gave it to a friend who wanted to read it and the same happened to her. I hope you have better luck! Happy reading!

  10. I have been on such a nonfiction kick since November. Seriously. Your event stirred something in my brain! I have been reading more of them than ever (which is saying a lot, I never read it) and collecting them like crazy. Maybe you should have two nonfiction months, 6 months apart? (not HINTING or anything).

    So, I’m trying to find justification for owning to different sets of the Harry Potter books. I’ll have to reason this out, because I want that new set!

  11. I’m repeating what others have said, but I love how organized and realistic you are with your TBR pile! It definitely helps when you own a lot of the physical copies and can visualize the amount of reading you’re about to tackle in the new year. I have a bad habit of not wanting to get rid of books that I didn’t enjoy reading, but I think you’ve inspired me to go through the books I own and clear out some of them. 🙂 Looking forward to your thoughts on both your fiction and non-fiction reads this year!

  12. I really want to work on my TBR this year. A VERY slow reading year basically killed me. I still had books trickling in and I read so few books… And those I did read a bunch were audiobooks which didn’t really help my physical TBR at all… I have a ‘plan’ in my mind, but I am worried if I put it on paper I will never accomplish it!

  13. Loved Savage Beauty–hope you enjoy it! My TBR is so out of control it would take me more than a year to deal with it. I am contemplating finally crying uncle on some of the books that I will likely never get to, and setting up some kind of system–X number of books must be read and out the door before a new one is allowed to arrive. We shall see.

  14. Yikes.

    I’m sorry but my eyes just glazed over. 🙂

    But I wish you luck with that. I’m giving myself no such goal. I know I’d fail, plus I’ve given myself the challenge of no challenges this year…so there’s that. Hope I didn’t fail that one too. 😉

  15. You can do it! I tried to take my TBR down from almost 200 to just over 100 a few years back, and I found it helped to set a few rules for what I could or couldn’t add to it. I looked at my buying/borrowing habits, targeted problem areas, gave myself an acceptable amount of leeway, and managed to stick to my goals pretty closely.

    This year, I want to get rid of la TBR all together. I currently have 38 books on it, and I’d love to have none at all by April or May. My big rule for 2014 is that I can’t renew library books and I can’t buy anything I won’t read within a week or two. I really hope I can stick with that; it’d be lovely to go back to reading things as I acquire them, instead of letting them lounge around for months (or years) on end.

  16. Good luck good luck! TBR goals are difficult goals! I have a lot of bookshelves these days and am going to make a dedicated TBR shelf, which I’m hoping will shame me into reading my TBR books more promptly than in years past. But we’ll see.

    I have looked at many pictures of that beautiful Harry Potter box set. I love it. I want it. I know I must not buy it. (I WANT IT VERY MUCH.) If I’m going to buy a second set of Harry Potter books, it’s going to be the Jim Kay illustrated edition that starts coming out in September 2015.

  17. We just won’t mention the state of my TBR because it’s horribly embarrasing :p But yours is really manageable!! Good for you 😀 I hope you get it weeded down this year and it looks like you have some fantastic reads in there as well! I LOVED The Bone People! I read it in a college course and it’s one of my favorite books to this day.

  18. Considering how many books I read in average each year, I have about 2.5 years worth of books there. NOT counting audibooks. I’ve worried more about it than I do now. It helps that every Spring I do a Cleaning, much like your own get-ride pile.

  19. I love seeing all that gorgeous nonfiction :). I don’t even know if I have room in my apt for that many books I haven’t read, I applaud your goal to finish them all by the end of the year. Best of luck!

  20. You know, laying it all out that way, it definitely seems manageable! And good for you for ridding yourself of the books you know you won’t read–that alone makes a huge dent in the “overwhelmedness” feeling, I’m sure. I just have one concern about this plan of yours–what about February??? You’re still going to graphic novel with us, aren’t you??? Please say you are!!!

  21. Yeah. Good luck with that! 😉

    Seriously though wish you all the best in cutting that TBR down.

    I really need to go though my TBR pile and cull some (read loads of!) books from it, and actually that bag of books that’s been sitting next to my bookshelves for over a year to the charity shop!

  22. Yopur TBR does look very manageable. Mine numbers in the 400s. I do plan to tackle at least 50 of them this year though (I should probably post about that to make it seem manageable to myself. It is sort of exciting to look at all the books you own and think about actually reading them and being able to find other books after that, isn’t it? Good luck and I’m sure you’ll be able to read a lot of those books (and if not, that’s nothing to feel guilty about, right?)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s