The Curse of My TBR List

TBR (To Be Read) lists are bad for me. I keep adding titles to them faster than I can read the books, and the list becomes a convenient excuse. I may want to read something but other priorities intervene, so I simply add it to my list of books to read ‘one day’.  I tell myself it’s okay if the list grows; it’s an indication of my good intentions.

Last fall I posted “Reading instead of – or in addition to – writing” and admitted that, “although I read every moment I can, the pile waiting on my TBR shelf is constantly growing instead of diminishing. There’s never enough time to read everything I’d like to, but I keep trying.”

In another post three years before that I had moaned about the same problem and included a link to Jessica Morrell’s column, “Reading and the Writing Life” in which she said, “Reading is part of your job; in fact, it’s a huge part of your job.” I even offered four time management strategies that might help us cope with the time dilemma, focusing on Organization, Prioritization, Commitment and Persistence.

So here I am, still muttering about my TBR list. Why? Because I’ve begun to realize that unless I can actually make time to read the books on that list, it has a negative rather than positive effect. It creates guilt.

Guilt? Ackkk! Who needs any more of that depressing, energy-draining, muse-thwarting stuff? It detracts rather than contributes, and I need reading to complement my writing, not complicate it. I’m thinking my best course of action is to reverse my TBR pile’s growth trend.

I doubt I’ll ever get over my obsession with books, but if I try a little self-discipline maybe I can take control. I’m thinking of using an adaptation of the recovering hoarder’s mantra, “For every item added, one must be eliminated” and say, “For every book added, at least two must be read.” That’s probably the only way I am ever going to banish the curse of my TBR list. It sounds like a good plan, at least in theory. I’ll tell you how well it works next time I’m standing in a bookstore ogling new titles.

How do you balance what you want to read with the time available?

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Graphic by Digitalart