Bookish Discussion: To TBR or not to TBR


The TBR - To Be Read list - it's the hot topic for the online book community. And so today I'm here to go on the record with my thoughts. And thoughts I do have. 

As usual I am several months late to the party, as the #0by16 movement is soon drawing to a close with 2016 now just around the corner. For those who don't know, #0by16 is a project run by some popular booktubers with the goal of shrinking their TBRs to zero by the end of the year. I know the TBR as a concept has been around for quite a while, at least as long as Goodreads started with its 'Want to Read' list function. It is only in the past year or so, however, that people have started to denigrate long TBR lists. Of course no one is arguing against wanting to read books other than the one you are currently reading. What is really meant by the TBR is the shelf of books that you've bought but which have remained unread. #0by16 then is an effort to catch up on reading all of the books in your possession that you've never had a chance to read after buying/acquiring them. This is at heart a noble effort. And I can imagine that the flow of incoming books can be excessive for big-name booktubers, who constantly have books sent to them for review or who feel they must own all of the big books as soon as they are released to support authors and/or in an effort to keep up with the hype. 

As a self-confessed hoarder of books I sympathise with these feelings. I look at all of the books on my shelves and sometimes reading them all feels like an impossible task. That can be very worrying...but it can also be exhilarating. My only issue with these TBR Takedown movements are the inevitable feelings of shame that can result, but really it stems less from the principle of the TBR than from comparing your reading habits with some gold standard of conscientious, 'right', way to read. I have the same feelings about the proselytising that surrounds the de-clutter movement - and of course this movement against the TBR is directly related to the 'tidying up' mania that's taken hold of society of late. The de-clutter mania basically boils down to the simple message that 'stuff is bad', which is not far wrong in its ideals but as a (implicit) motto  it is loaded with value judgments that can induce shame on those who don't perfectly comply with the message. Of course 'stuff', and unread books on your shelf, aren't necessarily bad but the value we often place on material things can be distracting in the search for happiness/fulfilment. Yet these fads in the business of having a 'good life', mainly born on the internet and forced down everyone's throats, can end up being very annoying despite the honourable intentions. And I think this is why there's been such a backlash against the TBR projects. 

Some of my recent purchases that are sitting on my shelf thus far unread.

Some of my recent purchases that are sitting on my shelf thus far unread.

I have a lot of books on my shelves that I have not read. And I recognise that I buy too many books - I can be greedy for books, addicted to them. But in the grand scheme of things I know books are just books. I'd give them all up in a heartbeat if I had to, if I was in some strange dystopian world and I had to choose between books and my loved ones, for example. But I also know that every book I buy means something to me. I would never buy a book randomly with no intention of reading it. My bookshelves are very much a TBR list, but there's no rush to read them all. I have a long life of reading ahead of me, and I'll never be short on reading material. 

I think some of the backlash against the TBR Takedown/0by16 has stemmed from a dislike for having someone tell you the 'right' way to read. But of course no one is forcing anyone to participate. And hopefully no one is judging your reading habits/book buying habits for not conforming to a certain kind of reading practice. 

Even though I've participated in TBR blog posts before (see my Fall TBR from a few weeks ago), I don't usually keep to any structured list when choosing what books to read. I'm very much a 'mood' reader, a bit of a sampler as well - I'll read a little bit of this and a little bit of that until I find something I really want to stick with. So the TBR for me is not a useful tool in my reading life. My TBR is probably never going to be 0 and I'm ok with that. But if you want to get to TBR 0, I applaud you. I do respect the desire to fully de-clutter your life of any baggage that feels like it's weighing you down. But I won't apologise for continuing to collect books for my lifelong reading journey, even though my acquisition of new books far outstrips my reading pace. I like curating a collection of books that I can call my own, the books I want to surround myself with as the reading material for my future life. 

As for reading plans such as monthly TBRs - you probably won't see many on this blog. I may occasionally post about some books I'm hoping to read sooner rather than later, but I probably won't get to any of them particularly soon. For instance, of the books on the Fall TBR TTT, I've started 3 but have yet to finish any of them (although I'm almost done Six of Crows!). I do have a few of the others either on my bedside table or on loan from the library with a strict time restraint for reading. But I'm just going to read what I read, and try not to spend all of my money on books. 

3 more recent acquisitions - although one will soon be switched from TBR to Read!

3 more recent acquisitions - although one will soon be switched from TBR to Read!

Let's chat! Do you have a long TBR like me or do you prefer to be minimalistic in your reading?