In the early March of 2020, I had 1,265 books on my Goodreads TBR. As of mid-April 2020, I have 924.
It’s definitely not where I want it to be, and while yes, I’m proud of myself for having taken the time and the self-acknowledgement to differentiate between books I don’t want to read and books I do, I can’t help but be honest and say I still don’t want to read most of those hundreds of books.
And before I elaborate further, I want to preface this post discussing what it’ll be about and I few comments I have concerning this post:
- Despite the title, this post isn’t necessarily about external reading pressure from the book community, but the internal pressure I have to be informed on all the latest—and even older backlist—titles. Reading this sentence, they kind of seem like the same thing, but for me they are a bit different? Like, for the former it’s more of people telling you, either directly or not, to add a book to your TBR even though you might not want to, but for the latter it’s this voice inside your head (or at least mine) saying you have to read this book because everyone likes it and you be missing out if you don’t even though I clearly do not want to read said book.
- I’m not talking about physical TBRs in most of this. I feel as if in the book community, having so many physical books to read is such a staple aspect of reliability, but it’s just something that doesn’t really apply to me because I only own 16 books, most already having been read.
- I do want to name posts I loved reading discussing reading pressure with TBRs: Maha’s @ Sunshine n’ Books, Caitlin’s @ Caitlin Althea, Marie’s @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books, Jami’s @ Jami Shelves, and Laura’s @ Green Tea and Paperbacks. I think this is such an interesting and important topic so if you have any other posts talking about TBRs and the pressure that comes with them please comment them!
So now that I’ve gotten those few things out of the way, I’d like to further touch upon what I mentioned previously on acknowledging whether or not I want to read a book on my TBR. When I first decided to clear my Goodreads TBR, it was hard for me to even consider pressing the ‘Remove from my books’ button for most books. I kept thinking things like ‘the cover of it looks nice so maybe I’ll like it?’ ‘this reviewer liked it so maybe I’ll enjoy it as well,’ or ‘I’ll never know if I’ll love it if I don’t try it, or at least save the book on my TBR for future reference / safekeeping.’ Yes, all of these statements are completely valid, and they’re still prominent thoughts of mine, but when I was clearing my TBR, these thoughts were so often for books I didn’t want to read.
And when I was clearing a particular Goodreads TBR shelf of mine—I have thirteen different ones depending on either my personal availability of the book, release date, or how urgently I want to read it—for popular books I hadn’t gotten to, I had to keep reminding myself this shelf was for books I actually wanted to read and not just what they were: popular books, because I knew most of the books on the shelf were ones I was never going to read. It seems so bizarre to write that, because the purpose of a TBR is literally books to be read. I mean, it’s in the name. But honestly? For me, the line is blurry between ‘this is an acronym for books I want to read’ or ‘this is an acronym for a book I saw once and added it to a group of other books, and maybe I’ll read it or not, because all semblance for what TBR actually means is gone.’
There’s certainly nothing wrong with reading popular books, though. So many books I loved (and still do) were the most hyped of its year, but I feel in the book community it’s such a normalized thing to want to read books simply because they’re popular, and not because you solely just want to read it. Again, I’m not saying that’s is a bad thing! This mechanism of reading choices clearly works for so many people, but I did this for the longest time, and it caused me to hate or barely read enough of a book to even constitute it as a DNF so many times because again, I never wanted to read that particular book – I only did so due to external factors. There’s certainly a huge overlap with this though, like books read for school, books read because you went out of your way to request an ARC it’d be a disservice to not read it, gifted books, and so much more circumstances, but what about books read that aren’t in situations like these? There are so many.
I’d also like to highlight the fact that when I first started removing books from my biggest TBR shelf, my default Want to Read one, originally having 599 books but now having 409, I initially went in the task thinking the bulk of the books on there would be white girl 2012 dystopian reads I once thought I would love not even so long ago (me to my year + a half ago self every minute of my life: what the fuck was I thinking with each and every single one of my life choices?), but was so, so surprised to see they were actually much newer releases from 2019, from the time period I first started being active on Goodreads. This was also when I added most of the books I had on Goodreads, so that is a factor to weigh in. But, unsurprisingly, most of those 2019 releases were ones I didn’t want to read.
It’s definitely so easy to find a book that’s releasing the next year and go like, ‘oh, upcoming release? why not add it?’, and it 100 percent was for me and that’s exactly what I was doing with these 2019 releases, because at a point I wasn’t even adding these books because I was interested in them! Just because they were releasing the next year. Taking one look at the synopses for those releases and coming to terms with the fact that these books were quite simply, not for me, and as a result deleting them from my Goodreads, felt so good.
At first, when being involved in the book community there’s a big feeling of FOMO to be in all the book discussions, read all the new releases, and be informed of all the older backlist books, and for me it was really taxing (I even once made a joke on my blog last year saying I wasn’t able to read as diversely as I wanted because I was too busy catching up with old releases), but now that I’ve formed an idea of the things I personally want to read or am looking for in a book, it’s so much better. I’m not perfect though; I still have trouble with this, but I’m getting there.
Also, the glaring problem of consumerism, and the aesthetic / feeling (for lots of readers) paired with owning heaps of physical books, especially prevalent on platforms like Booktube and Bookstagram has been discussed in recent years and is sort of better now? but it’s still a problem, and it goes hand in hand with the pressure of adding books to one’s TBR. I don’t want to harp on this so much because again, I can’t even relate to it—I don’t own more than 20 books—but honestly . . . I don’t think this’ll stop being a thing in the community, because most of us, if not all, have eyes that can see. Even while appreciating pictures of e-books on Bookstagram or subscribing to someone who doesn’t have big white bookshelves with fairy lights on them in their background on Booktube, we’re obviously going to gravitate towards pretty pictures of hardcover books with related props in the background, and it sounds to terrible to say, but you can’t really change that.
But with this is people acquiring physical copies of books only because it’ll look pretty on their shelves, or so they can hold it up in their bookish video on whatever platform. I’m certainly not one to dictate how people spend their money, it’s their money they worked hard for, but when does the joke of never reading books on physical TBRs stay a joke, or move towards the territory of newer readers thinking they have to buy books they don’t want to read because the most popular bookish influencers (particularly Booktubers) are doing just that?
And to close this post, I really am a long way from getting where I want to be with my TBR. I know a number like 20 books or 200 isn’t plausible for me, but I’d be happy with myself if I shortened it to even 500. Because if I was to be handed all those 924 books on my TBR, I’d probably never read most of them, even if I had all the time and motivation in the world. Having removed a few hundred books on my TBR, and talking about it here is definitely a start though, and I do hope I continue with this plan in the near future. I’ll be monitoring my TBR in set intervals, probably not on this blog but as a personal incentive, and I’m interested to see how it will go for me: it’ll be a challenge, but one I’m willing to take.
How much books do you have on your TBR, and would you like to change that number? What do you agree with in this post, and what do you disagree with? How have you been doing lately? also please be nice fsdfsdfsd this is my first discussion post! Let’s talk about it in the comments!