Do I Actually Want to Read the Books on my TBR? // A Discussion About Reading Pressure in the Book Community, Both Internal and External

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.

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!

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22 thoughts on “Do I Actually Want to Read the Books on my TBR? // A Discussion About Reading Pressure in the Book Community, Both Internal and External

  1. I love this post!! I used to have around 700 books on my to-read list, until I realized that I will never get to most of those books. Also, it was impossible to remember all those books, thus I struggled with keeping track of them. A few years ago, I went through the whole goodreads shelf – it took AGES to do that – and since then I’ve always kept the number of books under 300; right now, there’re around 250 titles on it, but I want to bring it under 200. (To be honest, I’m pretty brutal when it comes to deleting from my tbr, so it’s not very hard for me to keep it low, haha.)

    That said, I’m terrible when it comes to book buying – I don’t buy TONS every month, and yet, somehow, I have more than a hundred unread physical novels that I collected throughout the years. *hides* It’s a problem, I had to get rid of books I was no longer interested in, some of which I bought because of the hype. I think, my main problem is that I love physical copies on my shelves, BUT I prefer reading ebooks, because they are more convenient and easier to hold. So my ebook library is doing okay and is more manageable. (I hate bookstagram and I’m not a booktuber, so I don’t even post about them, I just like having physical copies.) My goal for this year is to make a dent in my physical tbr, but that hasn’t happened yet. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Veronika! I can relate so much with forgetting the books on my TBR. And omg I admire your dedication, I still have so much trouble with removing books. Also I think it’s really cool how your goal is to bring it down to a specific number consistently! I need to do that, hahah.

      I do like having physical books too and I would definitely own more if I had a means to getting them, but ebooks are amazing though for the reason you said! Sometimes I hate the feeling of holding physical books and since I’m usually reading on my laptop it’s much more convenient. Hope you manage to make a dent in your physical TBR, and again tysm!! 💖


  2. ah, thank you for mentioning my post!! 💖💖 i totally agree with this post, haha. my TBR is actually comprised of less than a hundred books, but it definitely wasn’t like that back then. before i learned to be more picky with the books i wanted to read, i’d add just about any book i saw talked about to my TBR. now, i’m way more mindful of which books i have a high chance of rating at least 3 stars. reviews and recommendations are my best friend—i almost never factor in synopses or book covers into my decision-making anymore. however, i still struggle a lot with my TBR because even though it’s a relatively small number, i would *love* to get it to less than 10 or even zero one day. however, when it comes to new releases and new additions to my TBR, no matter how many books i read, it seems like the number will always be 90+, haha.

    anyways, this was a great discussion post, & i really loved reading it!! i hope you can one day be happy with the amount of books on your TBR ❤ this might be useless to you, but my advice when it comes to adding less books to your TBR is: 1) be more picky with the books you add to your TBR that are not in your fave genre/s, and 2) if a book receives bad or mostly lukewarm reviews, even if a few people rated it 5 stars, it's probably not worth your time

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problem Caitlin, it was really insightful 💖 And tysm! I admire your dedication with less than 100 books – it’d take me years to get to that number. And I so relate with just adding any book I saw to my TBR! Before I figured out exclusive shelves on Goodreads were a thing, my Want to Read shelf was just a mixture of books I shelved for reference purposes and books I actually wanted to read. And yeah, there are so many new and compelling releases being announced, which is great but is making my TBR struggle more 😭

      Thank you so much!! And your advice really is helpful, when I first read this comment it was what prompted me to be more critical with adding and removing books from my TBR. Now, unless I really want to read something, if it has mostly okay reviews (not as in the quality of the review lmao but how the reviewer felt about it) it’s just going off my TBR. 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post so, so, SO much. and thank you so much for mentioning my post, I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

    I so get what you mean about that internal pressure, I have it too in my head, like, I’m always a little scared of missing out on books and this creates so much unnecessary pressure! I also so agree about the FOMO from being a book blogger, too. I feel like, to be relevant, you have to read a lot of new releases. I know that, personally, I went through more new releases than ever lately and…. well, if I’m not too mad about it because I discovered amazing reads, I also feel like I’m missing out on older releases and not giving them the attention they deserve either. it’s hard to juggle between it all. In the end, I really want to tell myself to read the books that inspire me and excite me the most, new or old and I try to keep that mindset!

    I have so many books on my TBR and some of them are from, like, so long ago I don’t even remember why I added them. Maybe because some blogger talked about it, maybe because I liked the cover, I don’t know. It just feels crowded and a little overwhelming at times, but I’m also scared of deleting it all and NOT remembering this book I actually wanted to read ahah. I know it’s a step I’ll have to take eventually though, clean things up a bit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Marie, and no problem! 😊 And yeah I feel the same way with having to read new releases to be relevant! I also relate with recently having only read new releases and there are so many backlist books I want to read, but I’m also just swarmed with ARCs and frontlist books I want to prioritize and it’s such a struggle.

      I can relate so much with not being able to remember the books on my TBR, even when all of the ones I’ve added are less than two years ago it’s tragic 😭 And I feel overwhelmed from it all too. Hope you end up being content with your TBR Marie, and again, tysm 💖

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally get where you’re coming from. I think that more or less, we’ve all felt like that at some point; there’s definitely pressure from the overall book community to read the latest and most popular books and to always be up to date. It’s a real struggle that is not necessarily a fault of anyone individually but of the mentality of the community as a whole. I read mostly backlist titles and for a long time I felt bad about it, since I could never participate in discussions with other bloggers, and that really stressed me out.
    But I realised that reading and blogging is something personal which we do mostly for our enjoyment and we should not feel bad for reading what makes us feel good!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so agree with your comment, Marianna! I can relate with having read mostly backlist titles before being in the book community, and until very recently it’s still something I could identify with. And a million yeses to blogging being about enjoyment!! It can be taxing to read all the newest anticipated books but what’s the point if you don’t actually want to? 💖

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I relate to this post so much! It really reminds me of myself 😅 I joined the book community in 2018, and before that, I didn’t really have a TBR, and I just read whatever I felt like. But now I’m exposed to so many new and interesting books, but unfortunately that also means my TBR is very large 😂 Even when I was being selective, my TBR was almost 700 books, but I recently cut that down to around 500!

    I used to exclusively read popular books, because I felt like I trusted the ratings and that I would surely not waste my time, since everyone else loved them! But now I’m letting that go, because there are so many other wonderful books that aren’t super popular, and they deserve just as much love. Although that does make my TBR selectivity looser, it also gives me the opportunity to discover different writing styles and authors I might want to look up to in the future. As a writer, I always enjoy finding other authors for inspiration, and you can’t really do that if you only read the same authors I’ve read and over again.

    Also when I started in the book community, I bought a bunch of physical books whenever I saw them on sale because I knew they would look pretty to take pictures with! Definitely guilty of doing that 🙈 But now I rarely ever buy physical books, since it’s just easier and less costly to get them from my library!

    I hope you eventually feel better about your TBR! It’s kind of overwhelming to see hundreds of books on your TBR, but my perspective is just to read whatever you feel like reading, and not to press user yourself into reading something you might not enjoy, and if you don’t read everything on the TBR, it’ll all be okay in the end. *shrug* Great job on your first discussion post, Faith! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you can relate to it hahahah 😭 And same!! I used to just browse libraries and pick up whatever looked interesting at the moment. And yes I used to always prioritize popular books in the way that I wanted to get to all the ones I missed out on. And thank you so much, Xandra ❤ It’s definitely been overwhelming for me sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. i love this discussion, faith! you’ve definitely made me realize how many books i have on my goodreads tbr (over 800) and how not all of them are actually books i want to read. i think for me it doesn’t bother me as much that i have books on there that i don’t really care about, because as you said, “tbr” has become something that i just add books that sound interesting to? and i know my taste at this point and will just not read the books on there that don’t interest me. it kind of feels a “safety blanket”, just to have all these books stored somewhere, even though i know i will never get to some of them. but now i’m really tempted to go through them and clear out some books lmao!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, May! And yeah whenever I remove a book to my TBR I always worry I’ll want to end up reading said book in the future so sometimes I guilt about removing it from my shelves – but now I’ve created an exclusive shelf for books I want to keep for reference and I find it makes everything much easier. If you do I hope you’ll end up being content with the books you have on there!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I have like 10 pages of TBR books on my Overdrive + a really long list in Google Keep for physical books. I’ve basically given up on finishing my TBR list, but I keep them around so that I have an idea of what books to read when I want something new but don’t want to browse, if that makes sense?

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  8. I agree with this so much. I’m totally guilty of buying books because they look pretty. But since I prefer the books in english, this preference makes it so I can only purchase books maybe ten at a time once a year, at least physical copies. Ebooks are not really a problem because I don’t buy those until I’m going to read them. So, I can’t afford to waste a precious spot in a book where the story doesn’t attract me. I have passed on many popular books because of that.

    But, even considering that, I do feel there are a lot of books on my GR tbr shelf that at one point I just added because everyone was talking about it and I was ‘oooh I’ll check it out soon’. And now it’s three years later and they’re still there. No one is telling me to read them now, but there is pressure coming from myself. I have 287 books right now on that shelf 🙂 Sometimes I go through it to see if anything catches my eye and I find myself skipping a lot of books, every time. I’ll probably have to do an audit soon too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy to know, Pamela 😭 And yeah, there have been so many times where I was thinking of picking up a popular book but wanted to prioritize books I was actually interested in and not just because they were hyped. And I think now I’ve cleared much more books from my TBR and am content at where it is (550 books I think?) but before I would always go through it and most books on there I didn’t really care about or know. I hope you’ll be able to soon!


  9. I love the amount of discussion this post generates, it’s such an interesting topic! I also had the same problem with you, my TBR list was overflowing. When I was younger I also had a phase of feeling missing out from modern classic books that it seems like EVERYONE has read and I felt the need to read them even though I wasn’t necessarily interested in them.

    But nowadays I try not to even care about new releases, and almost never add them to my TBR. I am more of a backlist reader anyways, except for really interesting books or new books by an author I already know and love. Great discussion post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I always love reading people thoughts on it! And ugh, I used to have the guilt of not reading classics all the time but now I know I’m just not interested in them and I’ll never read them if I don’t have to. I think I’ll always be reading frontlist books but I really admire how you do that without feeling much sense of missing out 😭 Thank you, Ayunda!

      Liked by 1 person

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