Picking from the TBR pile

A couple weeks ago on Three Dollar Bill Emily admitted her problem – addiction to ebooks. She also admitted that she can’t stop buying them regardless of that dreaded TBR pile. It was funny to see how many other “addicts” also admitted their problems with such things.

But that begs the follow up question of how to choose within the depths of your TBR pile. Once your pile starts to creep up and up and up and gets out of control (like so many of us are either proud or ashamed to admit), how do you pick and choose from it?

I know that my ebook pile started with a folder with the books listed in order of being bought which was supposed to translate into the order I read them. But I soon found myself picking and choosing, skipping some that just didn’t strike me as much as another. I wanted to read them all one day (thus the reason for buying) but just not read them that day.

That pile soon became alphabetical when it hit triple digits and then soon came a brand new folder called “To Read First” which I culled out the most interesting and eye catching of the TBR pile to another folder. From that I eventually created yet ANOTHER folder that said “FFS Read Me” which were then the top of the top of the top of the pile.

It’s getting out of control I tell you.
But how do you choose from all those folders, files, and books? What to choose to read and how to pick and choose amongst the pile.

Do you organize by genre or by author?
Do you choose randomly, by title, subject, author?

How do you wittle down your enormous TBR? 
I think we need a TBR reading challenge!



29 thoughts on “Picking from the TBR pile

  1. I have to admit I’ve been lurking on your LJ for months now, because you have such thorough reviews. I’ve never commented because, well, I’m just not that outgoing of a personality. But I’m overcoming my fears because you’ve mentioned something I can relate to.
    In case it’s not obvious from my reviews, I organize things to an inch of their lives. My rubric for scoring is typical of how I approach my TBR pile, too. In that case, I use spreadsheets. Two actually, one to keep track of books I’ve yet to read and one to keep track of books I’ve reviewed. I can sort them by date published, author, publisher, genre, and length at that point, all to my heart’s content. Because I have certain criteria I’ve placed on my own blog – m/m or menage on Monday, never review more than one book by an author or publisher per week – that allows me to put filters on the spreadsheet so I can only look at the possibilities that fit for that day.
    At that point, I randomly select three titles and pick from there. That allows me to take into consideration how much time I have for the review and what I’m in the mood for. I probably have more freedom than people who review for group blogs because I don’t feel constrained by purchase/publishing dates. My philosophy is, I bought it and if I’m not in the mood to read it, I’m not going to force myself. I’m sure the author would prefer me approaching their work with enthusiasm rather than dread.
    Whittling is another story. That just doesn’t happen effectively. I have just as many print books as I do e, because I have a tendency to buy books as soon as I become aware of them, rather than wait and forget a potentially wonderful book.

    • Hi there! Thanks for de-lurking and for the great compliment. I’ve been following your reviews for a long time (fellow lurker!) and on several occasions I’ve gotten books or read some from my pile based on your review. So I’m a bit blushed that you’d follow my lengthy blatherings.
      The spreadsheet idea is pure genius. It sounds simple but not sure I’d have thought to take the time and go through it like that. I definitely am more of a random pick and choose from the plethora of books i have. I’m slightly better with print books than ebooks due to space constraints. WHich is why my ebook pile has gotten out of control and I need to cull and organize.
      Thank you so much for de-lurking to help me, I’m doing a spreadsheet this weekend. No excuses!

  2. How I pick is rather whimsical, depending on my mood and what’s recently been added to my ereader (and is thus freshest in my mind).
    What I SHOULD do is search my LibraryThing tags for the stuff I haven’t read and figure out a more organized approach… but I bet I’ll keep doing it the way I am.

    • I’m kind of like you. I pick stuff that sounds good and off I go. I forget what I have though – which is part of the problem. I use good reads for things I’ve read..
      At least I’m not alone in the kind of blindfold pick from a hat method : D!

      • In LibraryThing, I use the tag “done” for books I’ve read. I can search the tags by, for example:
        tags: gay -done
        And find the things I haven’t read. The minute I get a new ebook, it’s added to LibraryThing so I don’t buy duplicates… because my memory, it is short. πŸ™‚

  3. I use Goodreads.com to keep track of what I want to read next. πŸ™‚
    What I read next… I do the usual evaluation I learnt from Time Management courses:
    1) Urgent and necessary
    2) Urgent and unnecessary
    3) Not-urgent and necessary
    4) Not-urgent and unnecassary
    Then I divide my stack up into those:
    1) Urgent and necessary
    Writer friends desperate for feedback/with deadlines.
    Committments I made for review blogs like Speak Its Name.
    2) Urgent and unnecessary
    Extra work that i’m not comitted to. If I have space in this slot, I actually go out to writers and say “need an eye/help/feedback”?
    3) Not-urgent and necessary
    Research books for my own projects – once I started work on the project, they move up into slot 1, taking the space there.
    Also random books I “always wanted to read” or re-reads, or books very strongly recommended by my friends.
    4) Not-ugent and unnecessary
    Pure “just for fun” books. Needless to say, I hardly do that anymore… too organized πŸ™‚

    • I do a mental and sometimes physical separation close to yours. I have “For Review” pile which I always read first. If I have nothing that I’ve agreed to review then I delve into my various “fun” piles, which is what really needs the work.
      There are books by authors I love that I want to read but those pile up fast with how quickly authors publish. Then there are older back lists I want to get into mixed with smut for easy, mindless reading, mixed in with new books in series to keep up with. Those tend to go to the top simply because if you get behind in a series *gasp* death!
      I think writers are just so much more organized!

  4. Well, just yesterday I solved my dilemma by posting a poll on the blog for people to choose what I should read. LOL Talk about not taking responsibility for your buying habits. πŸ™‚
    I certainly don’t have TBR books in the triple digits. I freak out if it gets above 20. I just put them all in a TBR file and hope that something jumps up and screams “read me!”. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. And for no rational reason whatsoever. I obviously thought the book had potential if I bought it, but who knows what’s going on in my brain. I do have a file called “long wait” and it means for some reason I started the book and then lost interest and I have to admit it’s unlikely I’ll ever read it. Not because it’s bad, just something didn’t work for me and I can’t make myself go back to it. Not in the foreseeable future anyway.
    Anyway, we shall see how letting the masses run my life works out for me and maybe I’ll try it again. πŸ™‚

    • I saw that! You smart woman. Let the responsibility be on others. Plus I love polls, I think a lot of lurkers tend to participate without the need to actually de-lurk and comment.
      I’ll have to see what the final result was for you.
      Also I’ve noticed that you read a lot (or evidenced by your posts). Do you tend to read shorter, longer, either? How do you stop yourself from buying all the latest and greatest?
      Do you really have that great of willpower? I’m in awe!

      • I tend to read a lot of shorts (less than 150). It’s the long ones that scare me off and languish the longest. I go in spurts where I buy a bunch, but I’m getting better at resisting. Yes, it may be the most amazing book ever but if it’s a military historical I know to keep my credit card in my wallet. Some weeks are worse than others for buying and I blame Lily for that when she posts all the new releases. πŸ™‚ There are always discount codes, FictionWise sales, etc. that make some books wait longer.

  5. Great topic, Kassa! And some great answers. E-hoarders, ha, ha! The time management prioritizing is good and the spreadsheet idea is a very good one. I do a very, very minor version of this with Calibre. I can organize the whole list by author, title, publisher, or whether it’s an aRe book. Mostly I try to keep ahead of my aRe newsletter deadlines and keep up with new releases of my favorite authors. But I also try to remind myself to try new stuff as well. It’s disorganized to say the least. I liked Tam’s idea the other day of a simple poll to get us readers to pick for her from five different titles. Not only did she get a choice made out of her TBR pile, it also gave her content for that day’s post, and the post was especially interactive with us readers (always a good thing).

    • I agree with the poll – let the others handle it! I can’t keep up with all the new releases, old releases, and just plain volume of books in the genre. I’ve been getting more and more selective in what I buy and read because there is just such a wide variety. It’s really great because there’s something truly for everyone but for someone like me that reads a lot (and wants to read -everything-) I’m coming to the point I need to do a better job of picking and choosing.
      Thanks for the suggestions! I need the help!

  6. I’ve only had an e-reader for a few weeks, and I already have this starting. Hell, I’d been hoarding when I started on my computer, but now it’s crazy.
    The odd thing is, I feel panic if I don’t have at least five or six potential reads lying there, ready. And I want them in e-book over paper now, because I want to take them EVERYWHERE. What if I want to read a Pratchett? What if I want some smut? What if I want serious?
    It’s a digital security blanket.
    And you know, it’s not even the case that the “new” books get priority. If I really love an author, I actually wait longer to read new stuff, because once I finish and they haven’t replenished the well, it’s all gone.

    • You hit on the thing I’ve been mulling over mentioning for a while! Jenre mentioned not wanting to read “Almost like being in love” since she wanted to save it for a special occasion. I’m the same way. Sometimes I cling to books that I hear get rave reviews because I don’t want them to be over. I like knowing I have some “slam dunk” great books around. Of course this means I’m behind the ball in celebrating greatness sometimes but I want to hold it!
      It seems once you read something, there’s so little time to reread so it’s just over. :s… I also adore my reader. I have everything on there from jodi picout to douglas adams, my smut, romance, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy…. its like having my entire book collection on the go constantly. Although mostly I try to keep only a few beloved books and all new ones.
      Does it help my tbr? not really but I keep hoping!

      • I wish the NYC presses would figure out that this is why ebooks are good. I don’t have the same effect when I have a pile of books on my endtable. In fact, I look at that and decide to not go to the store. Somehow that doesn’t hold true for an ebook purchase. The more the merrier.

  7. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my e-book habit – I just got so fed up with not being able to remember which ones I’d read! The books are alphabetised by author, and I list the genre (paranormal, historical, contemporary etc) and a line about the characters/plot to help me decide which to read next.
    I also have a VERY subjective rating system for books once I’ve read them – not at all the sort of thing that I’d post anywhere online!

      • Well… I won’t be naming names, but ratings range from “OMGYYY” down thru “meh” to “Yawn” or a straight “N”, taking in along the way “BW” for Badly Written and “GP” for Guilty Pleasure – stuff I know is tosh but I enjoyed anyhow!

  8. Given how organised I am about everything else, this is something I tend to do on a whim. Just which one do I fancy most next. The only real criteria is that I try to mix up genres, so I don’t get too burnt out on one thing. And then I drop in a non-fiction book every now and again.

  9. I think my system is probably more convoluted than most people would want, but it works for me. I have two main folders: read and unread, and in each I have folders for different genres, and in those I break it down into more folders for “keepers” for the read folder and “autobuy” for the unread folder and then “novels,” “shorts/novellas” and “anthos.” I’m terrible with titles, too, so when I download books I always save them with author name first. This system seems to work, generally, which is good since I buy books as soon as I see them, instead of putting them on a list to buy later. Oh, and I guess I do run into a problem with books that are cross-genre. An erotic western historical mystery…where oh where do you go???? I usually do a predominate purpose guess with those (ha, you can take the girl out of law school, but you can’t take the law school out of the girl…) and whatever genre is the main thrust of the story gets the book.
    Good luck with your organizing project. The fact that you do reviews, well…I don’t envy you what must be a big task!

    • I have my reviews in one folder, the books I’ve read in another by author. Then my TBR (out of control!) pile. You’re much more organized and well it seems just about everyone is more organized in their piles. I can’t imagine classifying by genre. I’d go insane. I’d have to make 2 copies – one for western, one for mystery – and maybe even 2 more to put one each in erotic and historical lol. Then how could you remember when you read it? My brain would explode hehe…
      A friend of mine is in law school right now too and it’s funny to see your comments because they coincide to his often. Good luck, it’s a hard road!

  10. Way back when I used to keep some semblance of order (or honestly attempt to) of my TBR and TBB files. One master list for the TBR category and one for TBB. Once a book was purchased (and yes I have the same affliction as Emily and yourself) the just bought book would move over to the TBR. Both lists always arranged by author and date of book release.
    Once I started to formally review a third list was started and this list takes precedence over my personal TBR.
    So reading priority is always for those books I have committed to formally review. What I usually end up doing is reading two books almost at the same time. One that I will be formally reviewing and the other from my personal TBR list, that latter of which I don’t always review.
    Speaking of TBR reading challenges I believe that there’s one out there at the moment. And when I do participate in reading challenges (e.g. M/M reading challenge) I try to read as many books as I can from my TBR. But my problem has always been new releases. I have a roving eye and find it extremely difficult to stay on the TBR wagon. New releases, in particular from favourite authors always tempt me and I usually loose the TBR battle.
    These days when I choose from my TBR list it’s almost exclusively based on my mood.

    • Oooo that’s a good idea. That keeps your TBR going down at the same pace as reviewing. I’ve found that I have to read all the review books first before I can feel guiltless in reading a TBR pile. So if I have a lot of reviews, my TBR languishes the poor thing (but of course I keep adding to it … sigh).
      I should look for the TBR challenge and try to pick more from that pile than new releases. I swear I’m like a magpie always wanting the shiney.

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