Too Many Books! How to cope with a large TBR pile

If someone would pay me to read books and talk about them, I would 100% take that job. But they won’t. And even if they did, it would still be impossible for me to read all the books I want to read at any given time. There’s too many of them! Which is why I regularly find myself in the position that plagues many a readerly life: TOO MANY BOOKS ON THE “TO BE READ” PILE!

Lately, this has been happening to me when a bunch of books hit my library holds at the same time, sort of like the literary equivalent of this:


Many if not most of those have a three-week due date and I will not achieve that amount of reading in that time frame ( at least not until—see above—someone will pay me to read books and talk about them).

I know I cannot be the only person who faces this challenge so what’s an overwhelmed reader to do?

1. Prioritize the Due

If it’s a library type situation (or borrowing from a friend whose friendship you want to maintain) focus first on those books that cannot be renewed.

2. Get to Work

Oh, there’s an amazing new show on Hulu? You’re having a barbecue now that people can gather together again? There’s a new movie out at the recently re-opened theaters?

Don’t care! Do not have time! Must read the books!

3. Cull Ruthlessly

Because you may want to watch a show, go to the movies, see other humans, etc. and because life is short and death comes for us (#MementoMori), have a real heart-to-heart with yourself regarding the infinite stack of potential books to read. What did you reserve or purchase more out of FOMO than genuine fervor? What sounded exciting when you first said “yes” to it but does not speak to you now? What can you honestly not even remember ever hearing about and where? (Be honest now.)

Also what sounds compelling, important, or fun to you right now? A book may not be right for you right now but may be right for you at some point in the future. This includes dumping a book that you are not enjoying. Edit, edit, edit. Remember, what happens with your to-be-read pile is between you and yourself. And if you do cull things? Be a good citizen and return those books!

In the spirit of honesty, out of the above posted stack, I did the following:

  1. Set aside On Immunity and Hieroglyph because they are not due right away. (This is the tactic I’m taking with some books I have been gifted or bought, which linger and loom, oh, how they linger and loom!)
  2. Started Ariadne, wasn’t loving it, checked reviews and saw that they are not great, stopped reading and took it back.
  3. Powered through Minor Feelings because I knew it was an important work that I wanted to have read and an author and type of examination I want to support and see more of in the world. (Note: It’s great!)
  4. Straight up returned: Wintering (no longer in that mood), The New Wilderness (it still sounds good just not as pressing as other things), and Indelicacy (I cannot remember where or how I heard about this book and while it sounds good it does not feel as pressing as others). I may very well check out each of these books again in future.
  5. Read Transcendent Kingdom, which was fine but I’m also glad to have read it.
  6. Read and loved Empress of Salt and Fortune and Raybearer.

I have a similar stack lying in wait for me right now, which I will pick up as soon as I’m done with Raybearer (pick-up time management is also an important tactic). And so the cycle begins anew. Raybearer (9781419739828): Ifueko, Jordan: Books

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