Recently, I posted about books I’d taken off my TBR, so I thought I’d share how I go about ‘spring cleaning’ my TBR (even in winter).
Hopefully this might give you some ideas about how to remove those extra few books that you’re not likely to read (but have been holding onto) so you can make space for books you’re more excited about.
Evaluating the books on my list
The first thing I do when I want a TBR cleanse is open my Goodreads “want to read” shelf. I keep the full list of books I want to read there (whether I own a copy of not) so this is the best place for me to begin the cleanse.
I filter my books so they’re in order of newest added to oldest and have a good scroll through the list. This is just to remind myself of everything on there.
I tend to leave the newer additions alone, since I’m still most excited about those. Sometimes there are books I’ve read still on there, but I originally added a different edition, so I remove those.
But then the hard work comes.
I always start at the top (with the newest books added) and work my way down.
Asking myself five questions
The best way for me to make a tricky decision about whether I should remove a book from my list is to ask myself five questions.
Do I have easy access to this book?
If I have a physical copy, or it’s available on audio, or in my local library, then the answer is yes. And if I have easy access to a book, I’ve found that I’m more likely to pick it up sooner.
If it’s a book that’s unavailable on Book Depository, not in stock in Waterstones, and no-one I know has a copy they could lend me, then I’m much less likely to be picking it up any time soon.
This may sound unlikely, but one of the books in my recent TBR cleanse was unavailable on every book outlet I tried. Every single one. So there was basically no way for me to get a copy and I decided to take it off my TBR.
Am I likely to read this book in the next year?
I ask myself this because if I’m not likely to read a book in the next year (or two) then I’m less likely to read it at all.
Sometimes there are exceptions, where I’ll have a book sitting on my shelves for three or four years and then finally read it. Or I’ll have owned a book for five years, and refuse to get rid of it because I know I’m going to read it one day.
But often, if I’ve owned a book for a few years and haven’t picked it up, it’s because my excitement for it has died out.
This is even more true of books on my non-physical TBR. If I don’t own a copy and I’m not looking forward to it, then I’m not going to read it and should take it off my list.
The third thing I ask is: How excited for this book am I?
When a new book is releasing, I often get swept up in the hype and excitement for it and add it to my TBR. But usually as the months pass, if I haven’t read it, I lose a bit of excitement for it.
The more time that passes, the less excitement/motivation I have to read it. If I look at a book on my TBR, and I don’t feel any excitement, I Marie Kondo that thing right off there.
But, there are some outliers. Books that have been out for nine or ten months and I’m still very much hyped to read them. (Think The Downstairs Girl, The Disasters, and Hot Dog Girl). These stay on the list.
Do I feel like this is going to be a 5 star read?
If I do and I have a good feeling about it, then I definitely keep it on my TBR.
But if I get the feeling it’s going to be mediocre and I’m just read it for the hype, then why not read a book I think I’ll enjoy more. (I wish I could apply this logic to DNFing but for some reason I just can’t.)
The final question I ask myself is, would this book have a better home elsewhere?
This is, of course, more of a question for the physical books I own. If I think that someone else would be more likely to read the book sooner and get more enjoyment out of it than me, then I try to donate said book to my library or a local school. Or I drop it in to my local Oxfam.
After all, why let it sit on my shelf for another three years when someone else might read it next week and find it’s their new favourite book.
I also rank the books on my TBR in terms of priority
After asking myself these five questions, I rank my books on a scale of 1-5. This helps me decide which are more important (to me personally) than others.
If I need to read a book for a blog tour, then it’s firmly a 1. If it’s got queer themes and is a highly anticipated release, it’s a 1.
If I’m still looking forward to it, but it’s not an immediate priority, it’s a 3.
If it’s been sitting on my shelves for four years and is written by a white middle aged man about the woes of his own privileged life, then it’s probably a 5. Sorry dude.
Examples of current 1s are:
Red White and Royal Blue, Loveboat, Taipei, Infinity Son, We Hunt the Flame
Examples of current 2s:
The Guinevere Deception, Ninth House, Break the Fall
Sick Kids in Love, Harley in the Sky, Wayward Son, Evelyn Hugo
Circe, The Bone Season, The Disasters, The Fever King
Everything else on my shelf that will eventually be read. (Hopefully.)
At the end of this process, I’ve usually taken 20-30 books off my TBR and have a much clearer picture of which books I want to prioritise and read soon.
This is just my personal way of doing a TBR cleanse, and you should do whatever works for you. But if you want to remove those extra few books to make space for new ones and take the pressure off, then hopefully this might give you some ideas about how to do so.
How often do you take books off your TBR? What’s your usual method? If you decide to try any of my suggestions, I’d love to hear how you got on!