Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Let’s Talk TBRs

by Suzie Johnson
I don’t think a week goes by here at the Inkwell where someone doesn’t mention their TBR stack (pile, shelf, tower, whatever) – be it physical or virtual – and bemoan the fact that there’s never enough time to read everything.
courtesy of nkzs at
So let’s talk about our TBRs (that’s what I’m going to call them for the rest of this post).

A couple of weeks ago, in her Anglophile backlist post, Deb said she was thinking about re-creating Stonehenge with her stack of books. I laughed at the image, but in all seriousness most of us do have enough books that we really could build something out of them. I know I’m happily guilty of the very same thing.

So I was wondering… how do you manage your TBR? Do you organize your books alphabetically, by author, by date of purchase, by genre, or in order of what you think you want to read next?

For my physical TBR, I don’t have an organized system. I have little stacks in the bedroom and computer room, a box in the garage, and some on a shelf in the hall closet. They aren’t in any particular order. Neither are my NOOK books. However, on the NOOK there’s a front page where you can organize the books you want to read by cover for easy access. I love, love, love this feature! I always put the newest most exciting ones there, but if I get a new book that I think I’ll want to read before that one, say a Julie Klassen or Vicki Hinze, I’ll just bump a few back into the NOOK “library”.

I do tend to read by genre first. Inspirational suspense is almost always what I’ll read first, followed by favorite authors, unless there is something so gripping that it has to wend its way up to the top. Like Dina Sleiman’s Dance of the Dandelion or Lisa Bergren’s new YA time travel inspirationals.

I know people who keep lists of every book they’re read, and every book they buy, so they can cross them off and make sure they don’t read them again. I can’t operate that way. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I just don’t have time to be that organized. I work hard enough being organized at my job, I can’t handle it in my reading life since that’s where I go to relax.

courtesy of nkzs at
For those of you who have a Kindle, NOOK, or other reading device (or even those who read on the computer) do you have a virtual TBR as well as a physical one? I do have to say my physical one has shrunk somewhat since I bought the NOOK, but I think it’s always good to have a physical book on hand just in case the battery runs low on the NOOK due to excessive all-night reading sessions. If any of you have ever found yourself without a book to read, you know exactly what I mean.

My next question is the biggie. How many books do you currently have in your TBR? Anyone care to share? Go ahead, go and count. I’ll wait. I’ll share mine, too. It did take me a while to count. Oh, and before you ask, YES you can count your research books but let’s put them in their own category. I think they’re fair game because most of us get as much enjoyment out of doing research as we do reading fiction.

So here’s my list:
  • Virtual: 151 (NOOK)
  • Physical: 38 (all I can say is WOW! When compared to the NOOK, I can see I've really depleted my paper TBR since buying it. It's better for my allergies, I suppose.)
  • Research: 44 (Okay, I know I have many more somewhere, but I'm not digging through dusty boxes in the garage to count them. And chances are, since they're out there, I may not ever use them again. But still...I have to hang on to them. Just in case...)

Wow. I have a lot of reading ahead of me, but I have five more months of heavy-duty schoolwork ahead with little time to read, so I know before I’m finished with school my list will have grown some more.
courtesy of cafe-ole a
So why, when we have these huge stacks of books do we continue to buy more? I’ll go out on a limb and say for me I think it’s a little bit of an OCD thing. I’m constantly searching for new books by xyz author because even though I know her next book isn’t coming out for a month or two, I want to make sure it doesn’t sneak out early. There was a time when I’d snatch the books up because if you didn’t buy as soon as they became available, they would be gone. That changed with the advent of Amazon, and you can get most any book now, even if it’s out of print. And then there’re the e-versions. If a book comes out electronically, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll be able to buy it when you’re ready to read it. But it’s hard for me to change that habit of constantly searching. Again, probably the OCD thing.

I’ve asked a lot of questions here, and I hope you’ll give me an answer or two: How do you organize your TBR? Is it virtual or physical or do you combine the best of both worlds? How do you choose what you’re going to read, and how many books are in your TBR? Leave your email address and I’ll be sending someone a book to add to their TBR. I’ll let you know tomorrow who I’ll be sending a book to. ;-)

Suzie Johnson has won several awards for her inspirational novels (writing as Susan Diane Johnson), including the Maggie, Lone Star, Heart of the West, and Beacon awards, as well as finaling in the Touched by Love, Finally A Bride, Linda Howard Award for Excellence, and Virginia's Fool For Love contests. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day, she lives with her husband and little kitten on an island in the Pacific Northwest. And although the beaches are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madronas and Evergreens instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much to cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can visit her blog, Suzie's Writing Place at


  1. It's funny - a couple of weeks ago I posted about a similar topic and how to keep track of what readers are going to read/review. You can find my post here if you're interested:

    I confess to being OCD about books myself (just ask my friends and my mom - I hate it when someone messes with my nice, neat stacks of books, LOL!). I love using Goodreads and Shelfari to virtually keep track of what I'm going to read, as well as a Word document right now to keep track of what I have to review on my blog.

    I have several stacks around my room that probably only make sense to me, but oh, well. ;) I think it IS super funny that even though I have so much yet to read, I keep adding to the stack! *sigh* It's an addiction, I suppose. And there are so many great reads being added all the time! :)



  2. For a while my TBR pile was shrinking,thanks to e-books. I figured it didn't make much sense to buy them before I was ready to start reading them. It wasn't like I would be caught without a book and have to drive all the way to the store to buy one.

    And then the free ebooks started coming. And someone gave me a BN gift card. And Border's had a clearance sale.

    I have both a Nook and a Kindle, and unread books waiting on each. And shelves in four rooms. And stacks piled conveniently in the bedroom, living room, and family room.

    I would count them, but I suspect I'd probably pick one up and disappear for a while.

  3. Hey, Amber, I just read your post. I tried to leave a comment, but my Blackberry won't let me do word verification. I'll try later when I'm up and at a computer. It's a great post, and great blog. Isn't synchronicity a funny phenomenen?

  4. Barb, you have a Nook and a Kindle? I thought I must be odd because I have two Nooks. And I was thinking maybe I need a Kindle, too. Is it because I love gadgets? OCD? Or a driving need to be prepared in case one needs recharging when I need to be reading? l found a lot of free books, too, and received gift cards as well. I've honestly saved a fortune since buying the Nook(s). They've literally paid for themselves.

  5. Oh, you guys, it's 4am here and I'm wide awake because they've been working on the highway all night with jackhammers and loud rumbling trucks. It's like living in a big city. Whatever made them think it was a good idea to work at night?

  6. A quick hi Suzie while I finish my breakfast bread and peanut butter.

    It's just too hard to turn down a book you want to read, isn't it? In reality I find I read about 2-3 books-in-hand over a month's time. I usually only read the Kindle-for-mac on my Itouch when I'm sitting waiting for something or traveling (I can see I don't do that very much)

    Priorities get shifted all the time when I am trying to finish a certain book to review, so others get pushed aside.

    AFter picking up FREE Love Inspireds at the Philly conference, my TBR shelf is packed to capacity--maybe 50 books? My Kindle -about 50 also but some are research.

    To do the math, I could read 2 a month and not buy any for four years. YEAH RIGHT. Like that's going to happen...

  7. Oh the ever-growing TBR pile! I have a smallish (3 narrow shelves) bookshelf in my bedroom dedicated to TBR books. It's usually packed full. Then there is the usually 2-3 book stack on my nightstand. And don't even get me started on my kindle! If I never bought another book I think I'd have enough there to keep me busy for a couple of years! And of course the books just keep coming. Which is good. For me the saying "too many books, too little time" is all too true!

  8. I'm way too embarrassed to mention how many books are in my house that need to be read. We'll just leave that part out. :o)

    I mostly keep up with all of my books on Goodreads. Everything is going to fall into the read pile or the to-read pile, but then, I've organized more virtual shelves for the books that are my favorites, books to be reviewed, etc. Physically, these books are separated as well; each has it's own shelf. All the remaining books are sorted by genre (contemporary, historical, Amish, Biblical, and YA).

    The sad thing is that I have a Kindle, too. And like everyone else, it has paid for itself with all the freebies that I've been fortunate to get.

    It's a miracle my husband still loves me in spite of all my books! :o)

  9. Oh, and email addy:

    southernsassythings at gmail dot com

  10. Good morning Deb! Peanut butter sounds good for breakfast. Yum.

    I know I have enough books to go that long without buying, too, but can you even imagine not buying a book for four years? I'd be beside myself with anxiety over it and I'd never remember all the titles I wanted to read!

  11. Hi Anne! I can't wait to and YOUR book to my TBR! I hope it's very soon. :-)

    You know, I figure there will come a day when I'll get to read every book in my TBR. I just hope it's on a beach somewhere warm.

  12. Oh, Christy! I've determined that we should never be ashamed of how many books we have. We're helping the economy. Lol!

    I didn't know what goodreads was until I read Amber's blog post. I can't wait to check it out - after my final exams next week.

  13. Thanks for mentioning me, Suzie ;) And may I add that Dance of the Dandelion currently has pure five star ratings on all the review sites. Certainly a moment to enjoy while it lasts. LOL.

    I always start with books I need to read: influencer, endorser, reviewer. I usually do those in the order they come unless one's on a close deadline.

    Then I just pick by whim. Favorite authors go first, but I also try to pepper in new ones. I read in a number of genres but rarely category books by choice.

    I've been on a buying freeze and have managed to get my TBR stack down a bit. Still, I've gotten free kindle books. I also received an amazon gift card for my birthday and ordered books by three of my favorite authors (Steven James, Tosca Lee, Jim Rubart) that should come this week. Those are going to the top for sure.

    My physical TBR list is down to 25 and my kindle is about half that.

    Of course, keep in my that a lot of the books I read are unpublished manuscripts for WhiteFire.

  14. Ugh, my TBR stacks are out of control.

    My problem is that I have tons (literally) of books I want to read for pleasure and tons I need to read for review and/or endorsement. Those last usually need to get taken care of within a certain amount of time (and yes, I'm behind), so the others just sit.


    Do we get to have libraries in heaven?

  15. Suzie,

    So glad you enjoyed the post and that I was able to introduce you to Goodreads! :D It's a wonderful program.

    I'll be responding to your comment on the BB, too - 'cause I'm OCD like that. ;)



  16. Dina! I am so thrilled about your reviews! Yay! Congratulations, it is very well deserved. I can't wait for a follow up book to add to my TBR.

    My mom loves Steven James. I have his in my TBR, but since my mom loves them, I'm afraid they might be too scary. But I'll read them one of these days.

  17. Yeah, they're darn scary, but I've kind of gotten used to it now.

  18. Hey DeAnna,

    Libraries in Heaven? Yes! I'm all for it.

    I have books that keep getting pushed aside, too. I'm not sure why since I wanted to read them so badly when I bought them. I guess there are times when I have to in the mood for certain things. I did buy the Amish Vampire book, and I know I'll have to read that on a nice sunny day and finish it the same day ... Way before dark! ;)

  19. Thanks Amber. I'm so glad you posted about Goodreads. And I'm so glad to know another OCD-er. ;-)

  20. Dina, have you read Tess Gerritsen? Are they scarier than her books? Hers are about as scary as I can handle - and sometimes they're too much for me. But I keep reading them. What does that say about me?

  21. Sorry, I haven't read hers. I usually don't read scary books. I bought Steven's first book for my husband, then read it because I planned to take a class from him. Then Steven made me promise to read book two, and now I'm stuck.

  22. Fun post, Suzie. Sadly, my TBR piles are starting to lean. A few of them are books I feel I *should* read, but most of them are *wants* and I look at them longingly from time to time.

    I'm a book keeper, too. I should seriously cull a few out to make room for new ones. :-)

  23. I usually don't read scary books either, Dina, but I do like suspense. I'll try his one of these days.

  24. I said I'd never lie to you Inkies, so here goes...

    - 530 series books of which there are 6 completed series and the rest are missing books in their continuing stories. (I like going on a treasure hunt at library sales, used book stores and yard/garage sales to fill in the missing ones.)

    - 60 Love Inspired, LIH and LIS books waiting to complete a series

    - approx 200 Love Inspired Suspense and LI non-series books which hubby and Jessie have read but I haven't because I've been reading books I'm an influencer or reviewer for.

    - about 100 other books - mainstream and CBA which I've accumulated on my travels, but really want to read some day.

    I keep track of the 530 series books with a pocket-size accordian file broken into sections for:
    - inspirational
    - inspirational suspense and historical
    - Harlequin SuperRomance
    - Harlequin American and Romance
    - other multi-author series
    - other single author series

    About a year ago I downloaded the Book Tracker app on my iPhone. I like that it's always with me while my accordian file is usually in my purse. I don't take my purse into used book stores, etc because I usually have books to lug around.

    The Book Tracker works great and I can scan the bar code in for easy entry for the newer books. I don't have time to input my tbr pile though. It's one of those add what comes in and not what's sitting there already.

    Hubby likes the Book Tracker because once he reads a book, he can scan it and mark it off as read. (It's because he never reads the back blurb and then never recognizes the story later.)

    Because we read so many LI, LIH and LIS, I have a binder with those books listed in it. I print the pages from fictiondb. The books are listed in order of date so at a glance I know which books are coming out a few months ahead. I just circle the word 'buy' for each one we order or buy elsewhere. I'll also annotate an A, N, or J for each of us that's read the book.

    Since another Harlequin shipment of LI, LIS and LIH arrived yesterday, I'll take you through my sorting process...

    We have a Love Inspired bookcase, with 3 piles - one for each of us. Each pile has the next 6-12 books we want to read.

    When a shipment comes in, series books are taken out and matched with their counterparts. If the series is complete, it's put on a pile - LIS and LI for Nelson, LIH for me. (Jessie's pile is on hold until she comes back for another visit.)

    If the new book is LI or LIS and isn't in a series, it goes to the bottom of Nelson's pile because he grabs them from the top. Woe is me if he ever gets to the bottom of his pile because he'll go to the series books and pull one out regardless what it belongs to. It's much better to keep him supplied.

    I think that's it.

    Anita Mae.

  25. Susie, I gave a problem with keeping books, too, until they make me sneeze. I have a goal to become a sort-of minimalist by the end of this year. Right now it isn't looking so good...

    I'm so glad you're back. I missed you!

  26. Oh, and please let's not even start on my research books.

  27. Wow! Anita! You have rendered me speechless. I truly don't know what to say. I can only dream of being that organized. My, oh my!

    Email me the books you're missing. Since I'm trying to downsize (due to allergies) maybe I can fill in a gap or two. :)

  28. Anita, I just saw your comment about the research books. Please. Get started counting and sharing that process, because I really want to know how you keep those straight. I'm quite sure you have a system. I never imagined you were so organized. It blows my mind.

  29. I've been trying very hard to be disciplined about my book buying. My goal is to read the books I have before I buy new. And to pass them along to other readers when I'm done. Unless of course it's one of the rare keepers. I've been doing pretty well all year. Only bought a few must-haves hot off the presses. Slowly my TBR pile is shrinking.

    For me it was partially an issue of space, partially an issue of limited finances and partially about having to get control of something. I enjoy reading, but the sense of accomplishment spurs me on too.

  30. Anita, I think there might be a twelve-step program for people like you ;)

  31. Lisa, you have a very admirable goal. I used to allow myself a certain $$ amount per month for books. I've cut that in half, so I'm trying to be disciplined, but I have a long way to go. Still, I'm trying. I do trade books with one of my friends. She buys some and I buy some and when we get together, be each bring a bag of books.

  32. Suzie, I keep track of my research books with Book Tracker but like I said before, the older books don't have ISBN numbers so it takes longer to log in. So far I have about 175 books - or 1/3 of my research library - on Book Tracker.

    It's really easy to find them on my shelves, because I group them according to topic much like a real library:

    - The Old West & US history
    - Women in history (Good girls & bad)
    - Mounties
    - Western Cdn history
    - Cdn history
    - 19th century trades
    - Household Arts
    - Antiques
    - Fashion
    - Cartography
    - World history
    - Biblical
    - Flora & Fauna
    - Writing Craft

    series books:
    - Time-life's The Old West
    - Reader's Digest Civilizations
    - Illustrated History of Canada

    By keeping my books organized in this fashion, I can run out to my office in the garage in the winter when it's -45F and find the book I need within a minute or two.

  33. Anita, I'm doubly - no, triply - impressed. You could have been a librarian! You go, girl!

  34. Yeah, well up here, we'll do anything to avoid frostbite. LOL


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