How to Thoughtfully Organize Your TBR

I recently moved across the country, taking all of my books with me. I filled almost fifty boxes with books alone, but before I even started packing I knew I had to get rid of a few. It’s a dreaded day many readers have and it’s something we all come across: you have to go through and organize your TBR and consider what books you will read and what books you won’t.

But how do you start a process like that? Each book I have is a book I’ve found interesting or been told is wonderful and I needed to read. I had amassed a collection of books that I hadn’t read that was bigger than the books I actually owned and had read and enjoyed. And now that I was moving across the country, I didn’t want to take the books I knew I wouldn’t read. So I applied a method similar to that of The KonMari Method that allowed me to keep the books I knew would bring me joy and donate the books I knew I wouldn’t read. Here’s what you can do to organize your TBR, too.

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Start with one bookshelf at a time.

When you’re working on updating your TBR shelf, do it slowly. Taking down all the books you haven’t read and heaping them in a pile in the middle of your living room will make a mess you’ll regret having made and also have to clean up later. If you take one shelf or one bookcase, you’ll have the time to sit with each book, do your research on the story, and make the final decision.

Know your genres.

Another important thing to remember is understanding what genres you absolutely love. Many of us are fond of all different books from various genres, but I did a deep dive into the books I’ve read and noticed trends in my reading life. I loved a lot of science fiction and fantasy. I always keep a few diverse reads handy. And I never go without a romance or two for my slump days. When you know your genres, it’s easier to make the decision if a historical fiction will keep you happy while you read. It’ll be the difference between owning too many thrillers you know you’re not going to be wowed by.

Review one book at a time.

Instead of picking up two or three books at a time, pick up one book at a time. Hold it up. Read the synopsis. Ask yourself where you were and the person you were when you bought it. The opportunity to sit down with a single book and review the reasons you bought it in the first place will allow you to ask the ultimate question (which is the next step).

Ask yourself if you’re going to read this book.

Truly ask yourself. Learn from your heart of hearts if the book you’re holding is something you are going to read. I’ve had many books I’ve picked up over the years where I told myself “yeah, this was a #1 bestseller. Of course I’m going to read this,” only to realize that a book being a #1 bestseller isn’t the parameter I live my own life by. I don’t just read books because they’re #1. I read books because I want to read them.

Will you be happy if you read it?

The final question you should always ask yourself is “will I be happy to read this book?” Remember, there’s a difference between collecting a book and reading a book. Collecting a book is because you find the cover to be beautiful or you’ve got a penchant for old copies of Tess of the D’Urbervilles or it’s a series and you want all the books to adorn your shelf. However, if the book you’re holding in your hand doesn’t fit those categories, then ask yourself if you’ll be happy to read it. Will the characters be enjoyable for you? Will the writing style keep you bubbling with joy?

I know that this step is a little hard when you’re not actually reading the book, but if you can’t see yourself happy to read a book or at least try out the first 100 pages, then definitely consider throwing that book in the donation pile for someone else who might find joy from it.

What other steps do you consider when organizing your TBR?

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