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Dealing With My TBR Pile (by Not Dealing With It)

Yash Kesanakurthy

Staff Writer

Somewhere between starting her schooling in Saudi Arabia and finishing high school in Singapore, Yash Kesanakurthy realized that she disliked school. It was the fateful move to Vancouver, Canada for a BA in Economics (which, surprise, didn't pan out) that led her to the MA program in Children's Literature at UBC. She had fun immersing herself into the academia of children's literature but nothing beat the joy of writing for The Book Wars, being able to set aside classics and pay attention to the culture of contemporary YA. And now, everything is PB/MG/YA and nothing hurts. Well, some things hurt but nothing her bookshelf can't fix. Currently, she is working on her own YA fantasy novel and an all-ages picturebook. Her life goals include: getting a pet dog, getting published, and presenting you dear readers and Rioters with posts that engage and entertain. (Maybe not in that order?) Blog: The Book Wars Twitter: @SeeYashTweet

It is no exaggeration to say that unread books have officially taken over most every flat surface in my apartment. It has gotten to the point where I go between bouts of guilt over shopping (“Does it count if I get an e-book that’s, like, two bucks?”) and the feeling of being utterly overwhelmed (“If I am a bad host, they might leave, right?”). And book recs from my trusted friends, well, they’ve started to feel a little scary…

Don’t get me wrong. Books constitute the majority of what I talk about with my friends (What do normal people talk about? I wonder as I browse Goodreads), and the prospect of meeting them and finding out which new story has captured their imagination is my favourite thing to do. Nothing delights me more than watching someone talk about something they love, especially if it’s a book.

That is, until they say, “You have to read this! You’ll love it!”

[Cut to the image of me burning my TBR pile– and my apartment with it– out of sheer desperation.]


So I say, as calmly as humanly possible: “I want to, but (*gesture helplessly at the book-strewn apartment* / *start crying as I realize I may not actually read all the books I own before I die* / *just run away— I can make new friends in Peru right*).”

Until one day, I couldn’t say “but.” On the blog I co-run with my friends, we decided to spend a month of reading books that we’ve recommended to each other. We put a pause on our looming TBR towers and dove into something scarier: books we probably would not have picked for ourselves.

Thing is, I surprised myself by genuinely enjoying this exercise. There were so many things that could have gone wrong:

  • I could have found out that my friends secretly hate me. (“It’s about a straight, middle-aged, white couple going through a divorce. Here you go.”)
  • Or, worse, that they didn’t know me at all. (“You like anthropomorphized bugs, right?”)
  • I could have hated the books they’d recommended and questioned our friendship.
  • I could have adored the books they’d recommended and questioned whether I know myself at all.

    Turns out the last two points actually came true. Kind of. I mean, I didn’t question our friendship and I didn’t look at myself in the mirror with mounting terror. But these books were pretty challenging reads. At the time of reading, I wondered, “Why?” And when I finished, I thought, “Ah. Okay.” Just the way good books are supposed to do, you know.

    With every book I completed, I moved farther away from the guilt of not reading a book I was “supposed to.” I started to remember the excitement of reading something new— even if the books I’d been recommended were not exactly the most recent releases— and I started to appreciate more deeply the books that had once felt out of my comfort zone but no longer did. My TBR pile, obviously, consists of books that I thought I would like, but the unexpected books I’d read recently reminded me that “I” is an ever-changing concept.

    Still, those were all things I’d expected (or hoped) would happen. Here is what I didn’t expect: relief. I consider myself a devoted reader— something that just hasn’t been true for a while. I have been so busy looking forward to reading something or scheduling a number of books that I’ve been meaning to read for years, it was nice to be handed a book and just read. It was more than nice. It was bracing. Turns out the only way for me to get over a reading slump (or, more accurately, gain courage enough to face down my TBR) is to say yes … to more books … *sigh* Have I mentioned I don’t have place to set down my coffee?

    So, does anyone else feel a little terrified of their TBR piles? How do you deal with it?