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Decluttering My Digital TBR: A Goodreads TBR Purge

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Emily Polson

Staff Writer

Emily Polson is a freelance writer and publishing assistant at Simon & Schuster. Originally from central Iowa, she studied English and creative writing at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, before moving to a small Basque village to teach English to trilingual teenagers. Now living in Brooklyn, she can often be found meandering through Prospect Park listening to a good audiobook. Twitter: @emilycpolson |

One of my New Year’s resolutions is decluttering my living space. Since I spend a lot of time online these days, I decided that the same resolution should apply to my digital life. So after a heart-wrenching hour of trying to declutter my physical bookshelves, I went online for a good old-fashioned Goodreads TBR purge.

goodreads app logoI began using Goodreads back in 2012 when I started a BookTube channel. I actively participated in the YouTube book community for about a year, but before that, I picked most of my reads at random from my home or public library. Needless to say, BookTube made my TBR explode.

At the start of 2018, I had almost 400 books on my digital TBR. That’s less than on my “read” shelf, so that’s good, I thought to myself. Some people have a thousand or more. But it had already become an almost untraversable internet space that no longer served any real function. So I went to work, armed with some tips on how to spring clean your Goodreads TBR from a fellow Rioter.

The Goodreads TBR Purge

I started from the back by date added. It ended up being quite the trip down memory lane.

I deleted:

  • Books that were super popular in the 2012–2013 BookTube community before fading into obscurity. Those books that a lot of my online friends added to their TBRs in 2012 but nobody has marked as “read” since 2014.
  • Books I added just because one of my BookTube peers gave it a 4+ star rating in a too-long video review that I watched in its entirety.
  • Game of Thrones. I’m sorry, but it was time I admitted to myself that I will never read it. If I ever change my mind, it’s not like I’m in danger of forgetting the series exists.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. I told myself that if I ever read these books, it will be on a whim and that I am still a 100% verified Potterhead™ even if I don’t.
  • Books I shelved because I was an English Major™ and all English Majors™ must aspire to read all of the Classics™ before they die. I’m looking at you, Dante’s Purgatorio (but it’s the next in a series!) and Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome (but one of my English Major™ friends gave it five stars!).
  • Books I added based on their cool titles and not their plots (apologies to Side Effects May Vary and My Heart and Other Black Holes).
  • Biographies of authors I like that I would admittedly never pick up unless I had to write a research paper on them.
  • Works by authors I admire and hope to someday get to, but am in no hurry to read and unlikely to forget about.
  • Books that John Green recommended years ago in a Vlogbrothers video that I’m sure are fantastic but don’t actively strike my fancy.
  • That fantasy novel a college peer recommended that I added because I wanted to impress him but later heard wasn’t that great.
  • The book I shelved because I loved the film version, only to find out that the book was written after.
  • The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books in series I started and abandoned years ago.

    This Goodreads TBR purge wasn’t all about removing books, though. Decluttering the shelf also reminded me of the books I do want to read soon.

    The 2nd oldest book on my TBR is Dune by Frank Herbert, which I’ve decided to read for #3 of the Book Riot 2018 Read Harder challenge, “a classic of genre fiction.”

    I rediscovered unread sequels to books I loved in childhood, like The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis.

    I left on those miscellaneous old BookTube and John Green recommendations that still do strike my fancy, even if no one is talking about them anymore. I also kept those old English Major™ books that my nerdy self is genuinely interested in, particularly ones by obscure authors I stumbled upon while writing research papers (here’s looking at you, early genre-bending feminist Margaret Cavendish).

    It reminded me how long I’ve been interested in works by an author I only recently started reading. For example, I shelved Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State in 2014, but I just read her for the first time in 2017.

    Best of all, thanks to the Chrome library extension, I found out which books are in at my library, put on hold others that weren’t, and browsed audiobooks I could download with Libby, the library app. The next time I went to my library, I read The Hole by Øyvind Torseter, a delightful picture book that had made its way onto my TBR by BookTube recommendation a long time ago. I also finished Through the Woods by Emily Carroll in one sitting, realizing afterward it fulfills task #8 of Read Harder, “a comic written and illustrated by the same person.” I hope to further whittle down those older titles by reading more of them this upcoming year.

    Some people can live with thousands of books on their want-to-read list and never think twice about it. For my restless packrat mind, though, decluttering my digital TBR has freed up mental space. My TBR used to be an unreferenced list of books I felt guilty for not having read yet. Now it’s once again an active reminder of what I want to read next; a useful, browsable shelf.

    Admittedly, it’s still around 160 books deep. The last 70 or so have been added in the last year, though, as I’ve started paying more attention to new releases, Rioter recommendations, and publishing newsletters. This just means I’ll have to make the Goodreads TBR purge an annual New Year’s event.