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I Weeded My Goodreads To-read Shelf and It Felt Amazing

Jessica Pryde

Contributing Editor

Jessica Pryde is a member of that (some might call) rare breed that grew up in Washington, DC, but is happily enjoying the warmer weather of the desert Southwest. While she is still working on what she wants to be when she grows up, she’s enjoying dabbling in librarianship and writing all the things. She can be found drowning in her ever-growing TBR and exclaiming about romance in the Book Riot podcast (When in Romance), as well as on social media. Find her exclamations about books and pho on twitter (JessIsReading) and instagram (jess_is_reading).

We book people have this thing where we grow attached to books. And that is great. Sure, we sometimes find ourselves buried in stacks of books, but we know we love them, so it’s okay.

The problem is when that attachments extends to the virtual world. And I’m not talking about ebooks (though that is a problem I also have). I’m talking about our lists. Whichever way we decide to keep track of books we want to read, whether it’s a spreadsheet, or a Goodreads to-read shelf, or a little black book. Once we’ve decided we are going to read something, it’s hard to let go.

I’ve been on Goodreads for nearly seven years, and I have a bad habit of going “huh, that’s interesting” and clicking the Want To Read button. But when you do that for five years you end up with nearly 6,000 books on your to-read list.

Recently, I sat down and got really honest with myself about everything labeled “to-read” in my Goodreads account. I asked myself a few questions, and then I took advantage of that marvelous Batch Edit feature that you can use in the main three shelves.

These were my questions:

Do I own this book?

While that is not the biggest determinant of whether a book will stay on my to-read shelf, if I own the book, it certainly makes sense to keep it on the list. Even then, the answer to this question does not matter if the answer to the other questions I asked is no. I am more than willing to take the book off my list and happily add it to my used bookstore pile, if I have grown apathetic about the title. Might as well try and get bookstore credit for those eight Jennifer Crusie books I bought five years ago and have barely thought about since the last time I moved.


Do I remember when/why I added this book? Do I have any idea what this book is about?

Maybe the author is one I like, or am at least familiar enough with that I wouldn’t delete a book if I knew they were someone whose books I tended to like. Maybe I can see where I added all of the suggestions from the comments of the time-travel post I wrote a couple years ago. Sometimes, the title or cover might spark recognition, or give some indication as to why I added it.

One thing I did was get rid of a couple hundred Regency romance novels about earls and dukes. There might be a few that were by familiar authors or whose titles I distinctly recall having interest in that I decided to keep. And I didn’t remove them from the list because I don’t think I’d be interested in them anymore, but because there were just so many. Sure, if I came across one in the wild, in search of that particular kind of book, I would probably make the decision to read it. But several dozen Scandalous Earls don’t need to clog up my list just because I enjoy the genre.


Does this title sound interesting now?

Really. Key point of this whole venture. There were some tropes I was totally down with reading years ago that I am not ravenous for now. Like, do I really need twenty-five fairy tale adaptations on this list? There might be two or three that I still find intriguing, but I don’t have the need to read everything in that category like I did when I was going through Goodreads recommendations for every shelf I had created and every genre I had added once or twice a month.

There were also several books that I have recently picked up/put back down in a bookstore or library, or read the synopsis when it was a Kindle Daily Deal or on one of the other ten thousand bargain emails I get, and shrugged about, only to discover them on my to-read shelf during this process. Obviously, if I wasn’t drawn in by a two dollar deal, I’m not that keen to read it.


Yes, I feel a little bit guilty about taking something off my list. But the big cull has just given me the chance to revisit my preferences. If I come across a deleted book in the wild and discover I want to read it again—say I pick it up in a bookstore or library, or read a review of it online—I can always add it back.

I’m not saying I made significant enough damage to this list that I could now read each and every one before I died at 106; I went from 5,800 to 3,900, which is still a horrible, daunting list of books, many of which I will not get to. But I feel like I have a more honest list for me in 2016.