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How To Spring Clean Your Goodreads TBR Pile

Amanda Diehl

Staff Writer

Amanda Diehl escaped to Boston to get her MA in Publishing & Writing. Though she loves her new home in the Northeast, she will forever mourn the loss of Publix and sweet tea. As for Amanda’s voracious love of reading, she got it from her mama, though her favorite genres are romance, horror, and the occasional memoir. She reviews romance novels for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and when she’s able to scrounge together some free time, you can find her napping in front of the TV with the latest trashy reality show or scarfing down brunch-related foods. Twitter: _ImAnAdult

Spring cleaning is a necessary evil, regardless of whether you’re pruning your bookshelves or something more digital. I was sitting in bed with my boyfriend last week, our laptops open and Goodreads up in our browsers. I was aghast to see that my boyfriend’s to-be-read (TBR) list only had ten books on it. TEN?! Bro, do you even read?

But then he looks over at mine, a digital TBR pile of 1200-plus books. And he scoffed, “Like you’re ever going to read all of those.”

Days later, I was still thinking about that statement. He was right; don’t tell him. I knew something had to be done, so I set to reducing my TBR list as quickly and efficiently as possible. Using Goodreads’ batch edit feature, I can select the books I want to change, then remove them in one click.

Here’s the criteria I used to whittle down my TBR shelf on Goodreads. Feel free to use all of them or just a few according to your reading tastes:

Don’t think about it too hard

This isn’t necessarily some “spark joy” type deal, but I wanted this to be quick. I’m a busy woman with things to do! If you can’t remember the plot of the book or any other details upon reading the title or why you added it in the first place, odds are you won’t miss it if you take it off your list. It’ll be okay!


Since I receive and read a lot of publishing news, I often add books to my TBR pile way before their publication dates. I have a personal policy though not to add things to my pile if they’re rated below 3.5ish stars on Goodreads. So anything that didn’t make the cut is getting axed. Exceptions are books that come highly recommended by friends.


Maybe you’re burnt out on a particular genre or certain genres don’t interest you much anymore. That’s how I feel about historical romances. I just read too much of them, too quickly. So out goes the historical romance! Should I ever want to read historicals, I can easily consult some Goodreads lists on historical romances or dive into an previously read author’s backlist.


Can I live with myself if I never read Jacques the Fatalist? Yeah, I think I can. If you want to read classic works, go right ahead. But you won’t lose any reader cred if you choose to spend your time reading other things. This may have been the toughest step for me, but then again, I read romance. One of the most harshly critiqued, stereotyped genres. So who cares if I’m giving up works by Proust to read some salacious menage from Lauren Dane. Life is too short to read for the sake of public opinion.


It seems like everything is part of a series, but is it worth it to have book four on something on my list, when I already have book one? If I’m going to start at the beginning of a series, odds are I’ll eventually get to book four. I’ll tackle number four once I get to it, so there’s no sense in getting ahead of myself and making my TBR list look even more daunting.

Books I’ve already read reviews of

While sometimes reviews can be helpful in determining whether to buy and read a book, they can also tell you all you need to know. Normally, if a book has been read and reviewed by one of my colleagues on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I probably won’t get around to reading it since I’ve kind of worked pretty closely with that review – formatting the text, doing social media for it, etc. It’s a bit of a downside to working with books, admittedly.

Books I own

If I own a physical copy of the book, I can safely take it off my TBR list. That doesn’t mean I won’t read it, but I don’t need that digital reminder of putting it on Goodreads. I’ll be confronted with that title every time I look at my bookshelf, so there’s no forgetting that I already have that book whenever I’m ready to get to it.


Using these rules, I brought my TBR pile down about 400 books. Yeah, that’s right. Four with two zeroes after it. I’m still not completely happy and I’ll do a deeper purge when I have time, where I’ll look at books and read the description to see if I’m still interested.

I actually kind of love the way my boyfriend uses his Goodreads account, though I know it’s not for me. For those interested, he keeps around ten books at a time on his TBR pile. He won’t add another one until he reads one. That way everything stays current and is constantly changing. It’s small enough so books won’t get buried and they reflect what he wants to read right then and now. Rather than me, who has books on her TBR list that have been there for years.

I will say that if felt really good to get rid of that many books and made my list seem just a little bit more manageable. My next goal is to get it under 500, but…baby steps. Each new month means new books!