How To

5 Ways To Weed Your Digital and Physical TBRs: Fall into Fall Readathon

Jenn Northington

Director, Editorial Operations

Jenn Northington has worked in the publishing industry wearing various hats since 2004, including bookseller and events director, and is currently Director of Editorial Operations at Riot New Media Group. You can hear her on the SFF Yeah! podcast nerding out about sci-fi and fantasy. When she’s not working, she’s most likely gardening, running, or (obviously) reading. Find her on Tumblr at jennIRL and Instagram at iamjennIRL.

This post is part of our Fall into Fall Readathon to help you wrap up your summer reading and get cozy for the fall reading season. It’s sponsored by Swoon Reads — publishing the latest and greatest in YA fiction recommended by readers like you. See all the readathon posts here.

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Friends: do you have a TBR problem? Do you need help weeding your TBR? Do the unread books on your ereader outnumber the unread promotional emails in your inbox? Do your numerous piles of books threaten the structural integrity of your house? Has someone accused you of being a hoarder? Does the phrase “Free download!” fill you with both joy and despair? Did you lose your cat recently amongst the stacks, only to find it had created a fort out of hardcovers? Are you overwhelmed by trying to figure out which of these books you actually might want to read?

Fear not: I have some suggestions for you. With one or more of these five techniques, you too can weed down your digital and/or physical TBR. Why am I so confident? I once downsized my personal library from 800ish books to just a little over 300 in one weekend, and I’ve only gotten better at weeding since then. (But don’t worry, I’m not going to KonMari you in this post.)

1. Do I remember why I want to read this book?

This sounds really obvious, but I have been stumped more than once when weeding out my TBR by this question. If I can look at a title and immediately recall why I picked it up—a friend recommended it; the author was on NPR; I loved their previous books; you get the idea—then I’ll keep it around. If I genuinely cannot remember why I acquired this book in the first place? Away it goes.

2. Did I pay for this book?

Another beautifully simple one, especially for people who get lots of galleys and review copies, or who haunt the free downloads section of their respective ebook store. A free book is a siren song, a seemingly irresistible force—but it only has as much value as you give it. Look through your personal library: how many of these did you pay money for? Bump those right to the top! Make a special stack or folder, tag them, sticker them, create a flashing neon sign: READ THESE FIRST.

3. Let the universe decide.

Are other organizing principles too intimidating or rigid for you? Are you unable to summon the willpower to pick? Can you not even imagine trying to make a system? Or perhaps systems make you feel like you’re right back in school, which is the last place you want to be right now, to be quite honest. Randomize it! Start with a stack or two, write down all the titles or assign them some numbers, throw them into a jar or spreadsheet, and let fate decide which book you read next. I love for this kind of thing, if you want to get mathematical about it.

4. Ask the hive mind!

This technique is outside of my personal wheelhouse, as I often fall in love with books that the general reading world seems either disinterested in or unimpressed with, but if you’re staring up at Mount TBR and want a sense of which might be the most beloved books, internet book ratings are your friend. I know several readers who check Goodreads regularly and say sayonara to anything with a less-than-3.0 rating.

Don’t believe in the 5-star system? Head to your favorite search engine and run the title plus “reviews!” I don’t know if you know this, but lots and lots and LOTS of people have reviewed books online, and you might find their opinions helpful. You can do this on the macro-level, as with my “3.0 or higher” friend; you can also do this micro! Unable to pick between, say, five books? Do a little research and go with the best reviewed/rated one.

Related technique: let your social media friends decide. Poll your network on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr or Goodreads or Slack or whatever, and let your community pick for you. (Then it’s their fault if you hate it. How dare they lead you astray!)

5. Consult a calendar.

This is my personal favorite, but also the most complicated technique herein. Using a calendar system on your TBR is obvious and theoretically easy, but also involves regular maintenance. But if you’re a sucker for a good system (especially one that involves stickers), come sit right next to me.

By date acquired: Go through all of your unread books right now. Yes, right now! Make a “ditch” pile or delete as you go if the spirit moves you, but don’t worry too much about that. The important part is flagging them all with a tag or sticker, so that you know how long you’ve had them. I like to add a strip of washi tape to the spines of my physical collection—pick one color for right now! For my digital books, I sort my Kobo library by Date Added, and then add the books to a new collection—this month’s will be called “September” (Obvi.) Now you know all the books you have RIGHT NOW. Do this once a month going forward, and you’ll know how many books you’re adding each month and be able to weed by how old the books are. Been sitting there for 2 months? (Or 6 months, or a year; your call.) Book, bye!

By date published: This one involves looking up the pub date of the books and stickering/tagging accordingly, and is worth it if you’re trying to stay current. Older than two years? Move it along! Also worth noting is that backlist is way easier to acquire from the library than new releases; if it’s been out for a while, chances are good that your library will have it AND the hold list won’t be too long. No need to hang onto that copy when you can borrow it!

But wait, there’s more! This is a never-ending reader problem, and we’ve got more posts to help you winnow, weed, and wrangle your way to a readable TBR.

How to Weed Your Bookshelves

Tackling the TBR: The Book Jar

How to Trim Your TBR In 9 (Not So Easy) Steps


Have your own favorite technique? We are :chin-hands: ready to hear about it in the comments!