Riot Headline The Most Read Books on Goodreads This Week
Our Reading Lives

Why I Decided to Turn my TBR Inside-Out

Olivia Páez

Staff Writer

Olivia Páez is a Cuban-American journalism major. When she’s not writing articles for her classes, you can probably find her devouring a novel or watching a classic film. Along with reading and watching films, she has a hodgepodge of interests. Some of them include writing, sketching, traveling, dressing up as some of her favorite characters, and caring for the environment.

On my bookshelf, I have a dedicated space to house all of my unread books. Rather than mixing them in between the books that I’ve already read, they have their own area at the bottom of my bookshelf, waiting to be read. I do this mainly to keep the books I’ve read and my untouched books separate. That way I know what books I have to eventually read and which ones I’ve already devoured.

At first, I had my To Be Read books with their spine facing out in the traditional way books are stored on shelves. But as my TBR pile grew, the spines of my unread books placed stress onto my shoulders. My TBR pile loomed over me. I felt like I wasn’t reading fast enough. I couldn’t keep up with the number of books I had to read.

My unread book pile grew larger while my reading speed grew slower, thanks to college taking up all my free time. There had to be a way to take this unnecessary stress off my shoulders. Looking at my TBR pile intimidated me. It sucked the fun out of reading, for me. It made me feel as if I weren’t a good enough reader, because my TBR pile wasn’t dwindling down as fast as I anticipated. I felt as though I had to read faster in order to decrease the number of unread books I had sitting on my shelf. I had to make a major change to my shelf in order to fix this minor bookish issue.

So I did. I decided that the spines of my unread books guilted me for not reading fast enough. Reading all the titles of my unread books put a burden on my shoulders. My pile wasn’t getting any smaller. So, I decided to store my books backward on my shelf. Instead of the spine facing out, the pages of my unread books were now on display.

Photo from Olivia Páez

How I Arrange my Unread books

I know a lot of people will look at my TBR shelf and ask, “But how do you know where specific books are if their pages are facing out? How do you keep track of what books are on your TBR?”

I arrange my unread books by genre and whether or not they were apart of a series. Books that were apart of a series were put on the right of my shelf. Stand-alone novels were put to the left. Then, I organized my books based on their genres, like in a bookstore.

As for keeping track of what books are on my To Be Read shelf. I have a weirdly good book memory, and I remember which books I’ve purchased over the months. If you’re interested in doing this reversed shelf system, you can create a Goodreads shelf to track your unread books. Or you can write it down in a notebook!

It’s important to note that I don’t let my reversed TBR dictate what I’ll read next. I don’t choose a book randomly off the shelf, without seeing the spine, and then feel obligated to read it. I still pick books based on what mood I’m in or what genre I want to read.

Turning my TBR Shelf Inside-Out Made me A Mood Reader!

Now, my unread book pile doesn’t intimidate me as much as it used to. Now my TBR shelf is a statement piece where only the pages of the books are on display. It eases the stress I have as a reader, because the pages all blend together and aren’t as intimidating to look at, compared to a bunch of book titles waiting for me to read them.

While not everyone may be a fan of this form of book organization, it has helped ease the worry I have, as a reader. I don’t feel as overwhelmed as I did when I saw each spine of the books I have yet to read. Now that my TBR shelf has been organized into genres, I have also become more of a mood reader. This is where I think to myself, “I’m really in the mood for a historical fiction novel,” and I go to the section of my shelf filled with unread historical fiction novels, and I read one of them.

Many people might feel obligated to read the unread book that’s been sitting on their shelf the longest, but reading based on your mood is so much more enjoyable. It feels less like a chore to pick up a novel from your TBR pile when it’s based on your mood and caters to what genre you’re craving.

So, whether you decide to reverse your TBR to ease your stress, or keep your books organized the same, that’s totally up to you! Everyone has their own style of organizing books, and that’s what makes it so fun. It’s interesting to see how each reader has a different system for shelving their novels, and this just the way that I have decided to organize my unread books together.