to be read graphic

Do you know how to build a TBR (to-be-read) pile that does not rob you of all livable space, or cause you to loose husband/children/significant other/other necessities of life? Then you have come to the right place.

When I first began building my TBR (and my side project a Keeper shelf), I was focused on volume. I was young and had many reading years ahead of me. So I read almost anything I could get my hands on. At the time I had very little space and even less money so my books-to-living-space ratio was just fine.

I was focused on reading, so I used the library a lot (this is not a good way to build a TBR because you have to give the books back), and used bookstores (much more effective, though the effects can be mitigated if you read faster than your book budget).

After years and years of professional TBR building, here are my tips for feeding a TBR that will leave you with actual living space for reading and not cause hernias or other injuries to yourself or others.

  • First a short note on the difference between a TBR and an “Am Reading” pile. TBR piles are POTENTIAL reads, while “Am Reading,” are being READ. An “Am Reading” level can lead to either the “Keeper Shelf” or the “Giveaway pile.” In rare instances, there is also a “throw against the wall” category (if your TBR is digital, this is NOT recommended).

Move your TBR to a digital space. 

Naturally the genius of this could not have happened until the arrival of digital reading technology. Before that I had to regularly “weed” my TBR pile. The main problem with “weeding” a TBR pile is that you have to look at each book. This puts you at risk of remembering why you bought the book in the first place, and often results in the book returning to the TBR pile.

Another way to “weed” your TBR pile is to actually read some of the books. I know, this is pretty radical, but in an emergency, read from your TBR pile and not just your latest purchase.

But yeah, get that TBR out of sight, but NOT out of mind. Because what good is it to have a TBR if you can’t brag about how big it is?

dog reading

Growing your TBR

Even the most dedicated TBR reader will see their levels begin to fall if they read more books than they purchase. So it’s important to have a maintenance plan. This requires you to have regular exposure to places where you can buy books.

If you like to have a nice mix of a print/digital TBR, then you need to visit actual bookstores (again, the library is AWESOME, but you have to give them back, so you only get a temporary boost from a library TBR, but—a library TBR can give you cover with a spouse or significant other than doesn’t understand a TBR pile).

For building a digital TBR, visit online vendors, subscribe to author newsletters, and click on every book promotion you can find. This not only helps you build your TBR, but can result in unexpected gift cards to places where you can buy more books.

If you have a plan and keep to the plan, you can maintain a TBR pile that will be bigger than your remaining available lifetime reading minutes. Who wants to run out of books before they run out of life?

How do you build and maintain your TBR? Do you have to [gasp of horror] weed it out? How do you manage that? If you feel the need to confess, I mean, SHARE the extent of your TBR, feel free. Its size will not be judged here.

I love comments so much that I pick a favorite to receive my monthly AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value).  (And don’t forget that once a quarter I’ll be tossing in something fun from the Perilously Fun Shop!) The recipient is announced in the first blog post of the new month.

Perilously yours,


If you’re looking for books to add to your TBR, may I suggest checking out…

cover art
Available in print AND digital ($2.99 in digital). Just click to buy!
How to Grow Your TBR
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8 thoughts on “How to Grow Your TBR

  • May 23, 2017 at 6:17 am

    I actually don’t like having a large quantity of books I haven’t read. It feels like unfinished business to me. And with digital books, which are cheaper and easier to acquire, I find the list can get out of control. The longer I have a book, the less likely I am to read it, and the TBR pile obscures books I do want to read.

    • May 23, 2017 at 8:30 am

      Well, I will admit that sometimes I feel sad knowing I’ll probably never read all the books I own. I keep thinking that there will come that day when I’ll dive in and finish all of them, or at least the ones I want to finish. I used to read every book to the end, no matter what, but now I don’t waste time on a book that I’m not enjoying. One of my biggest fears is to be halfway through a book and die before I read the ending. That might be why I will sometimes read deep into the night to finish a book. lol

  • May 22, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    Did a quick count and came up with 79 not counting the one I just ordered. Of course it is not as bad as it seems because I am actively reading a bunch of those and several are pretty much references. There are piles in strategic locations and when I am near one of those I grab a book. Can really irritate loved ones if you know what I mean! Set up another book case last winter for TBR because the piles were falling over. I have like nine book cases and two carts and I don’t know how many piles. Didn’t realize how bad I was! And I refuse to count the electronic books it would break my heart to know how many are going unread. Lol Thanks for the reality check.

    • May 23, 2017 at 8:28 am

      Do you read more than one book? Sometimes I can and do read more than one book, until one catches my brain on fire and I can’t stop reading that one. Strategic locations is good, that’s a great tip. But yeah, I know about irritating loved ones. haha LOL It sounds to me like your TBR is growing very nicely! LOLOL

  • May 22, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    I have 115 books on my TBR, and have hovered from 100-120 over the past few years. I go and weed through them occasionally to make sure they don’t get out of hand. I borrow a lot of library books, too. If I like them, I buy them.

    • May 22, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Mine are always out of hand. lol But it used to be under better control. Now I need to do one about keeper shelves. Haha

  • May 22, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Hee Hee! Digital books are the best thing ever. No need to worry about a TBR pile overrunning my living space. Therefore, there is no true need to weed. So far, my TBR collection has not overrun its living space (tablet). And that is the extent of my confession.

    Print books are a different story. Here’s the thing. At my job (library) it is easy for me to weed books that are not being read. At home it is very difficult to get rid of anything whether it has been read or not. Occasionally, I try, and succeed in finding 4 or 5 books that can go. And if they are in good condition, they go to the library. To be subject to weeding in 3 years. See, I am giving them a chance at an extended, happy life!

    • May 22, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Yeah weeding a print TBR is brutal! Like you, I end up putting most of them back. And yeah take the move outs to the library for new opportunities. lol (you will note I did not confess how many books I have. lol)

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