01 August 2010

Sunday Salon: Are there any pills for TBR anxiety?

Lately, I have been seeing so many posts and comments about overwhelming TBR stacks, and I am right there with them.

I've always had 200+ books on my shelves waiting to be read. This has never bothered me, but suddenly I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by the number of books I have in my TBR piles (well, shelves to be exact). According to LibraryThing, I currently have 542 books on my shelves which I have not yet read. The jump from 200+ to 500+ seriously messed up something in my brain, and I went from perfectly content with all my unread books to absolutely horrified by them.  I've really been thinking about this lately, and I've come up with a few reasons why:

Flash Flood
I've never had so many books come in simultaneously.  My 200+ TBR was the result of years and years of buying books, but I've had about 200 books come in to my house in the last three months. The primary culprit was Book Expo America and Book Blogger Con which sent me home with 105 new books. The secondary culprit seems contradictory: I decided I needed to cull books from my shelves. Some went to the library, some went to a used book store, some to giveaways, others to SwapTree. It seems people were rather excited about the books I entered onto SwapTree, so suddenly I had like 40 trades equaling 40 more books coming in.  Yeah, yeah, yeah; it's all my fault I know. : )

Reading Interest
In past years, my TBR pile was increased by more than just me. I received books for every holiday and my birthday, so many of my TBR books were gifts. In the last three months, I have chosen each and every one of the 200 new-to-my-house books, which of course means I really want to read them. I'm blaming this one on all of you who consistently post reviews of the most intriguing books, sparking my intense desire to find them and read them. I actually have a very strong desire to read about 30 of my books RIGHT NOW.

The Reviewaholic
My final cause for TBR anxiety is this insatiable desire to post reviews on my blog. All of a sudden I want to post every day, and I want it to be a review every day. I don't know where this obsessive need originated, but I clearly need medication to manage it. I'm pretty sure I will never be reading 365 books a year, one a day with review....maybe if I quit my job, divorced my husband, went in to assisted living, and started doing crack, but outside of that, I'm thinking it's not going to happen.

Along with determining the cause of my TBR anxiety, I have also been thinking about solutions. How do I get over the 'Oh my god what should I read next' paralysis and back to reading?

Book Elimination
The most obvious way to decrease my TBR piles would be to remove the books I'm feeling "meh" about. I could probably eliminate about 100+ books that way, easing my tension by decreasing the number of books trying to capture my attention. Since I'm an eclectic, mood reader, however, I worry that what doesn't appeal today will suddenly be on my wish list tomorrow. I've had this happen to me before, so it's not entirely outside the realm of possibility.

The Organizer
I have my ARCs in a spreadsheet with their release dates, so that I have an idea of when I should have a review up.  Unfortunately, I am a spontaneous reader. Every time I look at that spreadsheet, which is telling me what I should be reading, I get all snotty 10 year old on its behind, stick out my tongue, roll my eyes, and refuse to pick that book up. Why is it that when someone tells you to do something (even if that someone is yourself) you feel a need to rebel?  Okay, insert first person pronouns in that question; I'm clearly transferring here.

The "Be A Man" Plan
What is probably the most likely answer to my problem is to just suck it up and keep reading. When I'm feeling all frantic over my next read, I should just pick up a random book and start reading, ignoring the rest of them on my shelf. Part 2 of this plan is to not overly concern myself with release dates - which possibly makes me a very naughty, very bad blogger, but there you have it.

What about you guys? How many books do you have on the TBR piles? How do you handle the pressure of so many unread books?


  1. OMG you crack me up! Yes, yes, yes, I am right with you sister. When I came home from Indiana, I had a good two dozen books sitting, waiting for me. My husband's eyes were popping out of his skull. He was screaming "did you BUY any of these???" (which of course I did not). I am not only overwhelmed by what I really want to read now, but by the fact that I can't seem to find inspiration to write reviews. Think we can share meds?

  2. I'm like this, only on a smaller scale (ie I start getting twitchy with 200 unread books on my shelf). Mostly I just read like a maniac until I'm sick of reading, draft as many review posts as I need, and give myself a lot of leeway on abandoning books after 50 pages. The result: less than 100 books on my shelves to read!! Less than 140 books on the virtual TBR. I love it. I feel so much more relaxed now, so much so that I don't mind rereading books!

  3. My reading list has 316 books on it. I rarely, if ever, buy books that are on my reading list- I only purchase books if I know I'm going to enjoy and reread it. I just thoroughly abuse my library privileges, which cuts down on the stress. At any given moment, I have five or six library books in the house, which is certainly less stressful than your situation!

  4. I, too, have dozens (probably also hundreds) of books on the to-read shelves for my two blogs. I've stacked my ARCs by release date. Like you, I'm a very spontaneous reader, so I make a lot of detours. But I'm not letting that bother me: if I really don't want to read the book now, I'm not going to read it well or enjoy writing about it. It's most important for me to enjoy both my reading and blogging, so I read, draft, and abandon like Amanda.

  5. If I let myself get too stressed over how many books I have YET to read, I can't even concentrate on what I'm reading. So when that happens, I do something else until I have (temporarily) "forgotten" all the books staring at me, and all the blog posts needing to be written. In fact, it stresses me out just writing this comment! :--)

  6. First of all, you have to separate your reading time from your reviewing time. Make a time in the day for reading and a time for reviewing. I do my reading in the morning and at lunch time. I review and blog in the night after my children are in bed.

    Prewrite your reviews. That way you can have a review ready to go if you don't feel like writing a review or don't have time.

    If a book makes you feel meh, don't force yourself to read it. It's okay to blog about a book you didn't/couldn't finish.

    But most of all: HAVE FUN!

  7. I know exactly what you mean, although I do not have the added problem of many review copies or books received through BEA/BBC. I will look at my TBR pile at times and feel like I need to read 20 books at this very moment. It can be inspiring, but it can also be very stressful! Blogging has made me feel like I need to try harder to read more as well.

    I hope you remember that reading is all about having fun, which is the most important thing, I think.

  8. Sandy - My hubby is the same. Every time I get a book, he gives me the look. No words, just the look that asks if he should be looking at the credit card bill more carefully.

    Amanda - I thought for sure I would do the manic reading plan, but it's like having all these options make it impossible for me to choose a book!

    Clare - I wish I was a library person, but I'm a horrid buyer of books.

    Lisa - I'm trying to stick with that sort of spontaneous reading so that blogging doesn't become like work.

    Jill - I keep trying to forget but they keep staring at me!

    Puss - You are so organized! I don't have set times for anything in my life.

    Iris - I often find myself wishing I could read 20 books at once. And I agree about the reading is fun bit. I have to be sure I keep it fun and not work.

  9. This made me laugh :) I was feeling some TBR anxiety over the last few weeks, mostly because the prospect of moving in a couple weeks made me actually assess how many books I have -- probably too many! But I've just been trying to squeeze reading time into my day, making sure I take my lunch break at work and get a couple chapters in there, and trying to watch less tv. It's helped, but now I'm way behind on writing reviews!

  10. I am sometimes overwhelmed by all that I can choose from to read. I get in these modes where it will tae me day to decid on the next thing. I think what makes it so hard is that there are really no bad choices. Since they are all books that I have selected myself in some way or another, everything is something that I want to read, so it makes it incredible difficult to prioritize. I think you just have to take your time when choosing.

  11. I have over 300 books on my shelves that haven't been read. Until recently, it was not only freaking me out, but a serious concern as I was starting to believe I am...oh dare I admit it? A book hoarder.

    But then I started looking at a site that has pictures of home libraries. "Ah ha!!" I cried. I'm no hoarder. I'm a domestic librarian!

    It's always been my dream to have my own library. I see my stacks as part of this goal.

    Just as with a real library, I'll have the pleasure of browsing. Hm, do I feel literary or romantic today? Maybe I need a little fantasy this week. I like options. Options are good. So are libraries.

    I do not have TBR stacks, I simply have stacks from which I can "check out" any book, at any time I wish.

    That's my story. And I'm sticking to it!

  12. I avoid it by not owning very many books. I find it's easier to have anxiety when I don't have something physically staring me in the face. Yeah, I have about 40 books that I picked up from the American Library Association conference this year, but I swap them or give them away almost as soon as I'm finished with them. My public library is _freaking amazing_ so I can usually get hold of a majority of my reading list. If I can get something right then and there I put it on request and move to the next item on the list.

    I'm also not as much of a random reader, I will read whatever is available so I use random.org to select which group of books I'll be reading and then work my way through a shorter list I can pick from. I find it's easier and more satisfying to choose my next read from a short list.

  13. Goodness---so many things to comment on here. I've been really good about bringing in books lately but I've been terrible about reading any of them this year. I'm not sure exactly how many I have because I stopped keeping track of my spreadsheet around the same time that I took the blogging break, but I'm guessing probably 300 unread books? Maybe more.

    I'm trying to give away some of the ones I've read and know I won't read again. And I'm thinking about getting rid of some of the books that I feel "meh" about. It's hard, though, because I wonder if one day I'll want to read it. Probably not, but...! :)

    When I was blogging more I was also reading more--wanting to read that book to put up the review. Now I don't care as much. I'm also at a loss without the reading challenges. I needed to pick up a book for between Brothers K and had NO idea what to read. I haven't had that feeling in years! :)

    Ok, sorry for the uber long comment. Hope you're having a fantastic Sunday!

  14. Love this post! I know exactly how you feel... especially about having 30 books that you want to read RIGHT NOW... I used to have many books but only a couple that I had to read right away. Now I have many that I feel like are MUST READ NOW books. And I have to read what I'm in the mood for too... I'm having trouble keeping to review deadlines!

    And this also reminded me I need to get that post to you about eclectic reading. Will do that soon!!

  15. I can totally relate, my unread stacks jumped from 500+ to 750+ since April of 2009. I'm a little freaked by it as well.

  16. This post seriously cracked me up, and I'm definitely laughing *with* you not *at* you (so I, uh, hope you're laughing). I don't think I've ever been stressed out about my TBR pile regardless of its mammoth proportions until this year. This year, I look at it, begin to panic, wonder if I *really* need a job or, you know, friends (and don't they know I have these books I need to get read?). On the one hand, I'm kind of panicked that it panics me and yet I can't seem to stop acquiring altogether (though I have managed to stem the tide *somewhat*). On the other hand, the daily panic has driven me to pick up (at least slightly) my wildly pathetic reading pace...which is good, but I still don't have a prayer of even making a small dent. So I guess what I'm saying is that, when you find those pills, let me know, I need a prescription. ;-)

  17. Truthfully, my TBR list was always a joy, not that much of a guilty trip staring me in the face, until I began blogging....

    true dat.

  18. Ohemgeezers this post made me laugh.

  19. This post is a classic. And I have absolutely no idea how many unread books I have on my shelves.

  20. Kim - Moving is great motivation for eliminating some books!

    Nicole - "No bad choices" is exactly why I'm having such difficulty picking up a book!

    J.C. - I am running with that "domestic librarian" title instead of book hoarder!

    Amy - I wish I was more of a library person, but my local libraries never seem to have the books I want to read and I am too spontaneous for the library loan system. :)

    Trish - I'm the same with 'meh' books. You just never know if you are going to get the urge to read it at some point...

    Jenny - Yay for the guest post! I think the whole review deadlines issue is what is causing the bulk of my anxiety!

    Bibliophile - It makes me so happy to hear that your TBR pile is as outrageous as mine!

    Megan - I am definitely laughing! Jobs and friends are overrated; we should drop them both and just read. Forever and ever. Or until the food runs out anyway. :)

    Alexandra - Blogging definitely changes things! I think it made me more conscientious and more worried as a reader.

    Pam - Thanks!

    Stephanie - Thanks! I never knew until I added a TBR shelf on Library Thing! I should have left that off.

  21. Does it help you to know that I have (I can't believe I am admitting this) at last count, 1,530 books on Shelfari as "I plan to read"?

    And about 6 months or more of tagged blog posts of books that need to be added to that list?

    Clearly, from this and the comments above, you're not alone. :)

  22. Melissa - Holy sweet Mary! That is exactly why I don't keep track of my wish list in any sort of consolidated form. I'd probably have a heart attack.

  23. You know what works for TBR anxiety? Realising you're not alone, and that in fact there are worse addicts out there than you. 542, you say? I can't tell you how much better I feel ;)

  24. Trish! ZOMG this is such a fabulous post. Really. Truly. The whole time I was nodding at what you were saying. (And Ana's comment is absolutely hilarious. You do make me feel a bit less frazzled with your 500+ books, lol).

    But seriously. I thought about giving away books that were on my "third string" (I rate them in my LT account: 1st, 2nd, 3rd string) but what if I change my mind? There might be a time in the future when I do want to read chickit.

    And also, I cracked up hearing the only way you could read books to post every day. Book crack! Haha, could you imagine a public service announcement for that??

  25. Ana - Lol! That's true. When I saw that Bibliophile by the Sea has 750+ unread books, I did feel a bit better. Glad I could help you! :)

    Christina - Thanks! Someone should definitely do a public service announcement for readers on crack.

  26. I started to hyperventilate when I read that Amanda just completed reading all her BEA books. RASPBERRIES! I've only read, scratch that! listened to Suite Scarlett! I suck.

  27. Oh Trisha, I completely feel your pain. I always have so many books in my TBR pile that I feel like I can never catch up!

  28. Care - Same here! Amanda puts us all to shame.

    Stephanie - That is exactly what I feel like. It would take me years to read all of the books I have waiting.

  29. I'm definitely swamped by my TBR as well! Right now, my "method" is to just pick up a book and go, and try to forget about all the rest until I'm finished with it and have to pick another one. I'm also trying to buy less books until I've gotten through more of my TBR pile.

  30. I was going to say that I bet BEA was the main reason you are so overwhelmed. I only feel pressure if I get a book for free that they expect me to review in a timely fashion. Then I feel a bit of pressure. I work really hard not to let those pile up too much or it feels like work and not play. The thing I feel pressure about is not the reading but the reviewing ... I'm so incredibly far behind because it takes me forever to write reviews. I need to get better on this quick!

  31. Carina - I think I've figured out how to destress; I just started the New Annotated Dracula, which should take a giant chunk of time and may be what I need to resettle.

    Jenners - BEA definitely put the hurt on; it was just so many books coming in all at once. I'm okay with reviews; I tend to write them immediately after finishing the book, and then like a total bad writer, I never revise them.

  32. What a great post! I have the same issue, as you know. BEA and blogging (showing me way too many books that I really want to get and read soon) have seriously multiplied my tbr pile.

    I have the review copies on a spreadsheet as well but funny enough I find it easier to read, say, the November releases than August ones, probably because of that 'but I don't want to!' thing ;)

    My solution is just to keep reading. With my eclectic reading habits I just can't bring myself to get rid of a book I haven't read yet!

    Good luck!

  33. Amy - Hahaha! I'm the same way on both issues. It's like I refuse to read the books I "have" to read (the August releases) but I have no problem picking up the ones with release dates far in the future. And like you, it is practically impossible to get rid of a book I haven't read yet even if it's a genre I rarely, if ever, read - like those Deb Caletti books that I was going to get rid of but then so many people seem to like them and.... You get the picture. ;)

  34. This is why I love reading your blog! You crack me up and are a girl after my own heart.

    I also become anxious about my book piles, because I can see them. It makes me nervous. These are all books I want to read, or else I wouldn't have gotten them. Did I mention I have books at my office too, that I would like to read? So that would be a home and work tbr pile :)

    My ARCs are my own fault. Currently I over extended myself, and now I can't read on a whim, and it makes me snotty too. So much so, that I went to the library for two specific books, which are now waiting patiently beside the ARCs.

    I used to like going to the library and randomly selecting books and what not, but have placed myself into a corner...with books. Books are my crack. Some days I can handle the urges others I can't. Same thing with book piles, some days are better than others. We need to set goals and strive to meet them. It's a vicious circle Trisha Girl, and I am right there with you :)

  35. If I didn't schedule my time I'd never get anything done. That doesn't mean I schedule my whole life... just set time at night for blogging.

  36. Jenny Girl - Aww, thanks! Exactly! Wish lists don't bother me, but seeing the physical books sitting there is just painful.

    Puss - I am so impressed by people who can schedule reading and time and stick to it!


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