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Top Ten Tuesday (#14): Top Ten Tips for managing the TBR pile

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted at The Broke and The Bookish where they post a list idea and everyone is welcome to post the list with their own answers. This week you get a free choice of theme.

As I’ve ended up with both a mountain of uni deadlines this month and a huge list of books I should be reading, I’ve had to face the hard truth that I’m just not going to be able to do it all, and that means some of my review books are going to have to slide. Potentially all of them, depending on how my work goes. That doesn’t exactly make me happy, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how to manage my TBR list better in the future, to try and avoid ending up in a similar situation again.  Between reading around the internet, and brainstorming, here’s what I have so far.

Tips for managing your TBR list

1. Join a book managing site
This is a tip that comes up on pretty much every tips list I’ve read. Whether it’s Goodreads, LibraryThing or another similar site, everyone agrees that joining (and using!) sites like this help.  You can add books that you already own, books that you want to read and books that you need to review all on separate shelves to help you keep track, and you can export your list to Excel or Google Docs if you want to as well.

2. Yearly Calendar
This is something I really need to do – Get a yearly calendar so that I can view months in advance what I should be reading. Whether you use a filofax one that you can throw in your bag, or an enormous one on your wall, a yearly calendar can be a great help, particularly when signing up for tours or requesting books on Netgalley – you can see at a glance that you already have 12 books in January, so you know not to sign up!

3. Monthly lists
This is just an expansion on the yearly calendar really.  Write down all the books to be read for the month (either because a review is due or because you know you’ll be desperate to read it).  You can tick off the books you’ve finished (which is always satisfying) and add in a book from next month if you get ahead of schedule. The biggest difference between this and the yearly calendar is that a monthly list is more flexible, and less daunting to look at!

4. Make a rule
I’ve recently been trying to think about an appropriate rule to help manage my TBR pile.  Whether it’s that you have to read and review 1 book before you can buy another, or that your TBR pile can’t get above X books or that you never want to commit to more than a certain number of books per month, find your rule and stick to it! Write it down somewhere visible and do your best not to break it (though sometimes you probably will, and that’s okay as long as it is only sometimes!)

5. Ignore the hype
I’m very guilty of reading other bloggers comments about new releases and ARCs to the point that sometimes I get caught up in feeling like I should read those too – while the lesser-known books I actually really want to read sit on a shelf gathering dust.  Getting new recommendations from bloggers is great, but it also shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all to your TBR – go after some new releases but don’t chase them all down! You’ll have to sacrifice other books you want to read, and it does sort of defy the point of having a book blog if you only review all the same books everyone else does.

6. Bring back old books
Once in a while, go back through and pick an old book to review.  It can be a book that you’ve loved for years but just never reviewed, or a review copy that’s set on your shelf for the last year without even being opened.  Just because those books aren’t still dominating every blogger’s home page, doesn’t mean you should forget about them! And sometimes, it’s nice to read something different to what everyone else is reading.  Whether you do this monthly, fortnightly or seasonally, it’s a good idea to schedule some old books in where you can.

7. Review ASAP
Most bloggers seem to agree that writing a review straight after finishing the book results in much better reviews than waiting, but I think most of us, sometimes at least, are guilty of moving straight onto another book first, which makes reviewing all the more difficult later.  Whenever you can, try and review as soon as you finish the book, or at least draft a post with a few thoughts, overall star rating etc so that later on you have a few prompts.  If you combine this with point 6, and write a review for an old favourite occasionally, you can store those reviews for later on when things get busy.

8. Go with your mood
I’m pretty sure everyone has been in a reading slump at some point – you have a pile of review books you should be reading, but they just aren’t grabbing your attention…and they haven’t been for the last two weeks.  At that point, step up and walk away from them. Whether it’s an old comfort read or something totally out of your usual reading habits (Fifty Shades, anyone?) read whatever you fancy for a while, and come back to them. Otherwise you’ll get stuck in that slump and may just burn out completely.

9.  Don’t be too polite (aka take a break if you have to)
Should you review a book if you’ve requested it? Yes, of course you should.  Will a publisher hunt you down and spank you if you don’t? Probably not.  If there’s just too much going on and you need to take a break from reading, or even blogging completely, do it.  Do not blindly keep requesting and accepting review titles until you are a miserable heap crying on your bedroom floor over how much you need to do.  It probably won’t make you very popular if your NetGalley queue is eventually filled with “Archived/Not Downloaded” but it’s better than having a nervous breakdown!

10. Remember reading is meant to be fun – Not the end of the world
Remember when you started your blog and you were so enthusiastic about it? Maybe you didn’t have many review requests, but I bet you still didn’t struggle to find reading material either.  Your updates may have been sporadic, your content of variable quality, but blogging was fun…and it is supposed to be.  If you just feel constantly swamped, and your reading is more frenzied than fun, then go back to your roots and say no to review requests. Or take on new types of books, invite a guest blogger to help out, or just focus on the books on your wishlist instead of your “should-read” list.  At the end of the day, your blog is for you, it shouldn’t be a chore.

7 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday (#14): Top Ten Tips for managing the TBR pile

  1. I love your list! Goodreads has made keeping track of everything a lot easier, and I love the monthly list idea. I mostly read according to my mood, but having something to keep me on track if I’m not sure what I want to read next would be a huge help.

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