I used to have a spreadsheet of books I wanted to read (i.e. a TBR list) that numbered well into the hundreds. Every time I heard about a book I was interested in reading, I added it to the spreadsheet. Books only came off the spreadsheet when I actually read them (i.e. way more books went on the spreadsheet than ever came off).
When it came time to choose a new book to read, I consulted my spreadsheet. But, I realized I didn’t remember what half the books on there were about or why I’d ever added them in the first place. Plus, I wasn’t using any kind of categorization system, so I literally picked through hundreds of options every time I chose a new book. It was exhausting.
A couple years ago, I tried out a new system…and, realized I’d gradually stopped consulting my massive spreadsheet entirely. And, the best part about my new system? I start a new TBR list every single year!
Why I Start a New TBR List Every Single Year
- Every year, I start a new TBR list that’s housed in an email draft in my drafts folder (just because it’s the most convenient place for me to access the list from my laptop and my phone).
- The TBR list has a few different categories that are useful for helping me choose what to read next. More on this below.
- At the beginning of the year, I consult last year’s TBR list and move any books I didn’t get to, but still really want to read over to the following year’s list. I don’t take this part lightly. In 2019, I moved over less than 10 books from my 2018 TBR list.
- Since I started doing this, I’ve found that some books I removed from my TBR list have come back around to me. And, that’s the sign of a book that’s worth making time for…when it comes back around to you.
How I Organize My TBR List
Here’s how I organize my TBR list. This format won’t work for everyone (i.e. it probably won’t work for you if you’re not a blogger yourself), but it works for me. And, some variation can work for most people.
By Publication Date
I divide this portion of the list by month. I keep track of when books are coming out, who recommended them to me, and if I have them in ARC form. Here’s an example…
- Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken – 2/5 pub date (Tyler Goodson loved, Southern Living Best New Books Winter 2019, Liberty on ATB, Bustle 2019 Fiction, EW Anticipated) – ARC/DNF
- American Pop by Snowden Wright – 2/5 pub date (Southern Living Best New Books Winter 2019) – Coke family novel – ARC/DONE
- The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer – 2/5 pub date (Georgia Hunter on my podcast, EW Anticipated, Novel Visits, Amazon Best Books of Feb) – ARC/DONE
This works for me because I generally read by publication date for the blog. But, you could organize this section in whatever way supports how you like to read…seasonally, by mood, by genre, etc!
Nonfiction November / Audiobooks
Anytime I hear about a nonfiction book I’m interested in, I add it to this section of my TBR list. My audiobook listening is 100% nonfiction, so I fit a lot of nonfiction in there. I also save some nonfiction to read in hard copy form during Nonfiction November (details here).
So, when I’m looking for an audiobook, this is the only part of my TBR I need to consult, which narrows the choices to a manageable number. Same for Nonfiction November!
Possible Summer Books
Every May, I put out my annual Summer Reading Guide, so I’m always on the lookout for books that would be a good fit for it.
Anytime I hear about a book I think could be a good fit for summer that isn’t already on my radar (i.e. it isn’t in my “By Publication Date” section), I add it to this list.
As you probably know, I read far more new releases than backlist books, but I keep saying I want to read more backlist.
I do focus on backlist reading every December when I’m no longer reading new releases and this is the portion of my list I consult during that time.
Right now, Tell the Wolves I’m Home (recommended by Ashley Spivey when she came on my podcast) and The Age of Miracles (since I loved Karen Thompson Walker’s new book, The Dreamers) top this list.
“Must Try Before the End of the Year” List
This section is my personal favorite! It’s where I put books that I missed when they came out, but I’m hearing so many raves about that I definitely want to at least try before the end of the year.
This is the part of the list I turn to around mid/late November when I’ve stopped reading new releases and ARCs. I also put a lot of books from this list on hold at the library and work them in throughout the year as the holds come in.
How do you organize your TBR list? Would you ever consider starting a new one every year?