7 Organizational Tips to Help Reduce Your To Be Read Pile!

Last time I gave you 4 Monetary Tips to Reduce your TBR pile. This post is going to give you some ideas on how organizing your TBR pile can motivate you to get through it.

1. Start a Spreadsheet.

Enter all the books from your current to be read pile and then all the books you’ve read that you have on your bookshelf. Before selecting any new books for your collection double check your spreadsheet to make sure there are no repeats.


2. Group by Common Denominator.

Put your organizational skills to work and group your TBR pile into smaller piles. Sort your books by a common denominator such as subgenre, author, size, year, or similar titling. Do it however it pleases you best and make it a goal to read one book each month from your new smaller piles. By getting your TBR pile manageable, you are not faced with the daunting task of choosing a book to read or the prospect of a book avalanche.

3. Challenge Yourself.

Did you know that supposedly the average romance novel reader can read 10-40 books in a month? This statistic is pulled from the Romantic Times advertising page. With that in mind and knowing that some people work best with goals, I challenge readers to reading the mean – 20 books – with sub goal of reaching as close to 40 books as possible this month. Here’s a game to get you started (and remember only choose books from your TBR pile!):

  • Books 1-5 by authors you’ve never read before.
  • Books 6-10 by your favorite authors.
  • Books 11-15 in a genre or sub-genre you’ve never tried.
  • Books 16-20 in your favorite genre or sub-genre.

Repeat for books 20-40 if you get that far. Do this challenge with a buddy and now you’re accountable to someone other than yourself. Get together once a week and go for coffee. Talk about the books you read and if you’re on target to the goal you could even swap a few and read for next month.


4. Purge: Be Ruthless.

Yes, I know, it’s a sad thing to even contemplate, but it’s for your own good. Go through the pile and anything you bought more than six months ago seriously consider removing, permanently. If you weren’t inspired to pick it up and read it six months after purchasing the book, chances are you’ll never get to it. Donate the books to your local library and get a receipt for tax purposes or use the books as swapping material on Paperback Swap.

5. The 3 Strike System.

Start a 3 Strike System. If you pick a book up and decide not to read it mark the side of the book (not the spine, the pages) with a pencil. When a book gets its third strike, remove it from your TBR pile. This system can be modified to 4 or 5 or 6 strikes, but be consistent and don’t waver once you get to the last strike. The book might have sounded good to you when you first got it, but it’s not calling to you anymore. Pass it on.

*This idea originally came from Willa in the Paperback Swap TBR Reduction Thread.

6. Keep it Simple. Start Slow.

Make the goal easy. Did you put last week’s purchases on the floor because there was no space? Read enough from your pile to move those babies off the floor and onto the shelf.

Are your books in six locations? Pick a location and read them. All of them. That’s one less location to trip over your books and a simple goal that allows you to focus on your reading instead of your buying.

7. Share Your Reduction Tip!

Now it’s your turn to talk about your TBR pile and what you do to keep it under control. Leave a comment in the form below!

Photo Credits: bitmask

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  1. These are awesome ideas, but I know I’d fail at them. I get too many new books coming in that I can’t control and I’m not really that dedicated!

  2. Haha. I’m certainly not that dedicated either, but my TBR pile is fairly manageable. I’m shocked to hear people with over 200 books in theirs. Where do they get the room??? lol

  3. Holy cow. This is organizational overload! I love it! (I’m a crazed person when it comes to staying organized.) My problem is I devote time to reading in spurts…and I can make a serious dent in the TBR pile. And then it starts to stack back up during a reading drought. Sigh. The idea of reading 40 books a month startles me!

  4. Ooo Sandy, you should check out the post I’m going to finish writing over the next couple of days and post. It’s going to give you tips on how to read more books and I’ll certainly discuss dry spells.

  5. OMG, is that your TBR pile?!? I get stressed when I get to 20 books. I was talking to someone who estimated her TBR pile at around 3000 books. That’s just staggering.

  6. Wow, I’m embarrassed. My TBR certainly doesn’t have 20-40 books in it; we’re talking 4 digits here, folks. A pic is up on my blog of just one of my TBRs (I have a TBR mountain chain!).

    I love the spreadsheet idea, but that means involving demolition, and that just frankly scares me. hehe

  7. Susan

    You’ve inspired me to do the spreadsheet (great idea )& I do place new unread books in a pile. I am Anti-Purging though -I’m sure I’d read the book on the 6th month, 2nd week, 3rd day, 8th hour (LOL)
    I find that Collective works are the ones that take awhile to tackle because of their volume; whereas paperbacks with 200-500 pages get gobbled up within 2 days.

  8. Amy, I just looked at your pile and wow! That’s almost a whole room it’s so big! Will you ever get through that?!! (Don’t worry, I have 16 reading tips coming up maybe that’ll help!)

    Susan, Hurray for spreadsheets — wouldn’t you hate buying a book and then finding out you already own it? Read it and passed it on to someone else?

    I read paperbacks in 1-3 days. Depends on how much I’m involved in the story and what my schedule is like.

  9. Kat, my reading pile has 47 new(ish) additions. However, 18 of them are Harlequins so you could really say I had 38 if every two HQNs = 1 full length mass paperback book? Haha… how do you like my number skewing? I actually read pretty fast. I’m more worried about my ebooks than my print books b/c I always get distracted!!!

  10. Keira, I probably won’t get through them all, but I’m also trying to behave and not add anymore to the horde until I’m at a point when I can go through them. I just love books — love the feel, smell, the pages, and weight of books, and I’m a sucker for pretty covers. *sigh* I have an addictive personality I guess.

  11. Me too! I totally impulse buy with pretty covers – clinch or not. How did you get so many books in your TBR pile? I bet there had to be one or two or even three huge reading droughts.

  12. I’ve just bought steadily over the years, and then I joined PBS. Instead of books going out of the house, they’re coming in as well. *sigh* It’s a never ending cycle, but it has been a work in progress over several years.

  13. I’ve found that having more than about 20 books in my TBR pile actually discourages me from reading my TBR books. It starts to feel like a chore that I have to do! So once I get this pile down to about 10, there will be balance in the force once more.

  14. #4 is what worked for me. I got rid of all TBR books unless it was nonfiction I thought I might want to keep after reading. So now I use the library for everything. I saved about $1000 a year doing that!

  15. I’ve done the purge, spreadsheet, and purge. But I want to master reading at least 20 books a month—but I read so many business, marketing, along with other books. I stopped book blogging because of that. If someone has a tip of how they can get that done, please tell me.

  16. So my pretty TBR pile of 20-40 has expanded (but those original books have been read and dealt with) — low and behold a whole shelf. When and how did that happen? lol šŸ™‚ Oh yeah when people gave me lots of books. There’s some oldies in the new larger pile that I’ve never read that seem to be romance-land staples.

  17. Thanks for the tips!

  18. Sharon S.

    good ideas. I keep my TBR list over at goodreads. I think it is about 200 right now. I have about 20 actual books on my shelf and 8 on my kindle. I keep my list small by not adding all the books in a series. I list the first one and after I read it I will add the next. There are so many stories out there I want to read. The worst time is when I finish all the books I *have to read (like ARCs) and I can pick one from my list….I get overwhelmed and don’t know which to pick…

    • Yeah I’ve just organized mine for ARCs and it’s 16 big at the moment with 12 between now and end of April. Better get cracking!

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