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How to Grow Your TBR

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!

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