April reading stats and the state of the TBR

April is over and I’m a little shocked at how many books I finished. Granted, a number of them were short (novellas, a play, volume collections of comics…), but it was over 1800 pages! That’s a lot of reading in one month. At least for me.

April Reading Stats:

I wasn’t planning on reading this much in April, but I’ve been really organized about my TBR pile this year, and I think some of the new habits I picked up during my 40 day social media fast might have stuck. (TBR = to be read…)

A lot of the blogs I follow seem to have all featured at least one post (or vlog) about TBR piles recently: managing them, ignoring them, organizing them, and/or not feeling guilty about them. These posts and booktube videos mostly got me thinking about how I manage the seemingly endless list of books I want to read, how I keep track of which ones I already own (since most of my unread books are ebooks), and how I know which I might want to buy.

I’m constantly hearing about books that sound amazing and that I really want to read. If I ever hope to read all the books I want to read, I need to stay organized. Luckily, modern technology has made that pretty easy. I’ve cobbled together a decent system that relies on a combination of Amazon wish lists and Goodreads shelves. I’ll explain more, but first, let’s get one thing straight…

Being organized about what you want to read, and keeping lists and planning out how you are going to work your way through those lists may sound like something that sucks all the fun out of reading. But, I’m a planner by nature. I also happen to be a “Program Manager” by profession (that’s just basically a souped up project manager). So planning and organizing are just what I do. It’s not by accident that I ended up in this career. Being naturally talented at “Getting Things Done” seems to run in my family. Both of my parents also have (had) these super-powers, and they passed them on to me and my sister. I’m not sure if we should chalk it up to nature or nurture. Either way, it’s a pretty safe bet that we got it from them.

To give you an idea of the scope of books I’m trying to wrangle on a regular basis, let me give you some data to illustrate my point…

  • As of today, I have 80 books on my (physical+virtual) TBR pile. These are books that I actually own in some form or another (ebook, paperback, and/or hardcover).
  • I have another 158 books on what I call my “someday/maybe Kindle wish list” on Amazon — this is a “private” wish list of books I don’t own (yet) but might want to buy (or borrow). It’s where I dump any book that I read about, or that someone recommends to me, that sounds like something I might want to read.
  • I also have another 12 books on a different “private” Amazon wish list that I am considering purchasing physical copies of (mostly comics) or that are not available on Kindle, so I’m either going to buy them at some point, or get them from the library.
  • And, I have 53 books on yet another “private” Amazon wish list that are just business / economics books that looked interesting and/or were recommended. I am a reluctant reader of business books, though. So, it’s highly unlikely that I will actually read most of these. But they’re there in case I get a crazy desire to geek out MBA-style.

(you may be wondering why I keep putting “private” in quotes… technically, I should be the only one that can see those lists. But as a general rule, I am highly skeptical that anything is “private” on the internet…)

As you can see, that’s a lot of books to keep track of. The Amazon wish lists are great for managing my lists of what I might want to buy, but they don’t help manage the list of what I have already and haven’t read yet. I mostly use Goodreads for that. I typically don’t add books to Goodreads until after I actually own them. But earlier this year, I started keeping track of some “best-of” lists on Goodreads, and my to-read list had gotten a bit overwhelming.

So, I decided to organize my Goodreads shelves to make sure that the only books on my main “to-read” list were ones that I already own. For everything else that I wanted to track on Goodreads but don’t own, I added to a new “to-buy-borrow” list. Now, instead of having the default three “exclusive” book shelves (to-read, read, currently-reading), I have five (I added “abandoned” for the ones I started but never finished, and now “to-buy-borrow”). This is going to help me keep track of what I own and haven’t read yet, and now I can quickly see what I might want to read next.

After that re-organization, I ended up with 80 books on my physical + virtual TBR. Next I assigned each of these “to-read” books to one of three new shelves I made so that I could divide them into groups. The first group I’ll call my “priority” TBR list. Those are the ones I paid at least half price for, and that I know that I want to read. The second group is what I’m calling my “guilt-list.” These are the ones that I still want to read, but I know I won’t get to right away for one reason or another. The third and last group is what I’m calling my “vacation” TBR list. These are the ones that I bought on sale (< $3), or were given to me as gifts, and are likely to be fun / fast reads that I am really looking forward to diving into.

That first group, the “priority” TBR currently represents 20 of the 80 books. This is what I’m considering to be my true TBR, and it’s the one that I’m going to focus on reading by the end of the year. These are all books I’m excited about reading, and now they’re all in one (virtual) place. So, I can quickly look through the list and see what I want to read next.

I also feel a lot better with my TBR after admitting to myself that there are books on that list that I’m just not that into right now and that I may not get to for a while. Putting them on the “guilt-list” gets them out of my main TBR list, but still keeps them corralled so I can keep track of what’s there. They’re all still books I want to read, and I might change my mind and decide that I really want to read one of them right away.

Now I have a new goal for 2015. In addition to my 2015 book project, my new goal for the rest of this year is to stick to my book buying rules (outlined below), and finish as many as possible of the 20 books on my “priority” TBR list.

In general, I want to try to read the books that I’ve already purchased before I buy new books. I’m making exceptions for:

  • diverse books for my diverse books reading project (that I can’t get from the library)
  • books that are on sale for a deep discount (<$3)
  • books that are part of a series by an author I love (where I’m willing to buy full price because I know I’m going to read it right away…)


And, after consulting my new Goodreads lists, this is what I’m planning to read in May:

I’m kind of curious how my TBR list and wish list numbers compare with other readers out there. So, if you are also geeky and organized about how you manage your TBR lists, let me know! How many books are on your list?

One thought on “April reading stats and the state of the TBR

  1. My to-read on Goodreads has everything that I think I might want to read someday – whether I have it or not, and even books not yet published but I’ll want to read when they are published. It currently has 130 books on it.
    I just today added a new category called “i-have-it” for books that I physically or electronically have in my possession. As of today, that list has 13 books on it.
    The final list that I manage is my library hold list. I typically look at the books on my to-read list sorted by highest average rating, and fill up my hold list with these. I immediately “freeze” the hold for popular books, so that I move up the hold list, but won’t actually get the book until I have time to read it. Then, when the set of books I have in my possession gets uncomfortably low, I unfreeze a few books from the library hold list.
    That’s about it for now! Although I may need to do another level of prioritization at some point, this works for me at present…

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