A new hashtag is working its way around Book Twitter – #beatthebacklog
The purpose is to encourage people to break into their TBR pile before adding to it this year, working through the books we’ve already got rather then buying more. It’s gotten me thinking…
Last year I started a Book Challenge with a dual goal – To get myself reading more new books and to start clearing the undefined pile of unread books in my house. The first point was mostly for my own mind – When I am stressed I seem to huddle into my comfort books, only coming out when someone shakes my books upside down to find me. New books are suspicious strangers in these times, and this challenge succeeded in breaking me of that bad habit. In this context, my Book Challenge was a roaring success.
However I was also trying to absolve myself of Tsundoko, and in this regard I failed spectacularly. Today, whilst contemplating Beat The Backlog, I picked up every unread book from around my house and piled them up to see exactly how many I actually had.
I expected the answer to be about 40; It was actually 191. I found more books after this final total was totted up, but I am declining to count how many there were. I do not wish to reach 200 unread books.
This was an unexpected turn of events, and I needed to do some thinking to figure out how to turn this into a manageable situation. I started by addressing the issues at hand one by one.
How Did This Happen?
On reflection a significant amount of these books can be attributed to my Grandma – When she decided to move out of her house she needed to finally address the garage full of books that had been waiting a couple of decades for a Car Boot Sale which never happened. She sent me out there with instructions to help myself to anything that took my fancy, and apart from the odd book that was being guarded by a particularly vigilant spider, I did exactly that.
Book Twitter has also not been my friend (in this regard) this year. The books above are just a few that I bought after reading amazing things about them on Book Twitter, specifically the ones that I read and wrote about.
Am I sorry I bought them? No – they were just as amazing as I thought they would be. I have learnt and loved new things and people for having read these books.
Am I sorry I bought quite so many? Possibly – but then the ones that I haven’t yet had chance to read haven’t had their moment in the spotlight to justify having bought them, so I should really postpone judgement on that.
Did they fix my problem with tsundoko? Not even slightly. I am convinced that I did not have 191 unread books in my house last year when I made that resolution, meaning that the problem has undeniably worsened over the past year.
I was relieved to note that several of the books in my pile don’t actually belong to me – They were loaned to me by friends and family who knew that I was hoping to read more this year and either volunteered loans of books or answered my requests for specific books. Above are a handful of the books that were lent to me this year, which actually made it through the TBR pile and onto my blog.
It is worth noting that the loaned books are not quite so problematic as the other unread books, because all I need to do is read them and return them, or change my mind and return them. The common theme here is that I give them back afterwards, and don’t need to justify the extra shelf space to my Other Half.
I recieved a box of surprise books a few months ago from a friend who was moving house. They are a mix of books that I had previously lent her, and books that she was re-homing and thought I would enjoy. In all honesty the only books from this book that I have actually read since it arrived in all of its glory is…. none of them. All of these books bar the ones I originally lent her have found their way into my ‘unread books’ pile.
Then there are the books that I had slowly acquired over the decade previous to that, convinced that I would read them at some point, totalling nearly (but not quite!) 200 books. This is clearly an untenable situation, and so a plan of attack was formed.
The Organisation Stage
The first thing that needed doing was to organise the books into something that vaguely resembled order. I split the books into piles of ‘Definitely want to read’, ‘Bath Books’, ‘I Probably Want To Read’, ‘I Already Like This Author’ and ‘Not Sure Anymore’
The above is the first sub-catagory of ‘Definitely Want To Read’ – It is all of the stories from that pile which have now been given their own shelf next to where I write my blog posts to inspire me to pick them up when I am looking for my next book. I think this may be the biggest pile.
The next sub-catagory of ‘Definitely Want To Read’ was Classics. I have read and loved several classics over the years and have slowly built up this collection of books I want to find the time to read. I have divided my classics shelf in two with these all at the closest end for the next time I fancy a slower, trickier read.
The final sub-catagory of ‘Definitely Want To Read’ was Non-Fiction Books – the ones that will teach me something or help me to grow through having read them. Honestly I think most of these were new in the last year or so, and so I will consider them casualties of ‘reading around’ more. They have also been given their own shelf.
This is my pile of Bath Books. They look to be frivolous feel-good books that I will be able to wind down with and enjoy when I feel like I need a break, which is exactly the sort of mood with which one normally heads to the bath tub. My Other Half came up with the rather genius idea to put these books on the bookshelf outside the bathroom, which I’m sure would have occurred to me eventually… They now live on their very own shelf outside the bathroom. Most of these books can be blamed on Grandma.
Christmas Books! These are being tucked away with my Christmas blankets, ready to come out next year and be adored. It is my deep ambition to create a sub-catagory on this blog purely for Christmas books, and little by little I am working towards this goal.
These fantasy books were all (but one) given to me by my Dad’s girlfriend at the time who saw that I was starting to buy David Eddings books. She promptly gifted me her entire David Eddings series, along with all of her Robin Hobb and J V Jones books, most of which I have already enjoyed – Thanks Sam! These are still waiting for the right moment to be devoured.
There was no debate at all about keeping these books – My Historical Fiction TBR pile is mainly Phillipa Gregory after I went on a buying splurge of her books a few years ago and burnt myself out, leaving a few books left to enjoy. These, mixed with other books about the same families by other authors, have their own shelf in pride of place in the living room.
Similiarly I went through a Jodi Picoult mania a few years ago, with a handful of her books left to be read. I find that you need to be in a certain mood for a Jodi Picoult book, but when you are she is simply a superb author (practically a genre of her own). These books have a home just under the bath books now.
And finally we have the Charity Shop Pile (or return to owner pile). Making this pile was really difficult, and there are more than a few books on that pile that I would happily read. However, I felt strongly that the size of my TBR pile was overwhelming and that despite it now being more organised, something had to go.
My Other Half was greatly amused to find that despite getting rid of 39 books, I still had 150+ unread books. We will not discuss this in great detail, but know that his opinion on this matter was also promptly discarded.
Having organised all of my unread books (re-homing some), I now need to put some sort of plan in place to actually read them all. There are 150+ left in the house, all organised into their sub-catagories to help me find the right book to suit my mood, but ultimately there are still a serious amount of as yet un-loved books on my shelves which deserve their moment. Having established that I do actually want to read all of these books, my plan is as follows.
More seriously, I intend to set myself a new New Years Resolution ready for 2022, which is a little more flexible than the originally considered ‘read them all in 2022’, or ‘don’t buy any new books in 2022’, both of which I was contemplating.
By the end of 2022, my TBR pile will be less than 100.
Wish me luck!