How To Avoid TBR Overwhelm

31/03/2018 Discussions, Reading 22

How To Deal With TBR Overwhelm

Since I started blogging a few years back, my TBR list has grown to epic proportions, and that’s great! I’m not likely to run out of reading material anytime soon, and obviously I’m getting loads of great recommendations from other bloggers.

But at the same time, it has also led to an unfortunate state I call ‘TBR overwhelm’, which has the following symptoms:

  • A breakout of unread books on your shelf or Kindle.
  • A sense of hopelessness, as you think you’ll never get through your TBR list, and read all the books you want to read.
  • A chronic inability to choose what to read next, despite a huge amount of choice.

Recently I’ve been suffering a bad bout of TBR overwhelm, mostly manifesting itself as symptom 3 – being unable to choose what to read next – and it’s been slowing down my reading so much. Thankfully I think I’m through the worst of it now (yes, I’m going to continue this whole, ‘TBR overwhelm’ is an illness analogy!), so I thought I’d share some tips for any of my fellow TBR overwhelm sufferers out there.

Some of these tips may work for you, some may not, but when you get to the stage where it feels like you’re drowning in unread books, I think it’s worth trying a few things to see what works!

So here’s how to avoid TBR overwhelm:

  • Impose a book-buying/borrowing ban.

One of the problems I have with my TBR list, is that it’s ever-growing, and for every book I read, I add another two. That’s great, because as I’ve said, I’m not going to run out of things to read any time soon, but it also makes you feel as if you’re making no progress at all.

So one way I’ve found to combat this is to focus my TBR list down to the books I own, but haven’t yet read, and banning myself from acquiring anymore (whether that’s buying them or borrowing from the library). Yes, it’s tough to ban yourself from buying any more books, and I will make an exception for particularly good Kindle deals or new releases I’ve been super excited about, but overall I think this works well. And it saves you money!

  • Plan ahead.

This won’t work for everyone, but is worth a shot if your TBR is really stacking up. I know lots of bloggers do a post at the start of each month detailing the books they intend to read that month, and I think planning ahead like that and taking the choice out of it is a great idea.

I’m not too great at sticking with this, as I’m a bit of a mood reader, and will often end up not feeling like the book that’s next on the list, but I think this could definitely be beneficial for some people!

  • Split your TBR into sections, to make it seem smaller.

This method is great for mood readers, who never know the kind of book they’ll want to read next: split your TBR into genre categories, and then if you feel like reading sci-fi, for example, you can head on over to that list and pick the first book on that list.

Goodreads is a great tool to use when doing this, as you can have various ‘shelves’ for different genres, so you can physically split up your TBR list into categories.

  • Pick a book – any book – and start reading.

Usually as soon as I finish one book I’ll start another, but thanks to my recent bout of TBR overwhelm I’ve been leaving a couple of days between each one, because I’ve been struggling so much to decide what to read next. Therefore, the only way I’ve found to truly combat this is to be completely random about it, and just select whatever book comes to hand first and start reading it.

If I’m a few pages in and really not feeling it, maybe I’ll try the next one on my list (so basically the next closest book!), but for the most part this has been effective.

How To Avoid TBR Overwhelm


So have you ever felt TBR overwhelm? What methods have you found for getting over it?

22 Responses to “How To Avoid TBR Overwhelm”

  1. Angela

    Great post! My TBR isn’t as crazy as others, but sometimes it does feel a bit overwhelming, especially when I see books that have been on there awhile. I like the idea of splitting the TBR into sections, sometimes I do that with the nonfiction titles I want to read.

    I think culling your TBR often is a good idea, too. I know I just add random books sometimes, or books I THINK I need to read because everyone else is reading them, but every once in awhile, I’ll actually go through my TBR and delete those books I know I’m not going to read or have lost interest in.

    • Laura

      Culling your TBR list is such a great idea, and something I haven’t tried yet. I imagine there’s probably loads of books on there though that I added on a whim, but am not actually that bothered about in retrospect.
      Thanks for the tip! I’m definitely going to do that! 🙂

      • nordie@writing about books

        If you do cull your books, there are plenty of places to get rid of them, including ebay and charity book stores.

        There is also bookcrossing, where you register the book and leave it somewhere to be picked up – e.g. in a cafe, hotel lobby, etc. Or you can give it to another member, who is looking for that specific book.

        Birmingham has an active group, and bookshelves around the city, including the city centre, Kings Heath, the JQ etc.

        Let me know if you’d like any more information

        • Laura

          Wow, I’ve never heard of that, so thanks for the suggestion! I’ll definitely have to look into that, as it sounds like a great idea 🙂

  2. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    Great tips! I have suffered from this in the past. It helps to split my TBR into sections, and to use a random number generator to choose what I read. All my unread books are on one shelf, so I have the generator pick a number. Then I count along the shelf and read that book.

    • Laura

      I love the random number generator idea! That’s something I’m definitely going to have to try. That way I can take the choice out of it completely 🙂

  3. Zeee @ I Heart Romance & YA

    I guess I’m currently in one! Uhmm… I have been hopping from book to book.and nothing seems to catch my attention! Buuuttt I have been rereading a ton of my old faves so that usually helps for me!

    Wish me luck! I just borrowed an couple of audiobooks last night… eeep!

    • Laura

      I’m sorry you’ve been struggling with this too! Rereading old favourites sounds like a good idea though (I may try that myself!), and maybe the different format of audiobooks will help? Best of luck with it! 🙂

  4. Ianthe

    I’ve put myself on so many book buying bans but they are so difficult to stick to! It seems like there is a new release every single day that I need to buy and read. I have made my peace with the fact that I will probably never get through my TBR pile, but that’s okay!

    • Laura

      Book buying bans really are so difficult! I always end up ‘making exceptions’ for certain books because they’re on offer, or newly released, and it usually just ends with me buying my normal amount of books! 🙂
      There’s so many books in the world, and I stumble across more I want to read everyday, so I think I’m just going to have to make peace with the fact I’ll probably never get through my TBR pile either 🙂

  5. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I’m a fan of just picking at random and giving the book a shot. I struggle with being overwhelmed by my TBR because I can’t help myself when it comes to book buying but it’s the most effective way to find a book. I am currently feeling overwhelmed by my ARCs so I’m just picking one up, giving it a shot, and hoping that I’ll enjoy it. It seems to be working so far.

    • Laura

      I’m glad the random approach is working for you so far! I’ve mostly been trying that for want of anything better to do, and it has got me reading again, which is good. I just never seem to know what I feel like reading these days, so picking randomly takes the dilemma out of it! 🙂

    • Laura

      Yay for winning loads of books! That’s awesome! It can be tough to choose what to read next though when you have so many choices, so I’m glad you’ve got a system that works for you 🙂

    • Laura

      Surrender is as good advice as any! (and drowning in a sea of books is definitely not a bad way to go in my opinion!) 🙂

  6. Christina @ Ruff Day Reviews

    Great post! I have tried to ban myself from borrowing/buying books. And then I borrow/buy books! Netgalley is horrible for me. I started a Shame Monday blog posts where every Monday I post about a book that I’ve finally read that is at least four months late. This helps me choose from the books that I’m super behind on and keeps me moving through.

    • Laura

      It’s so tough banning yourself from borrowing and buying books isn’t it? I don’t really do ARCs because I know I’d end up reading them really late, because I’m such a mood reader. Your Shame Monday posts sound like a good way of helping you choose what to read next though, although there’s no shame in getting behind. It happens to us all! 🙂

  7. Brooke

    My TBR has been out of control for awhile now! I’ve recently implemented a no borrow, no buy, NO TRADE rule. And things have been going much better since new books haven’t been rolling in!

    • Laura

      I’m glad that’s been working for you! It’s tough to stick to a book buying/borrowing ban, but it is so worth it when it helps keep your TBR under control 🙂

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