Gaskella Archive: State of the TBR – 2011-2014

Back in 2011 running through to 2014, I came up with a fun wheeze – to get readers to help choose which books to keep, which to cull. I’ve compiled the series of posts into one…

You know your TBR’s got out of hand when …

This year, I resolved to try to get to grips with my TBR (To Be Read) collection.  My Librarything (LT) Profile currently has it tagged at 2229 which is just over half of my entire collection, but I know there are a lot more that haven’t been entered yet. The new fun LT stats put my entire library if stacked on top of each other at just short of 400 feet – that’s between Big Ben and The Great Pyramid in height, and if laid end to end, they would stretch nearly 0.04% of the distance to the moon. But the key statistic which is the most meaningful, is the number of Ikea Billy bookcases you’d need to house your collection …  I assume this means the standard 80cm width version with 6 shelves, single stacked.  I need 26.22 for the books LT knows about. I have the equivalent of 10 of these dotted around the house, four of which are double stacked, so that makes about 14 – so I’m 12 short.  This means a lot of piles of books everywhere, and a TBR that stopped being a pile years ago, and is now more of a mountain range.

I joined in the TBR dare for three months from January to the end of March.  That was all well and good, reading just books that entered the house before Jan 1st, but due to life intruding, I’ve not got through so many books this year.  Previously, I’ve read two or three books a week, totalling around 110 per year. So far this year I’ve only read 32, and since the end of the TBR dare, I’ve been rather distracted by shiny new books mostly (and understandably!).

The upshot of this is, that despite loving having a personal library to pick from, I’m never going to get through all these books.  If I were able to keep up my 100+ reading rate, that’s over 22 years worth of books to read, without being added to. I hope you don’t mind this rambling introspective post, but I thought that putting down some of the cold facts might help bring the enormity of my TBR list home to me. As I sort through piles, I do sift out some unread books to go to the charity shop, or be sold, but I also put plenty back for further consideration.  I keep far less books once read these days which is also a good thing, but it’s the TBR list that worries.

So – I’ve come up with an idea for which I need your help.

Periodically, I’m going to list some books out of my TBR list, and ask you to vote to keep or cull.  Any receiving no votes will go without further ado. Then I’ll keep the top three or so, and try to lose the remaining books.  So watch out for another post containing my first TBR poll soon …

Any other ideas about managing TBR lists would, of course, as always be very helpful.  Thank you!

Annabel’s TBR Poll #1

So here it is, my first TBR poll. I hope that some of you will be familiar with some of the titles and/or authors listed, or have heard enough about some of these books to have an opinion on them even if you haven’t read them.

Vote for as many books as you like, as long as you think I ought to keep them to read – do expand on your reasons in the comments if you’d like. Those receiving the lowest votes will be taken out of the TBR list in a week’s time.

One week later – The Results

Thank you to all those who voted and/or commented in my TBR poll last week.

I learned that if I wanted to get larger numbers of votes I should have listed more books so that more people may have heard of them. More books listed would also have meant more books to go in the end.  I may repeat this some time in the future when I’ve amassed another larger pile of TBR books I’m not sure about keeping.

Meanwhile, three books received nul points – so out they go without further ado. (by ‘out’ I mean, try to sell on Amazon for more than 1p, car boot, then give to charity shop).  The three were:  The final confession of Mabel StarkThe funnies, and But Beautiful.

Four books received multiple votes, so they stay – The Winter RoseThe luminous life of Lily Aphrodite, and Hopeful Monsters, as did 26a. This last book divided opinion, which makes it more of a must read to see which camp I fall into!

The rest got just one vote. I’m going to keep Eleven as Flossie T spoke up for it so well. The others will join the discards including Pies and Prejudice which I did dither over for a few seconds before deciding that I’d give the north a miss at the moment.

So that’s over six inches of shelf space freed up for a few minutes, but also a tiny patch of floorspace reclaimed once the shelf is refilled. Thanks again.  Back to book reviews soon…

(P.S. I did keep Pies & Prejudice – Ed)

Annabel’s TBR Poll #2

At the end of May, I tried out using the Poll feature by asking you, dear readers, to vote for which books I should keep in my TBR.  I listed a dozen, and the poll bit worked – and you gave ‘Nul points’ to a number of books which have duly been disposed of, along with the lowest scoring others. As I’m so out and about this week, I won’t have time to post, so I thought I’d leave you with my TBR Poll #2. This time I have listed 21 books (see right) which I’m not sure about keeping – so more people should have heard of some of them I hope.

Vote for as many as you like – but please only ones you think should be worth reading. You don’t have to have read them, but you may have an opinion on them from other sources. If you want to speak up (or not) for a particular book or author – please do leave a comment.

I pledge to dispose of the lowest scoring books – and I would like to lose half of them, or more.  I’ll let you know the results next week.  THANK YOU!

I’m back! Been off in Dorset for a week with only intermittent slow internet access – holiday post and book reviews (I actually finished three novels on holiday – a first, I think), to follow.

THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to vote and comment on my second TBR poll.

Amazingly The namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri got 11 votes, so I’m actually promoting that book up the pile to read sooner rather than later. But I am definitely happy to let go all the books with 2 or less votes:

  • Nul Points: Marco Pierre White, Henry Roth and Robert Ryan – Sayonara guys.
  • The Singletons: Damned Utd (bloody good film though) and Jo Brand – Farewell to them.
  • The lone deuce: Our Betty – Cheerio Liz – I will look at the photo sections though.
  • The missed off the poll – I added a 21st book to even out the cover montage, but forgot to add it to the actual poll – so despite Stu liking it, Ship Fever will go too.

That only makes seven and I’d hoped to lose half of the 21 – what about the three pointers?

  • UIverton by Adam Thorpe – still think it looks daunting and not really my kind of book – Gone!
  • Sick Puppy by Carl Hiassen – I love Elmore Leonard, but a quick flick through this again didn’t win me over – Gone!
  • Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka – Although I enjoyed her debut (A short history of tractors in Ukranian), this sounds too much more of the same – Gone!
  • I married a Communist by Philip Roth – An author I need to get to grips with so I will take Will’s recommendation and keep this one, but read a different P.Roth first – Stays!

… and that makes ten – coming soon to a charity shop near me!

My Literary Chunkster Poll

I have too many books. Probably more than I could possibly hope to read before I die (yes, truly), and that’s without adding any more.  I’m a lot more selective about those books I keep once I’ve read them these days, and I always have a bag on the go for the charity shop, and a box for a yard sale.

One way I could make a) some room, and b) save a lot of reading time is to get rid of a pile of literary chunksters – those thick literary books that I’ve been dithering over for years. So I’m asking for your help…

In the poll below, do vote for the books you would NOT bother to read. So we’re voting to chuck out, not keep.  Also you’ll see a box at the bottom where you can add any other literary chunkster that you aren’t bothered about reading. Have fun and THANK YOU!   Oh – and vote for as many as you want…

The Results:

Somehow it wasn’t surprising to see Jonathan Franzen, Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer up in the top few places.  What was surprising though was that although quite a few people commented that they didn’t like The Children’s Book – it got the least votes, and that despite several people saying they liked I am Charlotte Simmons – it was way out in front.

Thank you to everyone who voted. It was fun watching it change.

Now which books I’m going to chuck and which two books will I keep ….

The two I’m keeping are:


Yes – despite everything I’m going to keep this particular Tom Wolfe novel – but – I am going to get rid of the other two of his lurking on my shelves: A Man in Full and Back to Blood instead – so it’s a two-fer. Enough people who’ve actually read I am Charlotte Simmons commented that they enjoyed it, so I will keep it for now. As for The Passage – I still can’t resist vampires, and I have the sequel too – just need the time to read them.

I’ve been flicking through The Children’s Book, and despite all the comments in its defence, I know it’s not for me – I think I bought it primarily for its beautiful cover.  I nearly decided to keep Human Traces, but I remember my late Mum saying how it went on and on and took so long to read.

But as well as getting rid of the rest, I’m also adding Norman Mailer’s 781pp The Naked and the Dead, Jonathan Littell’s 1279pp The Company (another history of the CIA type novel!), and the sub-500pp but I’ll never read it jPod by Douglas Coupland.

Let me just set this in context… Most years I read around 30,000 pages.  Those 13 books add up to 10,245 pages – they would take me over four months to read with nothing else in between.

 I call that a result.  Thank you for helping to make it fun!

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