Your reading list is out of control. Here are some tips to manage it.

If you read this blog, it’s possible you suffer from a debilitating spending problem that haunts many bookworms. Despite a stack of books you’ve lined up for reading, you insist on buying new books anyway. And the stack piles. And piles. And piles. And one day, you’ll find that 80% of the floor space in your apartment is dedicated to stacking books you haven’t read, and you sit there, towered over by mountains of literature, racked with guilt and overwhelm. Hopefully, you are not in debt.

It doesn’t have to get this far.

Take a cue from fashion people

I watched this YouTube video recently. The content creator offered advice on building a wardrobe you love. Her tips centered around decluttering your wardrobe to remove this feeling of overwhelm. Whereas most people equate “decluttering” with “disposing”, this creator suggested creating new categories for specific items. That way, you have several, “curated” wardrobes instead of one massive wardrobe that feels cluttered and disconnected.

This didn’t have me rushing to organize my closet. But it did trigger a slew of recollections on Instagram reels about buying more books despite a colossal TBR list. It seems that both fashion people and bookworms are united by a common problem of excessive, maybe even impulsive, collection.

Identify your buying triggers

Book buying is often determined by mood—hence the term, “mood readers”. That’s the problem with impulsive book buying. We find ourselves reading book jackets, synopses, reviews, or admiring book covers. All of these things conjure emotion and appeal that drives us to the payment counter. Days or weeks later, the excitement to read that book evanesces. We no longer feel like reading that sad and dreary contemporary lit book from last weekend. Perhaps we’d rather read something fun, something new, something all the other book influencers are raving about. Sometimes we don’t feel like reading at all. All we’re left with is a much larger stack of books.

Instead of another trip to the bookstore without progressing through your TBR, try creating reading lists by mood. It could help curb the need to keep buying new books. It may not be a specific title you’re looking for—just a book to capture that emotion you want to feel while reading. If this is true, you likely already have a book for that.

The results are small, curated collections of titles to fit your every whim.

To determine how to curate the books you already have but haven’t read, identify the reasons you decided to buy them in the first place. They could be the moods you were in, or seeking to feel, upon purchase. They could also be external triggers like social media influence or personal recommendations.

Organize your collections

The next step is organizing your TBR into small collections based on those categories. This makes it a lot easier to find something to read based on a title. For example, say you’re in the mood for something dark and lofty. There’s no need to cull through the Internet for reading recommendations. The best person with recommendations for you is you. The best list is your existing TBR.

An example for me could look like:

  • New releases by an author I know I love e.g. Jenkins Reid
  • Trending on social media this month
  • Things I genuinely want to learn more about e.g. technical writing skills
  • Things that would be fun to know e.g. the history of film
  • Emotional whim
    • Sad, heart-wrenching, and too relatable e.g. Murakami, Rooney
    • Dark, satirical, elitist, and fashionable e.g. Tartt
    • Adventurous, fun, and fast-paced e.g. Schwab

Revisit your collections before visiting the bookstore

By all means, go to the bookstore. They are cathartic and—unless you’re in the kids’ section—peaceful. But the next time you feel that you have nothing to read, go through your curated collections first. You can recreate the shopping experience. In some ways, perhaps the experience feels elevated because you’re sifting through curated titles. The best part is that you no longer have to pay.

Your TBR is massive for a reason. You probably already have what you are looking for.


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