TBRBooks As I’ve discussed before, my TBR pile is out of control. I mean, I have approximately 595 books labeled “To Be Read” on my LibraryThing inventory. It’s gotten so extreme, I’m at the point where I don’t even know where to start.

This past weekend, I wasted spent a good long day organizing my virtual shelves, which is a lot more fun than organizing my real shelves because I don’t get so dusty. I consolidated my tag designations, made sure I had inventoried any new purchases or e-books, and generally got a handle on what was what. While I worked, I came up with some ideas on how I could whittle away at my piles. For example:

1. I went through and labeled every book that I’ve started but haven’t finished as a “partial”. These are books that I’ve gotten more than a couple chapters into but that didn’t grab me by the throat and force me to sit down and not get up until every last page was read. They aren’t bad per se, not enough that I have no desire to finish them. I’m still interested. I’ve just gotten distracted and keep meaning to get back.

My thinking is that maybe I could start with these 50 or so titles. Pick them up one at a time, skim from the beginning to where I stopped just as a refresher, then actually finish the book once and for all. This way, I only have to read some of a lot of books instead of all of even more books.

2. I could tackle my TRBs in bunches. Group together all of the titles that are part of a series, start with Book 1 and work my way all the way through until I’ve caught up with the latest release or hit the end of the road. This has some appeal because I could fully immerse myself in a particular writer’s world and stay there for a good long while. The flip side – burn out is a real possibility. And if I have to finish all of the Game of Thrones books before I can read any others, it might be 2015 before I pick up anything else.

3. I could use the published date and work my way forward from oldest to newest release. I’d begin some time back in the 1930s (my oldest TBR title is Regency Buck by Georgett Heyer, published in 1935), traveling through the twentieth century all the way to 2013.

In a similar fashion, I could just work my way down my list alphabetically by title. That would have me beginning with 15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins since LibraryThing begins numerically before using the alphabet.

4. I could take the 100 pages approach. Pick up a book, read the first 100 pages and decide then and there if this is a keeper or one I should put in the Paperback Swap pile. This would be an efficient way to get rid of the bloat caused by the DNFs I know must be in there – out of 595 books, I doubt I’m going to love every single one. The problem comes with deciding if I keep reading past the 100 pages if I do like the book or do I stop, pick up another book and give that one the 100 page test. I could end up with 400 books that I’ve read only 100 pages of.

5. I could create a little random number generator on my computer, have it give me a number from 1 to 595, and read whichever book that corresponds on the list. This could be kind of fun, like opening up a Christmas present. But sometimes I have to be in the right mood for a certain kind of book. What if I randomly select a urban fantasy and I’m more in the mood for a contemporary comedy?

6. I could create little Whitman Sampler baskets, taking one book from a variety of genres and placing them in a bag that I cart around everywhere I go. Once I read them all (or taste them and spit them back out because they contain an icky flavor), I could refill the bag with another sampler set. This would give me variety, to be sure.

7. I could author glom. Read everything I have by a certain author until I’ve exhausted my supply, them move on to the next. Truthfully, though, I have a lot of one-offs because I’m always reluctant to buy more than one book by a new-to-me author. Those writers who have become favorites don’t have books that end up on my TBR pile because their books are usually the ones that I can’t put down. Thus the reason that they are my favorite writers.

Conversely, I could author purge. Recently I read a book for review by a new-to-me author, and to be brutally honest, I didn’t like it at all. Lo and behold, I had two of this author’s books on my TBR shelf, and I felt no distress in moving those to my Paperback Swap box without reading them. I could read one of an author’s books in my TBR pile, and if I don’t love her (or him), any other books by her (or him) could be dumped. That seems kind of rash, though. Everyone can have an off day. I’d hate to miss out on something great just because I only gave someone one chance.

8. I could genre glom. Read all of my fantasy books. Or all of my military romances. Or all of my Regency era. By the end, I bet I’d have a really good handle on which writers know how to do things right.

9. I could close my eyes, spin in a circle, point my finger and move toward my shelves. Wherever I land, that’s the book I have to read.

Which ever method I choose, I’m committed to making this a summer project. Obviously I can’t read 595 books in three months. But I could definitely challenge myself to finish 50 partially read books. Or to read one decade’s worth of older books. Or finish two or three series of books. I’ll report back in September and let you know how it goes.

How about you? Any ideas on how to tackle the TBR pile? Anyone up for a challenge – pick a method and stick with it all summer, then report your results in September.

– Jenna Harper