Why I Don’t Have a TBR List

I’ve read enough blogs and browsed Pinterest for enough hours to know that TBR lists are extremely popular. Like, everyone has one. But not me.

I’ve been an active reader my entire life, but I’ve never practiced having a to be read list.

So, why not?

What do I consider a TBR list?

I consider a TBR list a long list of books that have yet to be acquired or are already acquired. I expect the list to take more than 2 weeks to complete. And more books will be continuously added so that the list never is complete.

I think TBRs are a hopeful plan of what’s to come, that may never actually materialize. It’s a wish list.

It’s a willful plan to accomplish something.

It’s a list made so as not to forget something that once caught your attention.

A TBR list is your “maybe someday I’ll get around to it” list.

So why not have a TBR list?

Isn’t it helpful? Isn’t it a great way to increase your reading by always having the next book lined up?

Well, there are many reasons why I personally don’t have a TBR.

I read what I like as soon as I get it.

I have no patience when it comes to books. If I get a great library haul they’re getting read right away. There’s no need to let it wait on a pile for long to become another entry on the TBR list.

If I don’t like a book I’m quick to put it aside and choose another.

I rarely buy books. I borrow.

Tiny libraries. Public libraries. Free e-books. Friends’ books. Mom’s books. Husband’s books.

There are too many places to get free books that I typically don’t buy books. So that means no stack of TBR books waiting on my shelf. And a very limited permanent bookshelf overall.

A friend loans me a great book and I read it quickly to return it in a timely manner. I get a library book and it must be returned in 3 weeks. New releases might be 2 weeks.

If I don’t have the book, I can’t read it. If I don’t have a book it’s not on my TBR list.

I browse for books in the moment.

I see a book I like, I get it. Spontaneous. Intuitive.

If I’m in the mood for an epic fantasy, I seek those out. If I want self-help, I go to that.

I’m not really concerned with having a bank of books to choose from. Just the ability to grab what I like as the mood strikes.

It feels like a to-do list.

Similar to the above, I like a little spontaneity. So the idea of a to-do list for a hobby is a bit restrictive to me.

I have enough to-do’s in life and reading should be free form and only done when I want.

I’m really enjoying the 2022 Reading Challenge, so having a goal and a guide can be motivating. But I can tell you now that I do not have all 50 books planned out. My strategy is to find books I want to read and then find the category they satisfy. I think it’ll all work out in the end.

There’s guilt if I don’t get to them.

If I promise myself I’ll do something and then don’t do it, I’m left with a feeling of guilt.

There are already enough things in this world that I’m committed to doing to be a better person. As long as I commit to reading books, any books, I’m ok with that. Choosing a particular book just gets in the way.

It starts a vicious cycle of accumluation and want.

I choose to keep my possessions minimal when possible, so a large collection of physical books waiting to be read does not suit my lifestyle. I prefer to permanently keep only those books I really love or that have special meaning.

So if I acquire books with only the intent to keep them on a TBR list for an indefinite amount of time they can quickly become clutter. And clutter attracts clutter.

Exceptions to the rule…

Of course, there will be exceptions to any rule. So technically, sometimes I have a TBR list.

What I mean is that I place books on hold at the library and wait for them to become available. Or I pick 3 or 4 books at a time, and they technically are a list of TBR next.

But to me, this isn’t a TBR because it is so short-term and merely for practical reasons, like securing a popular book that has a 24-week waitlist. I don’t obsess over the book while I wait, it’s just a pleasant surprise when it pops up on my account.

It might be impossible for an avid reader to only acquire one single book at a time. So I don’t consider the logistics of having a few books on hand a TBR.

Do you have a TBR list?

Comment below to let me know why you do or don’t have a TBR list.

7 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Have a TBR List

Add yours

  1. Wow! This is such an interesting perspective! I do have a TBR on both Goodreads and on my physical shelves and I use the two a bit differently.

    My Goodreads lists all the books I own that I haven’t read, as well as new releases I want to read. This helps me keep track of the books that are coming out and closer to the book’s release I decide whether I’ve lost interest in the book, whether I’ll get the book from the library, or whether I’ll be purchasing it. This list is capped at about 70-80 books maximum, so only my most anticipated releases are on this list. The remainder is made up of the 40-50 books I physically own. I dislike when my physical TBR gets any bigger than that because it begins to make me anxious that I may never read all the books on my shelf, but I’m also a mood reader, so I like having a lot of variety from which I can pick my next read!

    Great post!


  2. I started having TBR books right off in HS. We had a whole list of books to be read during the semester. My dad would take the list to the library and buy them all (no kidding here). Same in College, especially when I took 2 years of Greek Mythology. My Dad loved those books. When I was 16, I had a monthly box of books from Harlequin shipped to me. When my now husband and I hooked up I told him I had books that needed to follow me; I only had ~1,000 at the time. When my father died I inherited ~600 – not much since he had +10,000 but most went to the National Library in Ottawa. The rule was that no book went on the shelf if it wasn’t read yet so I had better keep up – the same applied to encyclopedias and such reference books. Those were read at dinner on Sunday night. Now I have a list to finish my series, another list for reviews I owe, another for SLB’s 2022 challenge, which I used to plug-in some of the books I hadn’t read yet, another list for books given to me just because I read (why do people think you’ll love that book?). I keep a spreadsheet with all the pertinent info about my books. That list was started by hand in a ledger maybe 40 years ago, then transferred to Lotus 1-2-3, and then Excel, which I now use; it has 27 columns and as many lines as I have books. When my husband has a coupon for Chapters he knows I have a list ready. Lists are important to me.


  3. That’s really interesting! I don’t know if I have really ever met or seen anyone who reads spontaneously like that 🙂 I envy your method in a way because my reading method is pretty much the opposite, the entire TBR way that you described: keeping a list, buying things and having a shelf of unreads looming over me. It is kind of like giving myself pressure to read. It also comes with the issue you described where you buy a book but you know you won’t get to it for a while. Your way honestly sounds more fun but I think my TBR method works for me because I like to read books that are more educational and to get a well rounded image of certain topics. Knowing I have more to get to motivates me to either finish a book or leave it behind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love my TBR, lol. It is quite large (how does that happen?!). I usually pick out 50-100 books at the end of one year in prep for the next and the selection is well spread for genre, subject, completion of trilogies, etc. so I’m reading a good mix. I do love lists so the ‘upkeep’ is just an additional pleasure (anticipation) and keeping lists of TBR and annual reading prevents duplicate purchases. And, I can always read a spontaneous selection! Looking forward to your 2023 Challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

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