How Do You Cull Your TBR?

I have to admit I have been in rather a reading funk of late and I think I might have worked out part of the reason why, I have begun to feel a little bit encroached by my books, which is delightful yet daunting all in one as you can see from the view when I wake up in the morning…

And if I turn the other way it gets even more noticeable…

And that’s all without even looking at the six boxes crammed in the spare room filled with books!! So I have decided that I need to have something of a cull on Mount TBR which you can see is rather large if you pop to its own page, yes it gets its own page on this blog that’s how big it is. I even have some guests, well Polly of Novel Insights, coming to help me sort it all out and to be fiercely firm with me on what I really going to read and what realistically I’m not.

I am fairly sure that I am not the only person out there in the book blogosphere who has this issue. Lots of lovely books coming in, which we all adore – I am not moaning, and then a sudden little freak out about all the ones you already had and when you are going to get to them, especially those ones you bout for 50p on impulse because ‘you might read them one day’.

So far I’ve come up with the following, though I am sure there are loads more…

  • How long have I had the book for – if it’s over three years and I haven’t tried I am ever going to actually read it?
  • Have I loved other books by the same author?
  • Did someone give it to me or have I asked for it from a publisher?
  • If I bought it on a whim what was it that made me buy it, can I remember?
  • Have I tried it before and not liked it, do I realistically think I ever will?

I am not sure that they are strict enough though? So how do you sort a cull, what criteria do you have? Or do you not cull at all and just let the book piles grow and grow? We all need a clear out though now and again don’t we?


Filed under Book Thoughts

20 responses to “How Do You Cull Your TBR?

  1. novelinsights

    I’ve just thought, point one is similar to the rule of thumb of wardrobe-culling (If I haven’t worn it for a year, will I wear it again?)

    Interested to hear how others would approach this scenario!

  2. Difficult. Ultimately I ask myself whether I really want to read this and whether I would like it (I know this is very hard to gauge) but after reading for so many years you are kind of fine-tuned to what you’ll like. Although sometimes a book does surprise you. Not helping, am I?

  3. I did a big cull earlier this year in which I got rid of books that I could get at the library and that I didn’t think I’d want to keep once I read them. Now I’m trying not to let a book stay unread in my home for more than four years. If I’ve had it four years or more and I still haven’t made time for it, out it goes. That’s the theory anyway–I haven’t had to put myself to the test on that rule yet 🙂

  4. I just did a cull over the weekend as I’m getting ready for a move. At the time, I grabbed any book that I wasn’t excited about and that was common enough that if I ever did decide I had to read it I could find a copy at a library easily enough (my obscure but unread books are not going anywhere!). Except now they’re all sitting on a table waiting to be taken to the charity shop and I’m rethinking all my culling and wanting to keep them ‘just in case’. What’s an extra book or two in the midst of a move?

  5. I am ruthless in culling the pile and disposing of the books I don’t want. Oxfam benefit greatly from my review copies. I read a couple of books a week so if the pile has more than a dozen on it, its time for a cull. I am looking forward to getting my kindle for Christmas which should help a bit as it holds 3500 books – not quite the same need to cull under those circs.

  6. I have a very vague – oh I’ve had this for ages and I don’t think I bought it new anyway so I should get rid of it – system. It’s not completely effective. I am trying to be more strict about getting rid of books that I tried to start reading and didn’t get on with. Why struggle when there are so many good books to be read? But don’t take advice from me – I have only cut my TBR by about 10 books since I listed them on my blog a few months back. In my defence most of my books have been in boxes for months due to building work. I’ll organise them better when the builders leave. Probably.

  7. Deb

    I’m with Teresa: The first thing I do is check my local library’s on-line database and see if the book is available for check-out. Unfortunately, a huge number of the books in my TBR mountain are there because I could not find them at the library in the first place!

    Then I ask myself if I really want to read this book. Perhaps I was excited about it at one time, but would I really want to read it now? Recently I cleared out a storage unit we’d been renting for five years and I ended up taking about 20 bags of books to the Friends of the Library for their book sale. But Mount TBR continues to grow. Sigh!

  8. I have written about culling in the past but it was slightly more difficult as I tend not to accept unsolicited books into my flat in the first place! It’s an occupational hazard for you though and I think that you’re going to have to be really brutal. I know full well how stressful stacks of books can be to your reading well-being (and really your mental health!)

    I don’t look at my books as ones that are all vying for attention to be read at this given time but as building my own personal athenaeum. I am a collector and I like the thought of having a particular book on hand during my lifetime to read when the whim takes me (especially if it is a book that is -or may become- difficult to find).

    However, our reading tastes do change over the years or become more defined, at least; there are certain books I have bought over the years when I was interested in a particular subject or author that now I have no interest in. You know yourself well enough as a reader to realise which books are realistically going to be read. Be strict, true to yourself and don’t feel responsible to the person or publisher who gave you the book; you read for yourself and the books that look accusingly from the shelves and bedside table should reflect that.

    Good luck!

  9. I’ve been doing an annual, end-of-the-year cull for several years now. We just ran out of space in our little house.

    I follow the three year rule for the most part. Anything that’s been unread on the shelf for over three years is in the give away bag.

    Unless it still looks really good.

  10. I still find it impossible to cull unread books, but I also don’t get books sent to me unless I accept them first so I don’t have as many as you (though I still have around 400). I’ve heard some say that they read the first couple of pages and can sometimes tell immediately based on the writing style that they will dislike it. That might help?

  11. GavReads

    I’m having a cull at the minute and it’s not easy.

    A small part of the reason I wanted to stop blogging was the flood of books that comes with it. It’s not a bad thing but your head does end up swimming and when I kept finding that I still hadn’t read that book I bought x months ago it was slowly getting me down.

    I’m also stepping slowly back to the zen/toasist path I was on a few years ago and re-applying that minimalist/essential philosophy to all parts of my life. When it comes to books I feel more in control now that lovely people aren’t tempting me everyday. Nothing wrong with that but it’s really hard to say no 😉

    But I was a collector of books way before I started blooging – I don’t know why books lead to having more in the TBR than the Read pile.

    I’m feeding my impulsive self by downloading samples to my Kindle – it’s effective – I feel like I’m having new things whilst getting through what I already have. I’ve cut down dramatically the blogs I follow to a handful so I get only a small trickle of books. I’m also reading things that I know are me – TPratchett and Neal Asher. I’m wrapping myself in comfort for a bit.

    As for the culling what I already have I’m sort of rating and comparing books and giving them odds of being read – and slowing thinking would I chose this or this like xfactor and I keep comparing until I can’t choose between them 🙂

  12. I think I am most in line with Claire’s approach. It seems like the only books I ever cull from the TBR are those that looked good in the shop and were somewhat impulsive buys. The longer they stay around, the longer they remind me of my folly, so they must go. (I did this with the Ukranian Tractor book which I bought new at an airport and which seems to get good blogger reviews, but I have no regrets about getting rid of that one.

  13. I have books pilling all over my home office right now — which isn’t very accommodating to me considering I need a clean and organized space, and I work remotely out of that home office. Having my books piled hither and thither really is annoying and disturbing my peace of mind. I probably need to figure out a way to slash some books from the pile, but quite frankly, I don’t know how I can part with any of them.

    When I’m done reading a book, I’ll normally sit amongst the piles and pull out whatever strikes me. Sometimes it’s literally just based on the book cover… and if it’s pretty… There are some that are of such boring and dry subject matter that I immediately post them on Paperbackswap of some sort. Might give the first few pages a try, but other than that, off they go.

    Am interested to see how other people do it.

  14. I did a big cull earlier this year in which I got rid of books that I could get at the library and that I didn’t think I’d want to keep once I read them. -Teresa

    This is exactly what I did/do, so thanks for beating me to it, Teresa!

  15. I have about 400 (could be more..) on Mount TBR but “most” are in the lovely glass fronted Billy Bookcases covering one wall of our study, complete with height extensions, of course! I’ve done a recent cull of ones which were unsolicited and not really to my taste – they’re off to my children’s school Christmas fair so someone will benefit.

    I don’t apply the “have I worn this recently” rule to my wardrobe (the 80s are back in again!) so I don’t think I could possibly apply it to my books which are literally part of the furniture.

    Don’t ask me what I’ll do when the Billies overflow..I’ll just stick my head in the sand-pit!

  16. Dot

    I’m really bad at culling- a book has to sit on my shelf for at least a year before I will decide that I am never going to read it! This has got worse now that I get sent books to review as the pile just keeps on growing!

  17. Harriet

    I think the problem with your criteria is that you never know when something is suddenly the right book to read, even though you may have had it for more than 3 years. I’m just reading a book I’ve had for about 6 years and enjoying it very much. I’m no good at culling unread books, only read ones.

  18. I have to confess I take the easy way out and don’t cull at all, which explains why my TBR pile is running rampant around my house and now office too. I’m incapable of letting books leave my hands unread just in case they turn out to be marvellous, although I have no qualms about passing them on to others after I’ve read them. To that end, I’ll often read a book I don’t think I’m going to want to keep if I need to clear some space on the shelves. Sometimes it works and I get my shelf space and others I discover a book I really like, so either way I win.

  19. I have never culled my book piles (granted, my piles aren’t too big yet. Yet…), but I do apply a useful method of not buying books when I’m in a particularly good reading mood. If I notice I’ve been reading a lot recently, I prefer to continue going through books until I have enough of a dent in my piles that it becomes normal.

    Not acquiring new books at all also helps. But that’s just too much to expect from readers…

  20. No tbr thus no need to cull.

    Problem sorted!

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