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The Matter of “The Great TBR”

BY WINA PUANGCO

I’m not writing for Crossed Wires today but something—among other things—has been bothering me lately. As someone who participates in Booktube and other reading communities (Goodreads, etc.), I’ve noticed that when talking about their To-Be-Read piles or TBRs, a lot of people are fond of acting guilty for not getting through said pile of books fast enough and/or talking about their TBRs like they are burdens to bear—“I’m soooo behind” or “Ugh, I guess this goes to my super big TBR.”

bookbed to be read

Image from Epic Reads

Now, while I understand the feeling of too many books, not enough time, and am by no means encouraging people to be lax about reading or to say that we have all the time in the world to read (we don’t have all the time in the world to do anything), I think it has to be said that for all our self-deprecation, I don’t think adopting this attitude of burdened-ness helps us read more.

The thing is, guilt isn’t proactive, it’s paralyzing. If you’re going to be driven to read by any force, let it be a kind of thirst for discovery or curiosity, and not the nuns chasing you into the confessional booth. I understand the feeling of being unproductive that comes with not being able to read as much as you’d like but it must be an element of desire to go and read those books: after all, these are things we have chosen to purchase, to own, to put on our shelves.

bookbed to be read 1

Books aren’t simply tasks to “get through” and I suppose that’s what bothers me about when people complain about having a big TBR. I think there is some comfort to be had in knowing that there are books for you to get to, one that is equal albeit different to the pleasure of having finished a book.

I find myself contemplating why certain people grow their TBRs in the first place—let’s not pretend it isn’t a choice—and why they continue to purchase book after book after book if they are going to opt not to read it and then complain about it after.

I know someone who once told me that he bought books but didn’t read them because he just thought they’d feel better on his shelf than in the bookstore, to which I replied that at least in the bookstore there would be a chance of someone reading them. I wonder, is it a form of humble bragging? Is it a kind of need to show off how much one has and doesn’t use much like, as a child, having a 48-crayon Crayola set with each of the colors perfectly pointed? If so, then it’s an awful shame.

bookbed to be read 2

Image from Ralph and Chuck

However, if the reason that we do this is because that’s how we see other people talking about books to be read in that manner and do honestly want to get reading, then here are some alternatives to help you get into the right frame of mind to keep reading and to maximize your lovely, exciting TBR:

I’m so excited to read ______________________.
My TBR is huge, which books shall I get to first?
I have a gigantic To-Be-Read pile, I really hope that I can read more this (insert time time frame here).
Don’t you have this same book? I haven’t read it, yet. Would you like to buddy-read this with me?
I haven’t read as much as I’d like but I really want to try and read at least ___________ book(s) within (insert time frame here).
I’m going to do an un-haul: if I don’t read this book by (insert given date here), I’ll give it away to someone else who might appreciate it.
I’d like to read at least (number of pages) per (unit of time).
These are the books I’m looking forward to reading the most:
I am really glad that I have a lot of books to explore.
I hope that I never run out of anything to read but that I’m always in constant danger of it.

And that’s it for this round! Hope you enjoyed this and I’ll see you next time in the next Crossed Wires post! ☁

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  • Shelfwalking: The path towards being OC – bookbed
    Posted at 17:32h, 25 March Reply

    […] These are the highlights of my unread books (the list is too long to be compressed in a photo collage) and I, myself, cannot believe that I’m eons behind my TBR pile. (Read: The Matter of “The Great TBR”) […]

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