Saturday, June 8, 2013

Discussion: Weeding the TBR

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Recently I have become overwhelmed enough by my TBR to choose to undertake a major cull. LibraryThing tells me that I have 234 unread books and that doesn't even count the childrens' books that I plan to read with Z. I've decided I need to reduce this because a) I'll never get to all of these books and b) there are other books that I want to buy and read and I feel guilty getting them because of my existing TBR.

The next step is, of course, deciding how to choose which books to pass on to new readers. It's easy when it comes time to pare down Z's books because there are ones that he simply outgrows or has never been interested in. We pack away beloved books and pass on the rest. But it's much harder to know what to do with books that I haven't even read yet. So my question to all of you is have you ever done a TBR cull? What criteria did you use? Because obviously at some point we thought we wanted to read these books, right? How do you let go of a book that you paid for (or received as a gift) without feeling terribly guilty?

Doing a bit of housekeeping,
K

12 comments:

  1. The last time I did a big cull--a little over a year ago, I think--my main criteria was whether I could get the book from the library. If I couldn't, I kept it. If I could, I'd think about whether the edition of the book I had is particularly nice or collectable and whether I was pretty sure I'd want to read it again and whether it was a gift. If a book fit one of those categories, I might keep it, or I might not, but I'd weigh all those factors before deciding. That worked pretty well for me. Although my collection has gradually built back up since, it hasn't gotten to where it was before that cull, so that's a good thing.

    I did struggle a bit with guilt about books I'd bought or that were given to me. But I decided that the space was more important than making sure the money I spent was well-spent. And a lot of the people who gave me books would never know I culled them, so it wouldn't be hurting them.

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    1. The library criteria is a good one. I have stopped using my library except for new releases that I want to read asap but know I don't want to own and for project reads but this is only because I have such a large TBR. If my own stacks were smaller, I would definitely use the library more. And the "will I want to read it again" is probably the most important factor for me. That's how I've cleared out my regular shelves and actually got them (almost) down to fitting in the bookshelf space I already have.
      Some of my decision to do this right now is based on wanting a tidy house. That definitely has a value.

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  2. When I decided to do a thorough job culling the TBR, I decided to test books the way an agent might test manuscripts. I took huge stacks of books and read the first 20 pages or so of each. That was long enough to know if I was interested in the story, if I'd been hooked, and if I liked the writing. I put the books in three piles - to give away, to keep, and to investigate further. On the latter pile, I read an additional 10-20 pages, and was able to put them in one of the first two piles after that.

    I did most of this culling in fall 2010 to spring 2011. I got rid of hundreds of books on my physical and virtual TBR (would order 20 virtual TBR books from the library all at once). I brought my TBR from over 400 books to fewer than 20 in about 9 months. I only read about 100 of those 400. And honestly, I don't even remember the books I culled. I have never once regretted the way I culled them, or thought maybe I missed out. I did feel guilty getting rid of books I bought or had gifted to me, but I didn't let it stop me.

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    1. I like your method, especially for the virtual TBR. So many books are on that list that I have never physically held before. If I got them from the library, I could finally look at them and decide. And for the books at home, it seems like I am going to have to do a tiered cull too. Some books will be easier to get rid of and some I'm probably going to have to read a bit of first to be able to decide. I do wish it could just be quick and painless though.

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  3. Teresa's rules are excellent! When I've done culls of books I've still not read yet, I find it pretty easy to be ruthless. If I don't want to read a book anymore I get rid of it, and that's it. But I'm definitely familiar with the guilt feelings! I've got two shelves of TBR books right now, and I am determined to read them all before I buy any new books.

    Um, this is probably not indicative of a beautiful moral character, but another way I motivate myself is by remembering that I can sell the books I don't keep. Powells buys books online, and living in New York I can sell them to the Strand as well. So there's also that, if you need an extra little motivator.

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    1. "Ruthless" is a good word. I need to have that frame of mind when I look at the shelves and stacks. I think I've tried to cull in the past with words like "maybe" and "possibly" in mind and then I end up only getting rid of like a dozen books. I don't want to set a specific number but ideally I would get rid of about half of the TBR so that it comes closer to fitting in the space I have available.

      And yes, I have a Half-Price Books locally and my favorite indie buys used as well. ;)

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  4. The only time I ever did a cull was when we decided to put all our energy into getting out of debt quickly. At that time I pulled any collectible, fairly new, or hard to find hardbacks out of my collection that didn't have sentimental value and sold them. Made a lot of money. There are a handful of those that I regret but for the most part I really don't. Odd that you bring this up today as I was just thinking this morning that as soon as Tori moves out I plan to do a big basement clean again which will involve a paring back of the books.

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    1. Luckily I don't have to do this for money, especially since there are books that I own multiple copies of and it would be hard to justify keeping them all around. And even of the books I've willingly gotten rid of over the years, there are a few that I regret but not many. Not to say that it won't be nice to get a little bit back from selling them ...

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  5. My mom made me do this regularly during my childhood because I only had one bookshelf and she wasn't down with stacking books on the floor. So my advice is: go through your bookshelf and separate each book by definitely keep/maybe/definitely can do without. Then go to the maybe pile and cut that down by half, no matter how painful it is.

    Just remember you can probably re-buy a book if you really really really want to read it at some point in the future.

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    1. I never owned that many books as a kid. I would just check out the same ones over and over again from the library. I didn't start really buying books until about 15 years ago and even then I usually had about 10-20 unread books at any one time. And then blogging happened ... need I say more? ;) Luckily, I did get a lot of these books used so I didn't pay full price on them anyway so I wouldn't feel bad about buying them again if I needed to. I'm definitely going to add them to my library list though.

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  6. Good luck with this task! I honestly have never been good at getting rid of books and my husband is not going to be happy with me in a few weeks when we have to move them all again!!!

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    1. I've started the weeding today as it's not going as well as I had hoped. I think this is going to be more like "round one". ;) And I'm frightened to think about ever moving the books I own!

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