Though it’s an idea I first heard of years ago, it seems the TBR Jar is becoming popular again. I’ve seen a few bloggers recently embracing this idea. You stick scraps of paper with titles of all the books you own but haven’t read in a jar, and pick one to choose your next read.
I LOVE the idea, but it’s not really a practical one for me, mostly because my TBR is entirely virtual. I don’t have shelves and stacks of books sitting around my house that I haven’t read yet. I have an ever-evolving pile of library books. I guess I could have a jar that tells me which books to check out that week, but they might not always be available, and besides, the whole point of the jar is so that you can pick up a book and start reading right at that moment, with no thinking or second guessing. I could have a mini-jar just with the titles I have out at any given time, but then I’m completely disregarding due dates, and I’d probably end up returning a lot of books unread (more than I already do).
Anyway, the jar thing just doesn’t work for me.
But the purpose of the jar is to make your out-of-control TBR more manageable. That, I have a need for. But if I can’t use the jar, what can I use?
This is my Excel spreadsheet. I have four different tabs. The main one that I work off of is the first tab, what I call my shortlist. But usually it takes a while before a book ends up here.
When I see a book that interests me by an author I haven’t read before, it goes on the new author list. I make a note of where I saw it or why I’m adding it to the list. I also look to see if my library currently has it; if not, I italicize the title. Occasionally I’ll re-check to see if the book’s been added… sometimes it just takes them a while to get newer releases, if there wasn’t an immediate demand for it when the book was released. But if it’s a book I really want to read and they still don’t have it, I’ll put in a purchase request. More often than not, they’ll add the book to their collection. Otherwise I have the option of paying for an interlibrary loan.
(When I first moved here, I thought the idea of a fee for an interlibrary loan was ridiculous… but I was used to the Chicago suburbs, with hundreds of libraries all working in the same network, and probably thousands of books moving between them at any given time. I guess it is a bit more of an inconvenience out here in the middle of nowhere. Besides, I’d rather pay a few dollars to support my library, even if it’s a book I don’t get to keep, than buy the book new and take the chance of not liking it… in which case I’d be donating that $10 or $15 or $25 book to the library anyway.)
When I read a book that I enjoy, I’ll see what else the author’s written, and add those books to my continuing author list. This is actually woefully out of date; I don’t think I’ve added any recently-discovered authors’ books in at least a year. But since I also keep a spreadsheet of the books I’ve read, it’s not really a time-sensitive issue.
I like keeping these two lists separate, because when I’m pulling titles for my short list (more on that in a bit), I can try to keep a good balance between working through backlists of familiar authors and branching out reading new authors.
And then there’s the ITW must-read thrillers.
It seems a little ridiculous that I’ve already written so much and still have more to say about this… I guess that just proves how much of a nerd I am. But I think I’ll end it here for now.
Check in next week for more on my patented* TBR management system.
(*Not really patented.)
How do you keep track of books you want to read? And how do you decide which book to read next?