To be, or not to be…

If you’re a reader, you won’t need the initials TBR explained. Our to-be-read piles are discussed with fellow readers in tones of mild to moderate alarm, as though they might one day take over our houses, our lives and eventually the civilised world.

But I love my TBR pile. The idea of running out of books to read fills me with a chill of utter terror. I would vastly prefer my TBR pile rose to the ceiling, then fell and crushed me under the weight of all those wonderful words, rather than dying of boredom because I have Nothing To Read and am reduced to scanning the ingredients panel of a cereal packet for intellectual stimulation.

A billy bookcase packed with paperbacks

Some of my book shelves – most of the books here have been read

When you’re writing a book, the statistics are terrifying – 2,239,409 books have been published so far this year alone (according to But as a reader that’s entirely comforting – two and a quarter million really would be a TBR pile to reckon with! Even I, the most picky reader who doesn’t get past the first page of 90% of what I pick up (although I do pick up a LOT of books), couldn’t run out of books with so many waiting for me.

I’ve just tallied up my bookshelves and kindle/kobo and I stopped counting when I reached 50 TBR books. That was higher than I thought, given that I’ve just finished a couple of good novels and was wailing, “Now I have Nothing To Read!” Still, you can never get too many – maybe a quick trip to Waterstones wouldn’t hurt…

How about you – how many books do you have waiting to be read, and how many makes a suitable buffer against running out of things to read?

About katyhaye

Katy Haye writes fast-paced fantasy novels for YA readers and is fascinated by the science of stories.
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6 Responses to To be, or not to be…

  1. Jay E. says:

    I currently have about 70 TBR books. I average about a book a week, so I try to keep a list of about 50 books in order to last me another year. I also never buy a book on my TBR for myself. Since I don’t know if I’ll like it, i refuse to spend money on it. Instead I’ll get them from my local library or use the list for gift ideas.


    • katyhaye says:

      Interesting. I’ve been thinking recently that I need a list system – books I like the sound of get written down on bits of paper that often get lost and then I can’t remember what they were. I use the library a lot, too, but I also buy loads – the look inside/preview feature online usually gives me enough of an idea whether a book’s right for me.


  2. Viv says:

    The advent of the Kindle and digital books means my TBR pile is more hidden, though there are stacks of books next to my bed too.
    Oddly enough, I find that I seldom download free books these days because they end up at the bottom of the TBR list. Value added means paid for books go first, usually.


    • katyhaye says:

      I agree on the free books – I think my brain links “free” with “not worth anything”. Library books tend to get read first because they’re time limited, after that it’s often a case of what’s in the room I happen to be in!


  3. Lev Raphael says:

    I review for a local NPR station so I have overlapping TBR piles: currently there are about 30. which is pretty modest for me. I’m usually around the 50-70 range.


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