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The TBR Menace

Updated: Jul 10

A kindle device leans against a pile of paperback books

Like most avid readers, I have a monstrous To Be Read pile. It mostly comprises books I own but haven’t got to yet. There are some physical books, but most lurk on my e-reader, vying for my attention. Then there are also the books I haven’t brought yet but added to my ‘want to read’ list on Goodreads. It’s easy to click that button when you spot an interesting-looking book.


And then there is re-reading. Despite the allure of the new, there are some books I go back to again and again and find something new in them each time. I’m most guilty of doing this with all of Jane Austen’s novels, Wuthering Heights, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. It’s an odd mix, but all of them hold a special place in my heart, and I’ll never be broken of the habit of re-reading them. Even when the TBR pile is calling.


It's time for a critical look at my TBR pile; seeing what is on there, and considering why I haven’t got to it yet.

The Book of Legendary Lands – Umberto Eco

This is a lovely illustrated book that my partner gifted me for Christmas several years ago. He knows I love Eco’s fiction and I’m intrigued by imaginary worlds, so this was a safe bet. But I have to work myself up to read Eco’s nonfiction because it’s intimidating. He was clearly much smarter than me. So, I prepare myself to be mystified and in awe. I always leave an Eco book feeling like I’ve missed something.


Which reminds me – I need to re-read Foucault’s Pendulum and The Prague Cemetery.




La Belle Sauvage and The Secret Commonwealth – Philip Pullman

I love His Dark Materials but I know exactly why these two books languish in my TBR pile. I’m waiting for book three of the trilogy.


As a habitual reader of fantasy and science fiction, I’ve been through the pain of waiting for the next book of a series to come out. Sometimes it’s years (I mention no names, but you all know who I’m talking about). Sometimes it’s so long that I have to go back and re-read the last books so I know what is going on. It’s much more efficient to read them all at once.


Book three is due out sometime in 2024, so perhaps these will be going from the pile soon.


Lilith’s Brood - Octavia E. Butler

Lilith’s Brood has the dubious honour of being the book sitting on my TBR pile for the longest. According to Goodreads, it’s been there for the last nine years. Yikes!


I’ve got a good idea why it’s been there so long. I want to read more Butler. She’s a magnificent writer. But Kindred absolutely destroyed me, and I know I’m going to have to be in the right frame of mind to approach her again. It has just never been the right time. Perhaps soon.


Klara and the Sun - Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun is the last book I put on my TBR pile, and it’s there because of a common problem – Amazon offered me the ebook for 99p. Kazuo Ishiguro is on my mental list of writers that I keep an eye out for the special offers; I love The Remains of the Day and I tell myself that I will get around to reading all of his books sometime. Maybe I’ll break myself of the habit of clicking the enticing ‘buy now’ button too.


Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands, Lake of Souls, The Brides of High Hill…

Being of mature years (cough), I remember a time when I had to grub around in the bookshop for fantasy and science fiction that appealed to me and might be written with some understanding of a female audience. So, I won’t complain about the piles of genre books now written by (and possibly for) women.


It is catastrophic for the TBR pile though.  


Conclusion - Your TBR is not the enemy

Books get stuck on my TBR pile for numerous reasons. But the main culprit for its size is because we live in a time of riches. There is so much worth our time.


What’s on your To Be Read list? Why do books get stuck there? Leave me a comment so we can commiserate together.



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