Why I Deleted my To-Be-Read Pile

Goals motivate some people. Me? They just stress me the hell out.

hermione_stressedI mean I have life goals, career goals – those I can’t live without. I need to feel that there is a next step, a next move on the chess board of life. But the “I’m going to run a half marathon this fall” or  “I’m going to read 100 books this year” goals just make me feel bad about myself when I fall short. And dude—I’m a curvy woman and a part time waitress so trust me when I say my life provides plenty of other opportunities to feel bad about myself.

I’ve spent my life being the perfect student and I’m finally –at the magical age of thirty – starting to let go of my Hermine-esque compulsion to constantly overachieve. I’ve stopped giving fucks about the mythical headmaster judging my every move. Started rebelling by tossing aside the list of newly minted award books I feel I really should read in favor of revisiting Harry Potter because I can do what I want and you’re not the boss of me.

And so, continuing my journey to be more happy and less stressed I have freed myself from that seemingly innocuous but sneakily stress inducing constant in the lives of bookworms and librarians alike: the To-Be-Read pile.

For me, this meant deleting my To-Read shelf on Goodreads.

Four years in the making. 473 items long.

And I deleted it.

I know you’re all like…. Um so? But the act of deleting this list was oddly and awesomely freeing.

Because every time I would look through it I would see books I put on that shelf two, three, four years ago and get stressed about the fact that I still haven’t read them. My To Read shelf only got longer because for every book I read I put 20 or 30 new ones on the list.

A lot, if not all, of those books I still want to read. But there is wanting to do something and there is wanting to do something. And when we actually want to do something we… do it.

I know right?

We prioritize a million things every day- I want 10 more minutes of sleep more than a leisurely breakfast. I want to pay my bills more than I want to eat out every lunch. I want cookie dough enough to leave my house for it. For those of us who like to read– we prioritize that too. I still want to read The Goldfinch by Donna Tart, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, and Pantomime by Laura Lam, but by getting rid of my To-Read list I am accepting that I am free to act on reading impulse and will get around to the books I want to read eventually and if I don’t – well, Ravenclaw doesn’t loose any points.


Of course the thing that got me hooked onto Goodreads in the first place is that it’s so easy to keep track of the books you want to read so you don’t forget them. Just this morning I found myself on Google tracking down the title of a book I remember seeing several recommends for that I want to read right after I finish my Harry Potters. It took me an hour and ain’t nobody got time for that shit!

So I’ve decided, since I can change any of the rules I want to without written notice, that I’m going to use the same six-month rule for my To-Read shelf that I use for my clothes. About twice a year I go through my clothes and if I haven’t worn it in six months it goes to Goodwill. With a few exceptions, of course, because what is a rule without exceptions?

So I’m going to let myself use my To-Reads pile for books that sound interesting, but in six months I’m going to delete my pile again and if I haven’t read it by then, I probably don’t need to keep remembering it.

How about you? How do you keep track of your books? How do you feel about letting go of the extensive and ever growing To-Read pile? Love to read your thoughts. Leave ‘em in the comments.

5 thoughts on “Why I Deleted my To-Be-Read Pile

  1. I don’t feel very much pressure associated with my to-read shelf on Good Reads. It is more like my books-I-might-like-to-read-someday shelf. But I do have a daunting number of physical and and e-books that I have committed to on some level by purchasing them, although many of them were bought very cheaply. I have a whole stack of paperbacks I’ve bought at the library book sale, but I’ve ended up reading very few of them. I occasionally fantasize about just taking the whole stack back and re-donating them to the library book sale. I like your idea of the six month limit. Perhaps I will re-donate anything I haven’t read by the time we move this summer, and if I still think I might like to read it someday, I can always add it to my Good Reads shelf before I take it back!

    1. I totally feel you. Every time I move (which is ridiculously often) I donate books I’ve bought. And I have probably 50 ebooks that I haven’t read yet. Any time I see cheap books I have to say to myself “I work in a library I work in a library I work in a library” to stop myself buying books 🙂

  2. My to-read shelf is a real shelf with books I bought that I have not read. The moment I spend money on a book.. I MUST read it. After all, that 35 bucks could have been spent on other things.

  3. I often forget to put books on my To-Read shelf on Goodreads…usually I just put them on my Amazon wish list and then when Christmas/my birthday/etc. come around, I sent the wish list to people and then they buy me books!

    But I feel you on the TBR-Pile stress. The whole reason I started my blog was so I could attempt to read through “1001 Books To Read Before You Die.” Ummm…yeah, that sure ain’t gonna happen if I want to keep reading Stephen King and J. K. Rowling and new authors who haven’t even had a chance to get put on that list. (Plus, what is Ian McEwan doing hogging up 8 spots on that list, anyway???)

    Over the past 3 years, my blog has morphed more into a general review blog (and honestly, for the past year or so, not much at all because I’m lazy). I still have those goals posted, and for 2 years I did “Reading Resolutions” at the beginning of each year, but again, the stress of not only trying to read 50-60 books in a year with 5 of them being nonfiction and 5 of them being new authors I haven’t read before and on and on ad nauseum definitely gets to me. I didn’t do reading resolutions this year.

  4. I have all of 34 books on my to-read shelf on Goodreads. I usually try to keep it manageable, but I feel free to delete books from my to-read shelf if I don’t want to read them anymore. I’ve even gotten to the point now where – gasp! – I can put down a book and NOT FINISH IT if I don’t like it or I have other books I’d rather read. 🙂 Life’s too short, and there’s too much out there, for me to spend time reading things I’m not enjoying.

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