Unfinished, Unread & Unloved: Tackling the TBR Pile

I bet Hugh Dancy always reads the books he buys. Yeah... That's why this picture's here...

I bought two books last week.

This is nothing new for me. I buy books a lot. It’s a constant state of purchasing and enjoyment for me. I spend hours in bookshops just soaking in the inimitable atmosphere that accompanies the space – millions of pages, overpriced coffee, a couple of screaming kids and, in this particular instance, one enthusiastic teenager talking a little too loudly about Hufflepuff and communism.

I always feel a tinge of guilt whenever I buy a new book, thinking back to the scattered piles of unread purchases across my bedroom along with the numerous additions on my Kindle. The rush of good old fashioned capitalism can be hard to beat, and when you’re a book blogger it’s part of the communal experience to participate in such indulgence. But now, that guilt hits a little harder, because about a month ago I was made redundant from my job.

Officially back in the ever disheartening ranks of the unemployed, I’ve been forced to put a lot of my future plans on hold, again. It’s tough to rethink your ambitions and deal with roadblocks that seem to evade so many around you. It’s also meant looking back at my finances and reconfiguring some key areas.

That means no more book buying.

If nothing else, this forces me to acknowledge the spontaneous purchases I’ve left untouched for so long that they’re now encased in dust, as well as the ones I started and never got back to. The latter is a real issue for me. I’m an avid reader but I’m also a tad flighty. I like to indulge my whims and their desires are as ever changing as the Scottish weather (this year has been particularly apocalyptic). Something could grab me for a hundred pages, like a non-fiction book on the phone hacking scandal, but the next day I can wake up and be struck with the urge to pick up a romance novel (true story). Spoiling myself just exacerbates this problem, so it’s time to rein it in.

So here’s my pledge: No more new books. No more putting money down I don’t really have, even if it’s the greatest deal this side of Amazon. If the book is free or an advanced reader copy, I’ll make an exception, but overall the plan is to focus almost exclusively on my TBR pile, both in physical and e-book form.

This is the ultimate privileged person problem, and I’m very aware of that, but having a project to focus on while joblessness continues is healthy, and if nothing else this will delight my parents, who sigh a little too loudly whenever they spot me with a Waterstones bag.

First stop – Just Kids by Patti Smith. A Valentine’s treat to myself that’s been sitting on my bedside table with the bookmark at page 46.

Wish me luck.

My TBR pile, not including e-books or the boxes in my attic. That's a whole other scary issue.
My TBR pile, not including e-books or the boxes in my attic. That’s a whole other scary issue.
Previous articleTry It: Extra Hot Great
Next articleReview: “The Just City” by Jo Walton
Ceilidh is the co-editor in chief of Bibliodaze, the one who has no idea what she's doing. She talks YA at The Book Lantern and has been known to talk theatre for The Skinny & Female Arts.


  1. Good luck. I have decided do something similar. I had decided that once I have read 5 books on my TBR, I will treat myself to ONE new book. I’m trying to reduce my TBR pile. It is difficult, but so far I still haven’t bought anything. I am two books short of my 5 books

  2. What a wonderful problem to have. 😀 My TBR list on Goodreads is 217 books long, and I made a similar pledge recently: no buying books or borrowing from the library until I finish the ones I own.

  3. Sorry to hear about your job.

    I participate in a monthly tbr challenge and my rule is I have to read one of my print books. It’s been great at culling them, especially since I often go through several titles before settling on one (and my other rule is, if I don’t get into it for the challenge, out it goes.)

  4. My TBR pile became a TBR shelf became a TBR bookcase. And then we decided to move to a tiny house in England and I GOT RID OF the TBR pile/shelf/bookcase anyway. As solutions go, it was both drastic/tragic and oddly freeing. I got to decide which books I really really wanted to keep, and the rest? Eh.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here