Here I am yet again with another post about TBRs (you’ve seen the original version of this last year and I’ve also discussed ARC habits and how I pick the books for my TBR)! As I started plotting out my reading challenges for 2020 at the end of last year (and my reading resolutions, including a focus on adding variety to my TBRs), I realized I should update this and PLAN for more variety.
I always think about the books I missed out on reading, and how it can be really challenging to fit in everything I want to read in a given month. If I read 120 books a year, 10 books a month doesn’t feel like a lot in terms of balancing backlist, new releases, favorite authors, blog tours, book clubs, owned books, and review copies. How can I squeeze ALL of those in each month??? It seemed like a good time to remind myself what’s important and how I can curate monthly TBRs with a solid amount of variety that keep me interested and on track. So, a lot of this will be similar to last year’s Anatomy of a TBR Post that I made but will specifically include other challenges and balancing in the backlist / catching up on old review copies. As I said last time:
I remember back in 2015 I followed Andi on an experiment of using TBR-related categories when picking books for the month. It worked so well for me because my mood reading for a specific book mixed well with the reading obligations I still wanted to follow. The lists would include things like format, genre, publishing year, debut author, etc. – any kind of book you could think of, in order to diversify your reading choices. My current TBR posts follow a similar structure but I am typically able to pick certain books now instead.
Review Copies (Egalleys Mostly)
I’m going to keep this basically the same. Based on the current amount of egalleys I have in my backlist (ugh) and upcoming, I will always need to aim to read approximately five of them each month. That equates to HALF of my TBR. They fall in these categories, for the most part:
This system allows for me to catch up on a backlist or already published review copy, two upcoming (within the month) review copies, one far in the future that I’m really excited about, and one dealer’s choice – I can pick whatever I’m in the mood for or feel like I need to catch up on. The major difference here for 2020 is that I will probably continue to keep five books on the TBR itself, but I’ll definitely cut myself slack if I only read four… if it means I add variety elsewhere. As I said last time around, this mix of old, new, and future copies is really working well for me. I’ll always have a review post scheduled MONTHS ahead of time and can generally keep on top of current releases too.
Keeping this part exactly the same, as it hasn’t really changed for 2020 — As I’ve discussed before, there are plenty of “required reading” books each month. These are basically books with due dates of some kind. I keep physical ARCs around here because I tend to view them differently than egalleys. I will usually have 0-2 books from the library and 0-2 blog tours on deck in the coming month, so those make up some slots on the TBR. I also have a monthly book club pick (sometimes three, one for each book club). All of these things have specific guidelines of when to finish reading and reviewing, so they get a special section that basically means “Lauren you have to read these or else.”
Another element here is that I do try to overlap these required reading books with challenges and other goals. For example, I generally am the person to pick out which books my book club selects (for two out of three of them at least), so I pull from my existing TBR for those. It could be an old review copy I need to read, a new release I want to prioritize, or something that meets one of my challenges.
Challenges and Other Categories
I started to add a separate place for my challenges in each monthly TBR. This will definitely happen for 2020 because I have a few more challenges with specific requirements based on the month itself. Here are my challenges and how I may include them in my TBR:
Popsugar Challenge: This has 50 prompts to read throughout the year, but I don’t plan this according to my monthly TBR. Most of the books I read just happen to fall into categories and then I plan the rest of my TBR to finish the challenge off around October.
Calendar of Crime: This challenge involves picking a book based on the monthly mystery book categories. There are nine prompts you can pick from each month to match your mystery/crime book to. I will definitely plan this ahead of time each month and have a category in my TBR.
Rainbow Try a Chapter Unhaul: My personal challenge for the year! This is where I have a specific color assigned to the month, so I will include book options in the TBR. I grab 2-3 books from my shelf with this color on the cover, try a chapter and see if it pulls me in, then read the book (or unhaul it if it doesn’t). I’m doing this instead of the Picky Pledge I worked on in 2019.
Monthly Key Word Challenge: I planned a backlist TBR for this on my challenge sign-up post last year, so I really hope I can use THIS as inspiration to read at least one backlist title per month. You have to read a book that has at least one of the keywords in the title each month. For example, January has Water, This, Hello, Sun, New, and Six as keywords, and I pulled five books from my backlist TBR that I could read in January to meet this challenge.
Romanceopoly: I didn’t include that here because I actually drafted this post initially before signing up, but I’m joining in with this fun board game challenge too! I’ll probably roll the dice for it 2-3 times a month to see if things fit from my actual TBR (which happened in January!) or if I need to add things.
These other broad categories help flesh out the TBR to include 10+ books. They include whatever books I’m in the MOOD to read for the month, new releases I’m excited for, what audiobooks I may have on deck, and anything else that meets readathons or challenges. (I don’t think bookish bingo will be around next year.)
My TBR will always have more than 10 books to allow for mood reading and give me options.
To sum up from the categories above, my TBR list will have approximately (AT MOST) 5 review copies, 2-3 book club selections, 0-2 blog tour books, and 5 books to meet challenge prompts. That’s about 15 books if all of those categories are at their fullest. However, like I said, I always try to overlap things for multiple categories. One of my book club selections could be a backlist review copy, apply to Calendar of Crime, and have a Monthly Key Word. There will also usually be anticipated new releases, books I’m in the mood to read or am overdue for, and if there’s a random audiobook I want to read. So, long story short, my TBR will always have around 15 books even if I only “need” to read 10.
There’s a stronger emphasis on variety: balancing review copies with backlist titles, reducing my shelves, etc.
I want to make sure I’m reading all kinds of different books. Now that I reorganized my Goodreads shelves, it’s even easier to pull together a TBR for an entire year if I wanted to. I like having everything laid out in a variety of categories so I know how to balance it all. I want to get books off my shelves so I designed a fun challenge to try 2-3 of them each month and see if they deserve to stick around. I planned my Key Word challenge around backlist titles I’ve been excited to read but never got around to. I signed up for Calendar of Crime to ensure I’m reading at least 12 mystery books per year, in order to avoid the contemporary/romance trap I fall into each year.