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Why Every Reader Needs a “TBR” — Or “To Be Read” — Jar

Like many avid readers, I buy way more books than I ever plan to read. It’s an addiction — if I see a book that I think I might like, I have to have it. (Which has led to piles of books all over my room, sitting there for years unread.)

And if you’re anything like me, picking out your next read is overwhelming. Do I pick the book I’ve been waiting for weeks to release? Or do I pick the book I bought two months ago that sounded really good at the time?

I can almost never decide and usually make my Bookstagram followers help me out, but that was until I decided to start using a TBR Jar. 

I wrote down the titles of every physical book I own, folded the pieces of paper, and stuck them in my jar. Every time I picked out a read, I had to read it. No re-picks. I was strict about this rule because it was a chance to read the book I bought when I was in seventh grade and probably wouldn’t have picked it up on my own. 

And if I was disappointed in a book I picked, why did I own it? Why had I not gotten rid of it?From this, I found new favorites and books I almost immediately gave away. 

For example, Winger by Andrew Smith. I begged my mom at a bookstore in Ashville for this book. It was all over Tumblr at the time and it was quintessential 2014 YA literature. But for some reason, I was never in the mood to pick it up. It sat on my shelves, collecting dust until the jar. I was excited and nervous to read this because I had so many expectations! I wanted to read this book through the eyes of my twelve-year-old self and see if it lived up to the hype — it did not. 

I stopped about 20 pages in, but I knew I would’ve loved this years ago. If I had read it as the angst pre-teen I so desperately wanted to be, this probably would’ve been my favorite book. I was sad to give it to my local bookstore, but it made me realize that a lot of the books I had were not a reflection of my current interests. 

I like romance! The cheesy, swoon-worthy kind! But as a kid, I loved the sad main character who struggled with their identity throughout the book until the very end until the light cleared up. While I can appreciate those books now, I’m no longer interested in them. 

After this read, I critically evaluated the rest of my physical TBR (to be read) pile. I decided if I would be disappointed to pull it from the jar, I had to donate it. I ended up donating eleven books after this. 

More than anything else, I had so much fun doing this! I rediscovered so many books I was once excited for and got to love them all over again. I wasn’t as stressed about my next read and flew through my TBR. 

If you’re overwhelmed by what book to read next, I can’t recommend this method enough.

Katie is studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing at NYU. She hopes to publish her romance novel and become a literary agent, specializing in romance. She's a reader and writer, but most importantly--she's a Swiftie. Some of her favorite things are giant soft pretzels, Nora Ephron movies, and chocolate chip muffins. You can check out her bookstagram, @readinromance, for recommendations or to just rant about your favorite book.
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