TBR List: The Ultimate Guide to Creating, Organizing, and Conquering Your To-Be-Read Pile

Ah, the TBR list.

That ever-growing, anxiety-inducing mountain of books we’re all desperate to conquer.

I remember the day I stumbled upon a dusty old box at my parents’ house, full of books that I had bought years before but hadn’t read.

This got me thinking about the importance of a well-organized TBR list.

You see, there’s a science (or a dark art) behind it – and I’m here to share the secrets with you.

Their Meaning

What is a TBR List?

TBR stands for “To Be Read,” and it’s essentially a list of books you want to read in the future.

The concept seems simple enough, but there’s a certain art to crafting the perfect TBR list – one that doesn’t leave you feeling overwhelmed, but rather inspired to tackle your literary ambitions.

The Psychology Behind Them

As humans, we’re wired to crave a sense of accomplishment.

Our brains are flooded with dopamine when we complete tasks, and this includes finishing a book.

But what if I told you that even the act of curating a reading list could provide a similar hit of satisfaction?

That’s right, my friends. Our brains are peculiar things.

The Benefits

Having a TBR list can make you a more intentional reader.

It’s like having your very own literary roadmap, guiding you through the book world with purpose.

Plus, by planning your reading journey, you’ll be more likely to tackle those books that have been gathering dust on your shelves for years.

Furthermore, TBR lists can help you stay organized, reduce decision fatigue when choosing your next book, and help you track your reading progress over time.

The Neuroscience of Reading Lists

Memory Retention

Remember the story of the ancient Greek poet Simonides, who famously developed the Method of Loci to improve memory?

As it turns out, having a structured TBR list can work in a similar way.

By organizing your reading material, you’re creating mental connections between books, making it easier to recall their content.

This not only helps you remember what you’ve read but also enhances your ability to draw connections between different books, deepening your understanding of the literary world.

Reading Comprehension

Ernest Hemingway claimed that reading multiple books at once helped him relax after writing.

Well, Ernie was onto something.

A well-curated TBR list can act as a mental palate cleanser, allowing your brain to switch gears between books and maintain focus.

This, in turn, can improve your overall reading comprehension and make your reading sessions more productive.

Dopamine and Motivation

Dopamine, that magical neurotransmitter responsible for motivation, plays a huge role in our love for lists.

Each time you add a new book or cross one off, you’re rewarded with a dopamine hit.

This positive feedback loop keeps us coming back for more, driving us to conquer our recommended reads.

Moreover, by setting goals and reaching those milestones, you’ll experience increased motivation to continue reading and tackling more books.

Creating Your Pile – TBR List Ideas

Assessing Your Reading Goals

Before you embark on your literary journey, take a moment to reflect on your reading goals.

Are you aiming to read more classics or diversify your reading list with authors from different backgrounds?

Perhaps you want to explore new genres or read more non-fiction.

Identifying your goals will help you curate a format that aligns with your personal reading ambitions.

Choosing the Right Format: Physical, Digital, or Hybrid

When it comes to formats, the possibilities are endless.

Embrace your inner Marie Kondo and create a physical list that sparks joy or channel your inner Steve Jobs and go digital.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, create a hybrid list, combining the best of both worlds.

Curating Genres, Authors, and Themes

Now comes the fun part: selecting the books.

Consider incorporating a mix of genres, authors, and themes to keep things interesting.

Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and include books that will expand your horizons and stimulate your curiosity.

Themed and Interest-Based

Get creative by incorporating themed lists that cater to your unique interests.

Are you a history buff? Curate a list of historical fiction or biographies.

Love to travel? Create a TBR list featuring books set in different countries or written by authors from around the world.

The possibilities are endless, and a themed list can add an extra layer of excitement to your reading journey.

Seasonal and Holiday-Inspired

Celebrate the changing seasons and holidays with TBR lists that reflect the spirit of the times.

Cozy up with a spooky thriller during Halloween, or indulge in a heartwarming romance for Valentine’s Day.

By aligning your book choices with the seasons and holidays, you’ll create a reading experience that feels festive and immersive.

TBR Lists Based on Recommendations and Bestsellers

Take inspiration from the literary world and create TBR lists based on recommendations from fellow readers, book clubs, or bestseller lists.

This approach will not only help you stay in the loop with the latest literary trends but also introduce you to new authors and genres that you might not have discovered otherwise.

Organizing Your TBR List for Maximum Effectiveness

Prioritizing Your Reading Material

Take a page out of Marie Kondo‘s book (pun intended) and prioritize your reading material.

Arrange your reading list in a way that sparks joy, whether it’s by release date, author, or personal preference.

By organizing your list strategically, you’ll be more likely to maintain momentum and stay motivated as you work through your book pile.

Incorporating Deadlines and Reading Challenges

Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race.

Set realistic deadlines and consider joining reading challenges to help you stay on track and make progress through your books.

By setting goals and creating a sense of urgency, you’ll be more likely to make reading a priority in your daily life.

Utilizing Tools for Better Organization

In this digital age, there’s no shortage of apps and tools to help you keep you organized.

From Goodreads to Trello, find the one that works best for you and watch your reading life transform.

These tools can help you track your progress, set reminders, and even connect with other readers for added motivation and support.

TBR List Templates

Physical Templates: Bullet Journals and Planners

Embrace your inner artist and create a physical TBR list template in a bullet journal or planner.

This hands-on approach allows you to personalize your list, making it a unique reflection of your reading tastes and goals.

Plus, there’s something incredibly satisfying about physically crossing off a book once you’ve completed it.

Digital Templates: Spreadsheets and Documents

For those who prefer the digital realm, create a template using Google Docs or Excel.

This approach allows for easy organization, filtering, and updating, making it an excellent option for tech-savvy readers.

Customizable Templates for Personalization

Find a customizable TBR list template that suits your individual needs and preferences.

Many websites and apps offer pre-made templates that can be tailored to your specific requirements, allowing you to create a selection that truly reflects your reading goals and tastes.

TBR List Apps

Top-Rated TBR List Apps

There are numerous TBR list apps available to suit your device of choice, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Explore options like Litsy and Bookly to find the one that best suits your needs.

Integrating Them with Other Reading Tools

Maximize your reading experience by integrating your chosen app with other reading tools, such as audiobook platforms, note-taking apps, or e-readers.

This seamless integration will ensure that you stay organized and on top of your reading game.

Optimizing Your Experience

To get the most out of your app, make sure to take advantage of all its features.

Set reminders, participate in reading challenges, and engage with fellow readers to make your reading journey more enjoyable and fulfilling.

How to Get Through Your Book Pile

Setting Realistic Aims

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your pile be conquered. Set achievable goals for yourself, and remember, it’s not a race (unless you’re participating in a readathon, of course).

By setting realistic expectations, you’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed and will be more likely to enjoy the reading process.

Creating a Reading Routine

Just as Stephen King makes it a habit to write every day, establish a reading routine to help you work through your TBR list.

Whether it’s 30 minutes before bed or an hour on your lunch break, consistency is key.

By carving out dedicated reading time, you’ll be more likely to stay on track and make steady progress through your list.

Balancing Your TBR List with Spontaneous Reading

Life is full of surprises, and so should your upcoming book selection.

While it’s essential to have a plan, don’t be afraid to deviate from it when the mood strikes.

Sometimes, the best books are those we stumble upon by chance.

By allowing yourself some flexibility, you’ll keep your reading life fresh and exciting, making it easier to maintain your momentum as you work through your TBR pile.

The Social Aspect

Sharing with Others

Sharing your overflowing list with friends, family, or fellow bookworms can be a fun and engaging way to connect with others who share your literary interests.

It’s also a great way to discover new books and authors, as recommendations often come from those who know our tastes best.

Book Clubs and Online Reading Communities

Joining a book club or participating in online reading communities can enhance your experience by fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose.

Discussing books with like-minded individuals can lead to deeper insights, spark lively debates, and create lasting connections with fellow readers.

Readathons and Reading Challenges

Take your TBR list to new heights by participating in readathons or reading challenges.

These events not only provide a sense of urgency and motivation but also create a sense of community, as you’ll be tackling your pile of unread books alongside other passionate readers.

Plus, participating in these events can introduce you to new authors, genres, and themes that you may not have discovered otherwise.


By embracing the journey of reading and personal growth, you’ll find that your TBR list becomes more than just a collection of books—it becomes a roadmap to intellectual enrichment.

So go forth, dear reader, and conquer your TBR list with newfound enthusiasm.