The Exploding TBR List: Slice of Life #sol18

background book stack books close up
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

I have 78 books checked out right now from one of the three libraries I use. I only have 12 checked out from another one, but those twelve are all seven-day loans with no renewals. From my campus library, I have 17 books checked out, and those have a wonderfully long loan time (six months!!) (AND since I’m faculty, the librarians waive the overdue fines that accrue when I inevitably still can’t manage to get the books back on time). Then there are the five interlibrary loan titles I have at home right now.

I have at least a dozen books borrowed from students right now in various stages of completion. My mother recently bought me all of the finalists for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Even though I tell myself that I have a credit card freeze happening and don’t buy new books for myself, my credit card statement shows that’s untrue. In the past two weeks, I’ve bought Christopher Healy’s A Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem #1, Sy Montgomery’s How to Be a Good Creature, Margaret Simon’s Bayou Song, and Jeanne Marie Laskas’s To Obama.

I have been a compulsive book buyer and book borrower (not a compulsive book returner, alas, so consider yourself warned if you ever find yourself wanting to loan me a book) for 35 years, and even with various book purges over the years, I still have thousands of books. There are bookshelves in every room in my house, including the hallways. And still there aren’t enough shelves to hold them all. Mine is one of those houses where you literally trip over books.

All of this to say: I don’t need more books to read. I don’t need to know about more books, to think about more books, or to want more books. In fact, I don’t need to be exposed to new books in any way.

And yet…. I can’t seem to help it. My RSS Feed is full of book blogs and book websites. My podcast app is full of bookish podcasts. Every class I teach includes 5 or 10 minutes for students to share what they’ve been reading. And my list just grows….

I listened to Oprah’s Supersoul Conversation with Pico Iyer this morning, and now I want Iyer’s book, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. Actually, he sounds so interesting that I want to read ALL of his books.

I also listened to a new episode of my favorite podcast, What Should I Read Next with Anne Bogel, and now I need Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and John Barry’s The Great Influenza. I have to get Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered (how did I not know she has a new novel out??). Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map sounds intriguing too.

I’m still trying to collect all of the books mentioned on Liberty’s and Rebecca’s September favorites episode of All the Books. Of the 16 books mentioned on the episode, I’ve read two (Educated and Front Desk, both of which could be end-of-year favorites for me too) and want to read twelve more.

My library only allows 30 holds at one time, and I’m always maxed out. I have wish lists and ILL lists on Amazon and long lists of book titles I want to look up written in the backs of all my notebooks. When I dig around in my purse for a pen, there’s an explosion of little scraps of paper–all covered with book titles.

Next month, I travel to NCTE, which is, among many other wonderful things, a book lover’s paradise. I always tell myself I am ONLY getting free books–no purchases! And only books I really want. But we all know how that’s going to go.

Once I’m back from NCTE, all of the annual “best of” book lists will come out, and I’ll have another hundred or more titles to add to my TBR list.

Even though I do read a lot, it’s still not nearly enough to keep up with all of the books I want to read. Not even close. And yet, I keep searching for more books.

Today is my one real day of Fall Break. My grading is done. My husband and son are out for the day. I’ve got leftovers for dinner so I don’t even have to cook. Unusually, there are no have-to’s in my day. I’m heading to the library just as soon as I finish this post to collect another stack of books. And then I’m settling in to make a dent in that TBR list.







25 responses to “The Exploding TBR List: Slice of Life #sol18”

  1. Adrienne Avatar

    Me too!!! I have 2 library cards for my local system…a regular card and my teacher card. I am still working my way through the pile of ARCs I got at ALA this summer!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m terrible with ARCs–hardly ever get to them until well after they’re published! But of course I can’t help myself and must collect them.

  2. Clare Landrigan Avatar

    Love everything about this post and so excited to check out that podcast — new to me! There are many worse vices to have in life – read on!!!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Agreed! As vices go, this is a fine one! I think you will enjoy the podcast!

  3. edifiedlistener Avatar

    Thank you for this, Elisabeth. I’m wondering, since books appear to be absolutely integral to who you are and what life is for, what kinds of internal and external systems have you developed for archiving, cataloguing what you have read? How do you maintain threads, as you add ever more threads to your reading tapestry? I’m doing some thinking about identity, digital and otherwise, and your post fits perfectly into understanding the habits of mind and action in personal curating and archiving that I want to explore more deeply. I feel like I’ve hit the inspiration jackpot!

    1. Akilah Avatar

      OMG this comment is everything.

    2. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      These are such interesting questions. I’ve been digging into some of the resources you’ve been sharing on Twitter lately and have also been thinking about some of these questions. For myself, I think I’m kind of a mess in this area. I always have good intentions for doing a better job cataloguing and archiving, but keeping the records and reflecting ultimately engages me far less right now that the pursuit!

  4. TammyB Avatar

    I love WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?!!!!!!
    I used to listen to ALL THE BOOKS from Book Riot and the TBR and hold list at the library was insane…

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      What Should I Read Next is so fun. I’m slowly working my way through the archives, and the website is also quite good–lots of reader comments with MORE suggestions for what to erad.

      1. TammyB Avatar

        It is great! I have listened to it since the beginning! Anne Bogel is amazing! Lately I haven’e been connecting to the podcast but may go back to some of the past episodes.

  5. Terje Avatar

    When you realize that the TBR keeps growing instead of lowering is a scary moment but then you accept that you need to make choices and life goes on. The choices might not be the easiest but whatever choice you make is the right one at that moment, whether it is to buy a book, not to pick up a book, to read a book, or to stop reading a book. I hope that whatever book you open next you will get lost in it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Just started David McCullough’s 1776 this morning and it’s so absorbing! It’s wonderful to have books to get lost in. And I agree with you: whatever decision you make about what to read is the right decision. I like serendipity best of all in my reading life–which might be one reason I like to have so very many books surrounding me at all times.

  6. margaretsmn Avatar

    Barbara Kingsolver has a new book!? I’m really excited that my book broke through your freeze on buying books. If you can fit it in your bag at NCTE, I’ll sign it! I went to ALA this summer and came home with 42 books! And I am driving this year to NCTE, so the book collecting is only limited by the size of my car. In my bedroom, I have a cedar chest covered with books. It’s my homage to Eudora Welty, who stacked books on every surface. When I complained to a friend about my book buying problem, she said there are worse things. Yep. How many pages do you typically give to a book before abandoning it? You can’t possibly read them all, all the way through.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes! Just released on the day of this blog post actually. The description sounds completely fascinating. Driving to NCTE would be so dangerous!! My students and I drove to Minneapolis a couple of years ago and one of the great treats was so much space to bring home boxes of books! I do try to limit myself at NCTE but really I shouldn’t because my students who don’t get to attend would love to have the books for their own classroom libraries. I commit to going wild when it’s in Denver, a nice driveable distance for me, in a couple of years! And I didn’t even mention all the book STACKS in this post, but all of my furniture is also covered with books. I don’t read anything close to all of them. I usually have 20 or so started and then keep reading the ones that interest me. I don’t give a book many pages before I quit because I figure I can always come back to it later.

  7. arjeha Avatar

    I, too, am surrounded by books. There isn’t a room in the house that does not have a book pile in it. These piles are in addition to the books on the bookshelves throughout the house. I look at it a buying books helps keep the economy going and acts as an incentive to keep writers writing since his/her books sell. Good luck on making a dent in your TBR pile.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      That’s a wonderful argument for buying books! I do tend to buy most of my books online but try to get to my little local independent every couple of months to buy something because it feels like the right and virtuous thing to do. I, too, have book piles in addition to the shelves (and piles on the shelves too).

  8. readingteachsu Avatar

    Perhaps we should form a support group.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Ha! I’m afraid we’d mostly enable each other!! But that would be good too….

  9. Trina K Haase Avatar

    I think that we are kindred spirits! I have the same issues with book hoarding and buying too many books… and as I read your post I just added more books to add to my TBR list!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      We are certainly kindred spirits! Books are such a wonderful thing to buy too many of….

  10. Amanda Potts Avatar

    I’m afraid to even try that podcast. I have so. many. books. And even after several moves in my adult life, there are books in every room of our house – even the hallways and all the corners and pretty much all the flat surfaces. And I can’t keep up. I just want to sit and read and read… Oh, but you’ve suggested some good ones… and my hold list is not yet maxed out…

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I consider a hold list that isn’t maxed out a personal challenge! Fill that thing right up!! I’m only sad that my library “only” allows 30 holds. There are ALWAYS more than 30 books I want to get my hands on at any given moment!

  11. nestinthetree Avatar

    Wonderful post. There is just “something about books” isn’t there? I am one of those people who doesn’t have good reading comprehension from digital devices, so I don’t do ereader options if I can help it. We have bookshelves in each of our kids’ rooms, and we have a family library in our great room. I love having books around and through the class I am taking with you I have become a much better reader.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I also don’t do ereader options if I can help it. I am sometimes lured by a kindle sale but then almost never get the book read on my devices. Just not my preferred way of reading. Plus, I loan nearly all of my books to my students: I consider my office library a lending library. So I like to buy a book if it’s one I know my students are going to be eager to read. How wonderful that you are passing on the love of reading to your children by surrounding them with books!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: