J. Zachary Pike's

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Books

Conquering Mount TBR

If you like books, chances are you are familiar with the daunting slopes of Mount TBR (pronounced “Mount Teh-BUR”). The metaphorical mountain of books that are to-be-read is an enduring monument to hopeless optimism and overcommitment. In 2019, I want to put a sizable dent in my personal stack. But it’s not going to be easy. In fact, based on 2018, I’d say it’s only going to be possible if I start doing something new. Or rather, stop doing something old.

I’m going to stop finishing books.

Not all books, mind you. I plan to finish quite a few. But I have this feeling, often, that I have to finish a book I start and review it. That doesn’t mean I actually read books I start. The feeling just compels me to sit around stressed that I need to read that title I started months ago, because punting a title off my “currently reading list” is a personal failure or an insult to the author. I’ve been writing for long enough to know that a DNF isn’t either of those things. Not from me, anyway.

Here’s why: I don’t have time for things I don’t really enjoy. 

Look, some reviewers have to slog through books. Maybe they make their money writing reviews. Maybe they have a stronger compulsion than I to complete what they start. Maybe they promised to do it, or they need content for their blogs. Whatever the reason, slogging through a book you don’t enjoy is hard. Writing it a particularly scathing review afterwards is cathartic. I get it.

But I don’t have to write any reviews, just like I don’t have to finish books I’m not enjoying. I have other things I do have to write, as well as two kids and a ton of other commitments. I don’t have nearly enough hours in a day to spend any of my time on a leisure activity that isn’t fun. So I’m going to stop pretending that I might some day sit down and plow through a book that just isn’t for me.

Plus, I’m not going to worry about offending authors any more. As an author, I don’t think other people need to finish something just because I wrote it. I love my books. I’m really, incredibly grateful that some of you do as well. But I don’t expect everyone to like my work, and I don’t expect people who don’t like it to make themselves angry for the sake of finishing it. That doesn’t benefit anyone. People have different tastes. Nothing is for everyone. Move on.

So here’s the deal. I’m going to try read more and write more book reviews in 2019 and beyond. But more importantly, I’m going to get a ton of books off my TBR pile. If I start one and it doesn’t resonate, I’ll quietly mark it in Goodreads and move on.

That means a few things.

  • My reviews are going to continue to be mostly positive. I don’t leave negative reviews for books I don’t finish. If I don’t have time to read someone’s work entirely, I don’t have time to hop on my blog and pour bitter sauce all over their efforts. Blogger Wol said this very well on Twitter.
  • I’m shooting for regular reviews, but I’m not committing to them. The schedule will depend on how good I am at picking up books that are going to hold my attention.
  • There’s a good chance I won’t review most of the books I start. If you’re following me on Goodreads, don’t expect to see stars for every book that enters my “currently reading” spot. The hope is, however, that my “currently reading” will be more accurate. (It’s been pretty stagnant all year.)
  • You should not be dissuaded from reading a book I did not finish. If you noticed I didn’t complete a particular title, please know that there’s still a very good chance you’ll love it. I didn’t finish A Song of Ice and Fire. I didn’t finish the Wheel of Time series. They’re extremely well done books, but they’re not my thing. I don’t finish some great books. 

I think that, ironically, acknowledging that I’m free to kick books off Mount TBR will make me more likely to add books to my list. If it’s less of a commitment, it’ll make it easier to broaden my horizons.

And broader horizons in 2019 sounds like a good thing to me.

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