Apr 29, 2015

The TBR Dare - How Did I Do?

pile of new books
The culprits

The TBR Dare: How Did I Do?
As you might remember, back in January I announced my optimistic reading plans for the year: I’d take part in James’ TBR Dare in the first quarter of 2015 and make a real, committed effort to getting to all those books I own and keep neglecting in favour of shiny releases or library holds. My own version of this challenge would be combined with a book buying ban that would last until May. In order to avoid making it too restrictive I came up with a few exceptions, but all in all I had a solid plan to keep me on track. The end of April is nearly here, which means it’s time for a reckoning. How did I do, you ask?

Not that well, it turns out. But also not too badly.

What went wrong:

  • I gave myself too many loopholes. Initially I was allowed two library books a month plus whatever highly anticipated 2015 I had pre-ordered, but then—

  • Comics happened. I’ve been reading a lot of them this year, but as they can be quite pricey I like reading them from the library whenever possible, especially when trying out new series or creators. Also, I kind of tend to think they don’t count for TBR pile purposes because I read them very quickly and usually shortly after acquiring them. This means that at some point I decided that comics weren’t going to count towards my two library books a month allowance. Nevertheless, I do include them in my stats, so they’re part of the numbers you’ll see below.

  • Then book addict logic kicked in, and my reasoning went thus: if I’m borrowing however many comics I want from the library, surely that means I can buy them too...?

  • After that came the slippery slope factor: I suspended my book buying ban for a day to go book shopping with a friend, and I found it very hard to go back to my previous discipline after that. I’ve not been completely unrestrained, but to say that I’ve stuck to the ban in any meaningful sense would be a lie.

  • In sum: I fell short of my goal of reading 60% TBR books (which I define not just as books I own, but as books I’ve had for over a month before reading them). My current number is 42%, with the remainder coming from the library or being just-bought new releases.

    What went right:

  • Last year, my final percentage of books read from my TBR pile was a shameful 26%. I’m doing far better this year, and there’s still plenty of time to increase my totals.

  • Comics happened: even though this caused me to fall off the wagon, it’s immensely exciting to find new things to love.

  • Similarly, one of the main reasons why I’ve found it hard not to buy new books this year is that 2015 has brought us a real embarrassment of riches so far. There have been more new releases I can’t wait to read than in any other year I remember, with even more scheduled for the months to come (Uprooted! The Lie Tree! The Rest of Us Just Live Here!). Again, it’s hard not to think of this as a good thing, even if it sabotaged my plans.

  • I did read a lot of books I’d owned for years in the first quarter of 2015, namely a lot of old Diana Wynne Jones titles I’d been irrationally shying away from to postpone the day when I’ll run out.

  • I had fun, I made meaningful progress towards my goals, and I didn’t feel too constrained in my reading choices.

    ***

    So maybe the lesson here is that the numeric goals I set for myself back on January were not realistic. I’d like to read more from my TBR pile for the rest of the year (ideally I’d be at 50-60% TBR titles by the end of 2015), but I also want to continue to pursue new interests and read new books I’m excited about. I feel like I did achieve that so far, no matter what the numbers say. As for library books, I wouldn’t want to give them up entirely, but not grabbing whatever strikes my fancy when I’m shelving has been good for me so far. Sticking to the 20% library books I achieved in the first quarter of 2015 is a good goal for the rest of the year. Lastly, one thing I gave up entirely were review copies, and saving very occasional exceptions for all-time favourite authors I’d like to keep it that way.

    What about you? Did you take part in the TBR dare — if so, how did you do? Do you have any strategies to keep your book acquisition habits and TBR pile under control? What works and doesn’t work for you?
  • 17 comments:

    1. I gave myself too many exceptions in the TBR Dare, too, but I got pretty close to reading all the books I've had since 2009, so that's something. (The two stragglers were ones I intentionally put off because the timing wasn't right for me to enjoy either one.)

      I always find it difficult to balance wanting to be part of the conversation around new books, grabbing books by whim, and reading the books I've had around for a long time. Right now, I'm just trying not to buy books until I've made some space on my bookcase. I keep thinking of donating some of those unread books to the library, but I still want to read almost all of them. When I get in a mood to book shop, I'm trying to go to the library instead so that even if I don't read the books I choose, they won't hang around my house forever.

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      1. Well done! I wish I'd done a better job of keeping track of when I got the books in my TBR, so I could prioritize them based on that. It would also be helpful to take a long hard look at stuff I've owned for 5+ and ask myself if I really want to read them still. I could always rely on memory but I bet I can't remember some.

        And yeah, that's a delicate balance. I guess all we can do is keep trying our best.

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    2. That sounds like a really doable strategy for the tbr! :) I think I'd be in trouble, too, if I were in the UK and working in a library, so well done you.

      My last home had a way better library and I didn't have the budget for buying new books, so I did go a little crazy there. But I do try not to impose too many restrictions since that takes all the fun out.

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      1. Yes, this is true! I need to make sure there's still room for whim and spontaneity.

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    3. I'm going for a slightly different version of the TBR challenge. Have set myself a goal of getting through 36 TBRs by the end of the year (3 a month, how easy is that?), but am already finding it a bit of a challenge. I've only bought 4 new books since Christmas, but am still borrowing heavily from libraries. Whether I finish the challenge remains to be seen, but I am just about to complete "Last Chronicle of Barset" which has been sitting on my Mum's bookshelf since I was a baby - is 49 years the longest TBR??

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      1. That's an impressively long time! 3 books a month sounds doable and reasonable, but that's only until all those shiny new library books start clamoring for your attention... good luck!

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    4. I didn't do the dare, but I would have likely failed anyway. lol I cancelled my Audible membership and am using the money I was spending on that membership to buy a comic or two each month. So, my 2015 has been very comic-heavy, too! Otherwise, it has just been the pre-orders, but my reading slowed down again. I can't seem to keep the momentum going like I used to. :(

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      1. Same here :( On the bright side, at least we get to read ALL the comics :P

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    5. I think it's totally fine to make your own rules for the TBR Dare. I would never survive any form of the TBR Dare because when I go two weeks without a library visit I get ruhlly sad and rebellious and then go to the library anyway just to show Past Jenny she's not the boss of me. So 42% TBR books sounds awesome in my book.

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      1. Hahahaha - take THAT, past Jenny ;)

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    6. I think it sounds like you did really well despite everything! :) I have thought about doing something similar myself, there are enough books in my TBR-pile that would deserve some attention...

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      1. Good luck if you do decide to try it! There's just too much good stuff to read, that's the trouble :P

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    7. I didn't try, but I think it's so interesting whenever you are trying to do something, i.e. refrain from buying books, go on a diet, cut down on caffeine, whatever it might be--once you let it in, it's hard to go back to being so strict with yourself! I guess this is why in addiction you must totally refrain. :) anyway, good job! Gotta go where life takes you as well, you only have on life of limited time. Which is why it was important to read the DWJ books!

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      1. This is true, at least for me. If I start to make exceptions I'm doomed, but at the same time the thought of refraining completely is so daunting D:

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    8. Read all the comics!!! I don't really see how that was a "what went wrong" sort of thing. I think it only belongs on the what went right list. :P

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    9. I've tried variations on this many times. Never succeeded yet, at least not in any long term fashion. At this point, I've settled for a rule of thumb that I have to work my way through ten books I already own before I can buy or borrow something new. And I work in a comic shop, so I follow the comics don't count rule too. I have to.
      But it's so difficult.
      And thanks. I enjoy your blog quite a bit. You've added at least a dozen books to my amazon wish list, and there is no greater gift than that.

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.