How to Take Control of Your (Goodreads) TBR

Bookish people generally have huge TBRs. I mean, would we really be bookish people without a mountain’s worth of books we want to read before we grow old and die? Well… Actually, yes, you can still be a bookish person without a TBR pile that could fall over and kill you any second… And it’s not as hard as you might think. If one of your new year’s resolutions is to take control of your TBR, here’s how it’s done.

My Once Enormous TBR

Once Upon A Time, my TBR used to hold over a hundred books. I knew I would never get to all of them. I didn’t have the money or the time, and obviously there are new releases out every week. This “unachievable” goal became too overwhelming. It got so bad that I knew I had to delete some books in order to create some room to breath. I went through my Goodreads TBR and started removing and prioritising books. I took some time to seriously sort things out and it. worked. miracles.

Sorting Out Goodreads

The most important part of taking control of my TBR, was sorting out Goodreads. Most importantly: My want to read shelf. I made a little step by step instruction on how to go at it. It’s been a while since I’ve done it myself, but I think this is what my process was like.

1. Take a good first look. If there are hundreds of books on your TBR, I’m 90% sure that you don’t remember half of it. You can remove the first bunch of books by impression only. Have a look at the title and cover. Are you still interested? If yes = keep it for now. If no = Bye, bye book!

2. Create some new Goodreads shelves. I didn’t do this back then, but this is crucial! What kind of shelves you want is entirely up to you. You now know what kind of books are on your TBR, so you can probably categorise them. Shelves I recommend: ‘future releases’, ‘maybe to read’ and, if you’d like, ‘priorities’. We’ll be making these shelves exclusive.

3. Make your shelves exclusive. I’ll explain the use of this in the next part of the post, but it’s important you do this now, as it’ll make sorting so much easier! The shelves you want to make exclusive are: maybe to read and future releases. If you’ve created a priority shelf, you could also make it exclusive, but it’s not necessary.

4. Sort your books. Future releases obviously go on the future releases shelf! If you added lots of next year’s releases and series sequels to your TBR, this will definitely make your TBR so much smaller! Of course, there’s also your ‘maybe to read’ shelf. If there’s a book on your TBR you’re not sure of, put it there. Don’t think too much about it. When in doubt, use you’re maybe TBR.

5. Read the synopsis. Your TBR is now divided into three shelves: to be read, future releases and ‘maybe’. Leave the first two to their own devices for a little bit and focus on your Maybe TBR. Read the synopsis of every book. Are you interested and is it something you definitely want to read? Add it back to you want to read shelf. Don’t like it? Bye, bye book! Are you unsure? Keep it in your Maybe TBR a bit longer. Repeat this process until you’ve done that for all your TBR books!

6. Sit back and relax. CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve now accomplished to make your TBR (hopefully) a lot smaller. Yay! It’s much easier to manage your TBR now, since it’s divided over three – if not four or more – shelves! Anything you like but aren’t sure of? Add it to you Maybe TBR! No longer interested in something of your general TBR? Move it to Maybe or delete it all together. It’s almost like a TBR management system!

Using Goodreads’ Exclusive Shelves

 Have you ever realised your books can only be in either read, currently reading or want to read? Your standard Goodreads shelves are what GR calls “Exclusive“. A book can only be in one of them at a time. This is why a book moves from read or currently reading when you decide to reread it. Did you know you can create exclusive shelves yourself? It’s really easy! Once you’re at the “My Books” page on Goodreads, there’s an edit button next to the word “Bookshelves” in the upper left corner. When you click edit, it’ll load a page with some sort of table.

In the table is a list with all your shelves. Since you’ve got your basic Goodreads shelves, those are definitely in it. If you’ve also created the Maybe TBR and future releases, they will show up in it to. On the right side of table is a list with explanations with what the options actually do. The one that’s important now, is the “exclusive” part of the table. Tick the boxes for the shelves you’d like to make exclusive, and that’s it!  You’ve got yourself some new exclusive shelves. This way you can divide your TBR (and books in general) in as many shelves as you’d like!

Sortable Shelves & Prioritising

Another option you can use in this table, is to make shelves sortable. Basically this means you can manually decide what order your books will be in. It doesn’t have to be alphabetical or by author, but in any way you’d like it to be! I use this feature for my TBR shelves to prioritise them. For example: If there are 30 books on my main TBR, books one to three would be my most anticipated reads. If I owned eight of the books on my TBR, those would be books four to eleven. After that, I don’t usually have an order, but I’m constantly moving stuff around.

This also works when you don’t want to create those exclusive shelves but just want to keep it in one list. Books one through something can be your owned books or priorities, books something to something else can be your Maybe TBR and books something to final book can be future releases. It’s all up to you! What works for me, might not work for you, but I like using this combination of ways to sort my TBR.

How many books are on your TBR? Are you going to try and sort out your Goodreads shelves like I did? If you are: best of luck!

PS. Lauren @ Northern Plunder has a wonderful guide on organising your Goodreads shelfs with screenshots, if you find mine too vague! 

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  • Cam

    Omg this is soooo helpful! I think my to read shelf has like 100+ books…sharing this!

    • Thank you so much! It really means a lot hearing that. 🌸 Good luck sorting out your shelves! 😉

  • Wow, this is super helpful! Thanks a ton and hopefully that TBR list will calm down now. Didn’t know about the exclusive shelves so thanks again 😀

    • Thank you so much! The exclusive shelfs feature isn’t that well known, I think! I honestly can’t even remember how I found out about it myself. 😅😂

  • I try and to through my goodreads want to read every few months (if I don’t forget) but at least twice a year or so. I only have a want to read, ebook owned and tbr owned shelf exclusives next to the read and currently reading. More than that kind of a division I don’t really need in exclusives.

    But I do think this article can really help those that feel very overwhelmed. 🙂

    • The nice things about Goodreads is how customisable it is! 😉 I’m like an organiser junkie so if anything can be organised, there’s a 99% chance that I WILL keep it organised, hehe! 😂

      And thank you so much! I usually feel like my posts are a bit “useless” so that means a lot! 🌺

  • northernplunder

    yes i’m so glad you agree with me :’)

    i too have to thoroughly organise my GR shelves to help me out.
    ive always had my to-be-read shelf as books i actually own to help me out a lot

    I wrote about this a few weeks ago here 😀

    • Ohhh I love your post! I really like how you used screenshots and stuff, because that might actually make it easier to do, hehe! I hope you don’t mind I’ve added a link to your post in mine, it might help some people if they think my explanation is too vague! 😉

      Also, I’m really glad I’m not the only one who’s organised like this! Lots of people are like “I’m going to stop using GR because of the giveaway thing” but I really couldn’t just because that’s my main place of organisation, hehe! 📚

  • dominique_x

    YAY! this post was just what I needed. My Goodreads TBR is quite big at the moment and I know that I am not able to read all of the books, haha. I think I will create some different shelves. Thank you for the inspiration <3

    • You’re very welcome, and thank you for your lovely comment! Good luck sorting out your TBR! 🌺

  • Ahhh what a fantastic post, thank you so, so much for writing it! I need to try and sort out my Goodreads shelves at some point… when I’ll gather some courage to do so, but this will be really helpful, thank you! 😀

    • Thank you SO MUCH for your lovely comment, Marie! It’s really good to hear. Good luck sorting out your TBR! 🌸

  • This is such a good post. I recently tried sorting out my TBR using the Down the TBR Hole method, and not only was it effective, but also SUPER fun! I think it is very similar to your steps, but I didn’t know anything about the customizable shelves and how useful they could be!
    I don’t know why, but a couple of times a year I get the urge to clean everything and get rid of what I don’t need. I published my post on Down the TBR Hole in December 6th and it is a method that I will continue to implement many times in 2018. I LOVE adding all the books I hear about to my TBR, but it is so helpful for me to afterwards go over it and eliminate what I don’t need.

    I’ve got way to many books on my TBR, but I don’t even think of putting them all on one place or all on Goodreads because I would get TOO overwhelmed. It’s true that some books I might not be interested in, but most of 2017 and 2018 releases sound AMAZING!!! Great post!

    • I think I found Down The TBR Hole on your blog and added it to my future posts list because it really DOES seem like a lot of fun! Ever since I started using this “system” I’m much less stressed about the books I want to read and it’s honestly the best feeling.

      And thank you so, so much for the lovely comment! 🌸