I Planned My TBR List and This Is How It Went

Published on 1/5/2023

Like most avid readers, I have a list of books that I plan to read. It’s a long and messy list, with just about every genre thrown onto it. This TBR list features books I saw in bookshops, ones I spotted on Tiktok, or recommendations from friends. It’s currently at 105 books, and I have no doubt that it will get longer before it gets shorter.

But I never usually plan what I’ll read in order. I’m a bit of an opportunistic reader, and I like to see what mood I’m in when I finish a book. If it’s a book I struggled to finish (yes, I always finish books, it’s an awful trait), then I’ll likely go for something easier next, a guaranteed win. If it’s a heavy non-fiction book, I might opt for romance or fantasy next.

It also depends on what’s going on in my life. Am I travelling? Something on my Kindle then. Am I sick? A paperback I can sniffle my way through. Am I taking the train a lot? Something I won’t be embarrassed to be seen reading. Am I slipping back into my depression? Reread a Marian Keyes novel.

I decide my next read when I’ve finished my latest, and that usually works well for me.

Until I realised just how long my TBR list was getting, and that I seemed to not be reading any books from that list… I was finding new reads or revisiting old favourites instead. I had become a rogue reader and something needed to be done.

So with nine books left until my yearly goal of fifty-five, I decided to plan exactly which books I’d read ahead of time.

The plan

I’m an overthinker. I’ve accepted that fate. So making this list was going to involve a lot of overthinking. I couldn’t just pick nine books, I had to deliberate and weigh the pros and cons.

I had three months ahead of me, including a trip to the UK, a birthday trip with friends and going home for Christmas. This meant I had to plan my paperbacks and e-books accordingly, as I needed the packing space for cute tops.

I wanted to space out the non-fiction books, as I find myself to be slower with those books and I just can’t enjoy them as much. I also needed to carve out a special spot for the release of ‘Dear Dolly’ by my favourite Dolly Alderton!

Here was the final list of books:

1. Before My Actual Heart Breaks - Tish Delaney

2. The Other Black Girl - Zakiya Dalila Harris

3. Writers & Lovers - Lily King

4. Black is the Body - Emily Bernard

5. Dear Dolly - Dolly Alderton

6. Elektra - Jennifer Saint

7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

9. Girlcrush - Florence Given

Nine books in three months - should be do-able. Now to see whether I could stick to this list!

The outcome

In the eternal words of Hannah Montana…. “Nobody’s perfect”.

I managed to read six out of nine books. I had a 66% success rate. Personally, I think that’s pretty decent, considering a bout of Covid and depression flare-up got in my way. Also, I managed to read three non-fiction books in this period, which is something I usually struggle with! That’s 50% of my total non-fiction reads for the year.

These books got added to the list:

1. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes - Suzanne Collins

2. House of Earth and Blood - Sarah J. Maas

3. Getting Published - Harry Bingham

I randomly read ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ when I got Covid and needed something enjoyable to distract myself. I received ‘Getting Published’ as an early Christmas gift and couldn’t wait to start!

Could I have been stricter with myself? Probably. But at the end of the day, reading is supposed to be pleasurable. I’m glad I tackled some more difficult novels and non-fiction books. I had been meaning to read ‘Black is the Body’ since I randomly discovered it in a bookshop in spring. I learned a lot from this collection of essays. I got to tick some long-lasting items off my TBR list.

But I’m also glad that I comprised when necessary. I made sure that reading stayed fun and avoided slipping into a reading slump, and that is far more important to me.

I loved organising my TBR list in this way, and I’ll definitely do it again! It gave me a lot of guidance and encouraged me to tackle some more difficult novels, ones I’m so glad I’ve read now. But I will always listen to what I want to read, as I never want reading to be a chore, or books to become mere items on a list.

These 9 books marked the end of my reading goal of 55 novels! You can check out my full list on Goodreads, and I’m sure I’ll be reviewing my favourite reads soon.

Need help structuring your reading goals? And here are tips for how to get out of a reading slump.

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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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