Booked til Tuesday

Life, Law & Libros

How to Read the Unread Books You Own


Once upon a time, I got almost all my reading material from the library and saved my chore and holiday money to buy a few books I LOVED and would reread again and again. Ah, happy childhood. Then the internet struck, and I realized my library didn't have a lot of books I wanted to read. I was still a cheapskate, but I had jobs, and I knew how to find books cheaply, so...I became something of a collector. *cough dragon-like book hoarder cough*

Which brings us to today:

Basically, I have a ton of unread books on my shelves. This isn't all of them. They were just the easiest to group and take a picture of. It's kind of depressing. I feel really wasteful and unproductive seeing all these books I bought sitting around. They're not totally untouched; my mom routinely raids my collection and has probably read most of these, but the guilt remains.

So, I want to fix this. I'm moving in a few months and, while I'll be able to keep some books in free storage for a while, that's not permanent. In preparation for the inevitable book purge, it's time to find out what's actually worth keeping, and the only way to do that is to read them.

Here's my current method for reading all the unread books I own:

Step 1: Stop buying stuff
Funny story: if you keep buying more books, even if you read them, the unread pile doesn't get any smaller.

Step 2: Sort it out
Separate your books into read and unread mountains. Assuming your unread mountain is as large as mine, this will induce feelings of guilt and shame, prompting you to do something about it.

Then, sort the unread mountain into smaller hills by age range, genre, silly v. serious...whatever will help you. I'm a bit of a mood reader, so I split mine up into YA and MG, and then further split it into genres, mainly SFF vs. everything else.

Step 3: Make it count
That is, be accountable. Find some system/person/sticker sheet that will keep you motivated and moving forward. For some, seeing the unread mountain shrink will be enough. Others (like me) will need that paired with something like the Goodreads Challenge. Rewards can be good too. Like $1 toward a new book for every book you read, or dinner out after 5 books. Whatever works for you.

Step 4: Find a bin
Have a dedicated box or bin where you can put all the books you don't want to keep. People will decide what goes in the bin differently. For me, for now, it's a combination of books I did not like (and will never reread) and meh books in series I won't continue.

I'm not in full purge mode yet, but I'm mentally separating out the books I really liked from those that will be the first thrown overboard when space is limited.

Step 5: Keep it fun
If a book is horrible, don't force yourself to finish it. Also, don't think about how much money/time/space you wasted on it. That way madness lies. Instead, give it a fun little gif, like so:

And toss it in the sell/trade/donate pile. Move on to the next book. Then, when you have a really BIG pile to get rid of, listen to:

That's my current plan. How do you make sure you read the unread books on your shelves, or have you read everything?


  1. Oh gosh, I have so many unread books on my shelves. This is why I joined the backlist books challenge so that's helping a little, but I still really need to focus more time on books I already own. I have gotten rid of a lot of books in the past couple years though - even ones I hadn't read yet, but some just weren't interesting to me anymore or I knew I'd take forever to read them, so I'd rather pass them along.


    1. That's a good way to think of it! I feel like I need to give everything at least a one-chapter chance before tossing it in the bin, but I do have a separate pile of stuff I'm less interested in that I can hopefully get through in one day (assuming no first chapter wows me and requires further reading). Good luck with the backlist challenge, Lauren!

  2. Bwhahah I LOVE THIS. Because I feel you, ohhhh how I feel you. I think I will need to have the Thor song on repeat because... well, it's bad. Like my bins need bins! I'd say I gave away, sold, or traded at LEAST 50 books (that's a low estimate) and it looks like there isn't even a dent. I think I need to make a trip to the local library because some of this stuff I can't even give away, sadly. Or, maybe I will just keep the ones I don't care about in boxes at my parents' house because they have 4 bedrooms and are only two people, and maybe they want to consider my books one of their grandchildren, who can tell?

    This post gave me a chuckle, and I need one, so thanks! And good luck with this endeavor- I think I mostly have given up hahah.

    1. There are worse songs to have on repeat. ;) I'm hoping my folks will keep some of my overflow for a bit and put off the final purge, but after that...library sale or Goodwill. They'll both take anything. Always glad to bring smiles, and good luck to you too!

  3. These are such good tips! I used to have even more unread books than I do now before I donated a bunch; I liked the idea of supporting new authors but after awhile I realized how many I wasn't reading, or that they'd get mediocre reviews. Now I try to only buy books from favorite authors or based on trusted reviews, and I'm trying to consciously go through the books I already own by separating them like you do and prioritizing. My new library isn't quite as good as my old one but they have enough books to keep me busy! :)

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I have a bunch of signed books from when I went to author events and wanted to support them...and they're still unread years later. ^^; Good luck sorting through your collection, Morgan!

  4. I do a lot of this! Namely, I really don't buy a lot of books.... AT ALL. I get most of my books as audiobooks free (or sometimes from audible), and it's usually the ones I love that I'll buy physical copies of. Otherwise, most of the physical books I read are ARCs or classics! It works out since I don't have a lot of shelf space left anyway...

  5. Some great tips here for a fellow book "collector"!! ;) I've found that blogging about what I'm reading and what I think of it (which was actually my husband's idea, bless him) has been the most stimulating thing for me. I'm powering through the unread piles at a really surprising rate, because I love sharing my thoughts (and, in turn, hearing what other people think of them too). I guess that's my own version of an accountability chart ;) hahaha. Keep up the great work!!

  6. This is beautiful, sound advice. ^_^ I've been getting rid of so many books that I don't like or just are "meh" - or I liked, but know I'll never reread - and it's freed up so much space and made my personal collection so much better. Buying more books. . . .ehhhhh, still working on that one. ;)

  7. Ahhhh! The ever looming TBR pile. I've cut way back on buying books which has helped me a bunch. Every time I rearrange my shelves I typically pull a few off to trade in. I know that realistically what I bought 5 years ago I may not still be interested in.