June 2024
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TSS: The History of my TBR Pile

When I was a kid, I didn’t have a TBR pile.  I’m not very old, but back then there wasn’t anything close to the river of books I’m swimming in these days.  We didn’t have the internet and when we did, it was painfully slow dial-up.  We didn’t know about buying books online.  I hardly ever saw the inside of an actual bookstore; full-price books were too expensive.  I dreamed of the day I could walk into Barnes and Noble and buy whatever I wanted.  If I did get a book, it usually came from KMart or, best of all, the school book order.

Most of the books I read from school age until middle school were from the book order.  I can still remember the excitement of looking through this folded-over paper which contained the books I would be reading for the next couple of months.  Even better was the day they arrived and a lovely stack of TBR books was mine.  They never lasted long; I bombed through books as a kid and almost everything I owned was read over and over again, even if I didn’t like it very much.

My first forays into the world of adult books were romance novels, starting with Joining by Johanna Lindsey.  This was about when Wal-Mart showed up in my town and they had these types of books for $3.50.  This price was acceptable to my parents, and so I began to slowly amass a collection of romances.  A TBR pile followed, but it was so tiny I kept it next to my pillow on my bed.  I usually had about five books to choose from, and I was still rereading books from my younger days.

Then I hit high school and discovered fantasy novels.  I’m not sure what else happened, but my TBR pile actually started to grow.  Either my parents started buying me more books or I started asking for them for Christmas and birthdays to the exclusion of everything else.  The TBR pile moved from on my bed to the floor next to it and I remember gleefully organizing the books in the order that I planned to read them.  I distinctly remembering moving Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan to the top of the pile because I just couldn’t wait to continue his series.  I stopped rereading books so much because I had more of them and I no longer needed to; they were also of the epic fantasy variety and rereading started taking a long time.

When I went to college, I took some of my TBR pile with me, along with old favorites.  The pile slowly grew as I acquired books for various reasons.  The biggest catalyst was discovering LibraryThing in late 2006, when I realized there were lots of people who loved books just as much as I did, and my awareness of books exploded.  Then, in 2007, I started reviewing books here, and really got into it in 2008 when I graduated.  We also discovered a used bookstore near my parents’ house where books cost a maximum of $2 and all the money goes to a hospital nearby.  This bookstore is responsible for more than half of my present unread book pile of 440 books.

Now I have a shelf full of TBRs here, an immediate TBR pile, and a TBR mountain range left on the floor of my parents’ house.  At this point I’m not sure I could ever go back to having a selection of 5 new books, although I would love to stop and reread some older books.  I love having choices and knowing that quite a few of the books I want to read are already mine whenever I want to read them.  There are always more books to be bought, though, and I’m not sure my TBR pile will ever shrink too far.

What’s the history of your TBR pile?


19 comments to TSS: The History of my TBR Pile

  • And I thought my TBR pile was bad (at something like 200 books). I don’t see it getting much better, not when there’s always some new books to be read.

    Book bloggers are another bad thing for a TBR pile. You guys keep raving about this or that book so I have to try it out (and usually end up loving it enough to go for the rest of the series).
    Elena Gwynne´s last post …What Would You Recommend – Historical Mysteries

  • The internet has certainly seen my TBR pile grow viw internet shopping. I find it interesting that you say you re-read alot of your books as a child as I remember doing the same thing. I used to re-read book several times when I was a child which is something I rarely do today.
    Jessica´s last post …Things we have learnt from books N2

  • Growing up, if I had a TBR pile, it never lasted long. I got most of my books from the library, but once in awhile, I got to buy books from the book order or at the supermarket. Fortunately my father soon discovered library book sales, and then I’d be flush with books for a couple of weeks at least.

    It has just been recently that the TBR has grown to overwhelm me – thanks to book blogging.
    Lenore´s last post …Book Review- Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd

  • LibraryThing is definitely responsible for a large part of my TBR pile… and indirectly responsible for most of it, since LT led me to BookMooch, which is where most of the pile came from.

    I remember in college packing up my books that moved to my dorm room with me; my “library” was whatever would fit into a milk crate. That included old favorites as well as new books that I wanted to read, and it couldn’t have been more than 20-30 books per year. I don’t know how I survived!
    Fyrefly´s last post …Anna Elliott – Twilight of Avalon

  • I wish I could say that the Internet or blogging were *primarily* responsible for my Mt. TBR, but they are not. It would be accurate, however, to say they took me from the Appalachians to the Himalayas.

    I loved picking out books from Scholastic when I was kid in school. But like you, I went through those books way too fast! I was fortunate that my parents were generous with books when I was growing up, but it wasn’t until I was on my own that the books truly started piling up.
    Beth F´s last post …Weekend Cooking- Review- Fresh Fruit Desserts by Sheryl and Mel London

  • Well, back when I was a kid there was no internet so we couldn’t order books on line. I used to order books from Scholastic and I also inherited my sister’s old books. I could walk to the library growing up, so a lot of my reading material came from there as a kid. I always said if money was no object I would buy tons of books so I could always have a huge selection to choose from.

  • I *think* my TBR pile really only started after I graduated college. Then I had my own money to spend any way I wanted, and much of it went to books. I joined paperbackswap, started blogging and… well, things started to skyrocket, particularly when I discovered Chicago’s book sales and used bookstores! Haven’t looked back since… but really hoping to only read from my shelves for the next few years. We’ll see how that goes ;-)
    Aarti´s last post …TSS- Youve read this post before

  • Oh, the Scholastic Book orders….I think I enjoyed those order forms more than my own children.

    To be honest, but TBR pile was non-existent ten years ago. Then I started teaching and I began to add a few titles for the classroom. Still, the pile remained quite manageable at no more than 1 or 2 books at a time.

    Then…..in October, 2008, I discovered book blogs and my life has not been the same! Rather than one bookshelf, I now have about 4 and they are located in one room that is devoted to reading and crafting. I haven’t counted how many TBR books are on my list, but my guess is over 100. That is quite a lot in less than two years.
    Molly´s last post …TSS- Last week of summer

  • Eva

    I didn’t really have a TBR pile pre-book blogging; 5 or 6 books at a time at the most unread! Probably because I didn’t have great libraries either. ;)

    And Scholastic Book Orders (and their Book Fairs) were the BEST. hehe
    Eva´s last post …My Home Library- Present and Future

  • I didn’t have a TBR pile growing up, either. My parents would buy my books, obviously, and I was only allowed one or two books a week. Mostly I read my mom’s books, especially in the summer when I wasn’t going to school. I don’t think I read as much a do now, though.

    My TBR pile really started growing right after high school. I had my first job and spent at least $100/month on books. I also had this idea I was going to be writer and bought a lot of the books with the excuse that it was all “market research.” ;)

    Right now I have a lot of books in my TBR, but that’s mainly because I’ve been reading pretty slowly for the last few years. I have phases where I do that. I haven’t acquired bunches of books recently, though. At some point I’ll probably get into a major reading phase again and gobble them all up fairly quickly.
    heidenkind´s last post …When Art Meets Life-and Murder

  • I never really had a TBR pile until a few years ago when my book buying and reading became an obsession for me. Before that time, I had at most 2 or 3 to choose from, but now, things have grown way beyond that point. I always had a wish list, but now, I have enough books to choose from that I could probably read solid for a few years and not come to the end of my piles. And you know what? As much as I get made fun of for being a book crazy person with books everywhere, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am happy with my stacks and my choices. It’s like having my own library at my disposal!
    zibilee´s last post …The Vera Wright Trilogy- My Fathers Moon – Cabin Fever – The Georges Wife by Elizabeth Jolley — 568 pgs

  • Before I joined Goodreads, I had a list of about 15-30 books in a notebook that I’d heard of and thought I wanted to read. Then I just had a mental note to constantly try new classics I found whenever I found them. When I joined Goodreads in Dec 2008, suddenly my TBR had the chance to grow, and grow it did, until it hit 400 in Dec 2009. Then I got very overwhelmed, which led to lots of purging, hence my abandoned books post today. How’s that for irony? The goal is to get the TBR back under 50, including the mental list of classics.
    Amanda´s last post …Sunday Salon – Abandoned Books

  • When I was little, my dream was to have money to buy whatever books I wanted, when I wanted. Then I started working, and was able to indulge my dream – I think that’s the history of my TBR pile, in a nutshell.

    The school book club flyers weren’t around when I was little, but my kids always had them, and I enjoyed going through them a lot, since I’ve never stopped liking to read children’s and YA books. My kids, neither of whom are really readers, were always the ones coming home with the biggest bag of books from Scholastic each month LOL
    Belle´s last post …Two Beginnings- Two Tenses- My First Four Days of WFMAD

  • My TBR pile is very little compared to most mainly due to the difficulty of getting books. I always have about 15 books pending and I think that is absolutely nothing compared to the rest!
    Mystica´s last post …Two mini reviews -The Amber Room – Steve Berry and Shivas Arms by

  • School book orders were always my favorite too! And I definitely was big on re reading as a kid. Not sure why that is, but I guess I wasn’t as attuned to what I liked, so if I found a book I loved, I was much more inclined to re read it as opposed to looking for more books that I enjoyed just as much.
    Stephanie´s last post …Book Review- Georgette Heyer’s Regency World

  • Ah, I remember those days when I’ve get 3-4 new books, and then read them all before I got anything else… I very rarely kept anything unread for more than a month or two. That was pre-blogging, of course, and I don’t think there’s any possibility of turning back now :P
    Nymeth´s last post …Rosalind Franklin – The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox

  • I loved going to my small town library, however at some point during my teenage years I’d pretty much read all of the books there, so began reading some of my parents books. My TBR pile then was never more than about 6. I can’t believe yours is over 400, wow! That’s a little overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time.

    I use Visual Bookshelf in Facebook to manage my TBR (virtual) pile, and keep the real ones I have on my bookshelf. I don’t add any books to my TBR pile unless I’ve spent a minimum of 30 mins reading other reviews to make sure I really want to read it. I find this a really effective way to keep my TBR pile to a high quality standard and avoid getting stuck in a dud book. Whenever I finish a book I get so excited deciding which one to read next, I feel like a kid in a candy shop :-)
    Tracey´s last post …The Pilo Family Circus – Will Elliott

  • Very similar except we had book fairs that came to our school and my nan bought me books, lots of books. I really miss the days when I could read through my TBR, was just looking at my shelves the other day and I think I have books from over six year ago sitting unread.
    Jodie´s last post …The Great Escape

  • I remember the days when my TBR pile was whatever I had taken out of the library that week. Now my bookcases are bulging with choices. I much prefer abundance to the short stack. I don’t know how many exist on my TBR shelves, but I’m so glad my library has grown.
    Wisteria Leigh´s last post …Review-The Good Daughters- by Joyce Maynard