How To Tackle Your To-Be-Read List (And Read More Books You Love)

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It’s a new year and time for a new Goodreads reading challenge goal. My goal last year was to read 70 books, and I read over 100. I would say about 90% of the books I thoroughly enjoyed. I can't tell you how shocked I was when I found out some people only enjoy 50% or even 30% of what they read every year.

I have over a thousand books on my to-be-read list, and I know lots of readers that have a whole lot more. Just last month, I removed over 400 books from my to-be-read list by applying my method. That's 400 books I don't have to buy or waste time reading because they just aren't my cup of tea.

I’m here to help you tackle the never ending to-be-read list, and focus on the books you are going to absolutely love.

1. Ask Yourself A Few Questions

LOVE: Take a look at the last ten books you enjoyed or go to GoodReads. You can either use your Favorites list or sort your Read list so the five-star books are at the top. Create a LOVE list with the answers to your questions.

  1. What do these books have in common?
    • Most of the books I love books that have witty banter, sassy characters, adventure and intrigue.
  2. What are the top three genres?  
    • My three favorite are fantasy, science fiction and historical novels.
  3. What are your top three sub-genres?
    • Mine are fairy tale retelling, steampunk, and court intrigue.
  4. Are there any settings that are repeated more than once?
    • I love stories set in deserts.
  5. What are elements, topics, themes and tropes in each of these books that you would enjoy reading about again?
    • I love stories with sentient dragons, telepathy, elemental powers, and elves.
  6. Are there any consistencies in the covers?
    • Most genres have a certain style for covers to make it easier for readers to identify. A few trends include photos of characters for historical genre, 3D animated characters for indie science fiction and fantasy, and intricate typography based covers are more common for YA fiction.

HATE: Take a look at the last ten books you did not like and ask yourself why. You can also go to GoodReads and sort by 1 stars or look at your DNF (did not finish) list. Create a dislike and hate list using your answers.

  1. What do these books have in common? These topics will go on your dislike list
  2. What are the top three genres? These genres will go on your dislike list.
  3. What are elements, topics and tropes in each of these books that you would never want to read about again? These topics will go on your hate list.

2. Time To Tackle The TBR

Now it’s time to look at the first 100 books in your to-be-read list. If you don’t have a list of books that you want to read, check out my article on finding books that you will love.

First Step: Titles

  1. Look at the title of the book and see if it includes any of the keywords or subjects in your hate list.
  2. Remove these books.
  3. If any of the titles include keywords from your dislike list, you can remove them, or take a closer look.

Second Step: Covers and Descriptions

  1. Open each book in a new tab and take a look at the cover to see if it’s similar to any of the books you enjoy. For example, I really enjoy books with dragons, so if the cover depicts a dragon it might be worth keeping on my list.
  2. Next, read the description and see if it includes any of the topics or themes you dislike. 
  3. If that’s the case, go ahead and remove this book from your to-be-read list or move it to the bottom.
  4. If it includes things you like, you can move it up on your list.

Third Step: Read The Reviews

  1. Read the bad reviews first. Oftentimes, people are more specific when they leave a critical review or a three-star review than when they leave a 5-star review. I can’t tell you how many books I have purchased because of a negative review mentioning something that I absolutely love in stories. (For example, I hated this book because it had dragons in it.)
  2. The next step is to read the good reviews and see if they mention anything that you don’t like. For example, if you’re not a fan of the arranged marriage trope or the instant love trope, these are often things mentioned in reviews.

Fourth Step: Look Inside

The last step is to use the look inside feature to get an idea of the quality of the writing. Be careful, this can lead to a lot of impulse purchases. ;) I usually only do this when I’m about to buy the book!

If the book has gone through all these stages with flying colors, it is going to be a book you will love.

Hopefully, you’ve been able to take off a few books you will not enjoy. Remember, if you don’t enjoy a book after three or four chapters, you can skip the book or read it another time. Life is simply too short to read books we don’t love.