January 10, 2018

Because I’m behind on a million reviews and don’t have any saved tags that I felt like doing, I thought I would do a discussion post for you guys about something that I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter surrounding:

TBR “Zeroing”!

(as you can tell, I prefer TBR “doubling” and “tripling”…)

If you’re unfamiliar with this term, it’s exactly what it sounds like: getting your TBR to “0”, or as close to it as possible. While some people intend this only for their owned/unread books, other people are using it for their Goodreads shelves as well. Essentially, the goal of TBR Zeroing is to have as few books on your to-read shelves as possible! Some people accomplish this by purging their Goodreads shelves, while others purge their physical shelves. I even have a few friends whose 2018 resolutions are to make a list of all their unread physical books, and anything they don’t read by Dec 31st, 2018 gets donated or sold.


In my time in the online book community, I’ve come to notice that there are 3 kinds of people when it comes to TBRs:

1) People whose TBRs are roughly 1,837,473 books, and they’re fine with that (or proud of it!)

2) People whose TBRs are 100 books or less

3) People who just don’t care what their TBR number is, as long as they’ve always got something to read

I personally fall solidly in court #3: I wouldn’t even know what my Goodreads TBR is if I didn’t do a weekly Down the TBR Hole post, and the only reason I know what my owned-TBR number is, is because I have a shelf for it to keep me from buying duplicate copies of things. The only reason I’m focusing on reading books that I already own in 2018 is so that I can justify buying more, frankly, but I do typically unhaul books that I found offensive or just totally unlikable. I probably am nearing mild “hoarder” status, but when I look at my shelves, I don’t see anything that I don’t want to read, if that makes sense.

(in fact, sometimes I just gotta get comfy and cuddly with those shelves)

So, my question for you today is… which category do you fall in? If you want to zero your TBR, is there a specific reason? Or if you’re proud of your high TBR number, what is that number? Do you make a habit of unhauling to keep that number low, or do you embrace every beautiful synopsis and cover you come across?

(you bet your sweet ass I “needed” all of this nightmare fuel)


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  • Reply Sionna (Books in Her Eyes) January 10, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Interesting discussion post! I also have noticed people being more varied with their TBRs or trying to downsize them.
    I don’t understand the need for low numbered TBR lists– or at least it wouldn’t work for my purposes of my GR TBR. I want to make sure I always can find something to read ^_^ I’m not worried about trying to read all the books on it, I know I won’t, that is the point. I don’t want to ever run out of books to read.
    But, when I get over 700 books, I tend to start… I’m not sure of the feeling, but I don’t like it. So, either I’ll go through and toss some that I really shouldn’t have added in the first place, and/or I’ll binge read books! I also don’t add sequels to my TBR unless I’ve read and liked the first book in the series.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 10:54 pm

      I don’t really get it, either! I mean, I guess I “get it” as in why other people do it, but if I think about doing it for myself, it’s just like… does… not… compute… lmao. That’s understandable, though – 700 is a big number. O_O I also don’t add sequels to my list until reading the first book and enjoying it, unless I own them! Then, I’ll add it.

  • Reply Plot Monster January 10, 2018 at 11:19 am

    I am 2 and 3. I like reading the books on my TBR list and getting that number down. This is because if I was interested enough to add it to the list I genuinely want to read it. But, I will never reach zero. I am constantly adding to it and I’m okay with that. 🙂

  • Reply confessionsofayareader January 10, 2018 at 11:24 am

    I’m ok with my TBR being huge as long as it’s full of books that I really want to read. Going through weekly and removing old books has felt really good. Especially since my reading preferences do change at times. I have a lot of books here at home, too. I have five 5 shelf bookcases and I already need another. But I’m ok with that, too. I just need to be a bit pickier when buying books because they’re cheap. I need to really want them.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 10:55 pm

      Agreed! I love doing Down the TBR Hole because it’s showed me that I have books on my list that I don’t even remember adding, and don’t want to read – but if I have even a little bit of interest in reading it, it stays!

  • Reply Heather January 10, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I fall into #3; however, lately I’ve been feeling ashamed that I have had books for years (almost into a decade) and I haven’t even touched them. This year I’m wanting to tackle some of the books and remove some that I’ll never read.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 10:55 pm

      Ooooh, I do feel that! I have some that I’ve definitely owned a shameful amount of time without reading. Hopefully we can both get around to them this year!

  • Reply What's She Reading? January 10, 2018 at 11:40 am

    I think sometimes I get overwhelmed by the number of books on my TBR and so I like the idea of getting it as close to 0 as possible…I don’t actually think that I’ll ever run out of things that I want to read just because so many good books are published every year. So far, I haven’t done a very good job of it though haha.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 10:55 pm

      That’s understandable! I hadn’t really thought of it feeling overwhelming, but when you put it like that, it makes sense!

  • Reply Kathy @ Books & Munches January 10, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Ha, the day my TBR [owned books] is zero is the day I’m going to freak out, sit in a corner and cry because there’ll be something wrong in the world. Hell, something? The whole world will be wrong at that point!
    I do want to get through my TBR but.. mainly because “I want to get through the books I’ve had forever but keep putting aside for newer books.” Like, I wouldn’t mind if I end 2018 with all the 2018 releases unread if it means that I got to read a shitload of the books I got before that? I feel like I have to give my old books a chance but it’s so hard sometimes, haha!
    Soooo yeah.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 10:56 pm

      LMAO, SAME. You know this, though. ? That’s not a bad goal, though! I’m going to try and focus on as few 2018 releases as possible this year, so that I can fit in a LOT of my 2017-and-older books.

      • Reply Kathy @ Books & Munches January 16, 2018 at 1:58 am

        We will try! But those eARC’s are going to be the dead of that goal. For me at least, haha.
        BUT. My boyfriend said that if I read 75 of the books I owned on January 1st, he’ll get me “something” although he doesn’t have a clue what that something is going to be yet but it’s definitely an extra motivation! [maybe a trip to the bookstore at his expense? ??]

        • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 16, 2018 at 2:14 am

          The eARCs are always the death of all of our plans. ?
          Oooooh, yay! ? I believe in you!

          • Kathy @ Books & Munches January 16, 2018 at 2:16 am

            Thank you!! I’ll need it.. Hoping not to get distracted by new releases..

  • Reply coffeelovingbookoholic January 10, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    i am a person who doesn’t want a zero tbr. i love having books around me. i love choosing from all of my books, depending on my moods! so there will never be a zero tbr in my house 😀

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 10:56 pm

      Yessss! This is me, too. I would honestly be so sad and lost if I had read every single book on my shelves or kindle. ?

  • Reply theshelterofbooks January 10, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Honestly, I think I’m like you. And I can not think of giving away or relate the libes that I can not read by 2018. It seems absurd!
    I am proud (and perhaps a little jealous) of my books and the more they are, the better for me.
    Even when I try to get to 0 (something that will never happen) I find out that new books will come out that I absolutely want to read in the following months. How can I do? 😉

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 10:58 pm

      I agree! I mean, I can appreciate the IDEA of minimizing, but the thought of actually doing it makes me cringe, lol! I have too many books that I know I won’t have the time to get to this year, but that doesn’t change that I want to read them eventually!

  • Reply LairOfBooks January 10, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Oh how this discussion post made my day & also made me giggle quietly in my cubicle haha! I would fall into the #3 category & honestly I don’t have a clue as to how many are on my TBR on Goodreads lol. I stopped looking but now I’m giving it the only stink eye smh *clicks batch edit* smh. I would like to wipe out all the books I now know I’m just never going to read for the same reasons, either they’re problematic or lost interest. Also, same motives: to get more books! Ha! 🙂

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 10:59 pm

      Bahaha yay! I’m so glad you liked it! I also snickered at the stink eye “*click batch edit*” because that is totally me, too. I love doing the Down the TBR Hole meme to slowly weed out the ones I don’t want to read anymore, but at the same time, sometimes I just wanna go through the whole thing in one day. ?

  • Reply emmareadstoomuch January 10, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    i’m kind of a mix between 2 and 3, i guess? i prefer to keep my tbr to a number i could feasibly read in a year (it’s less than my reading challenge now, which is ideal) but i would never want to zero my tbr!! the reason i have it in the first place is so i never run out of things to read!! i get trying to “zero” it if your tbr is, like, ridiculously high and you want to exponentially decrease it, but having zero to-read books on Goodreads or even zero unread owned books sounds HELLISH to me.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 11:00 pm

      Dude, I would die, seriously. It feels like it would be some McCarthy-esque post-apocalyptic nightmare, where nobody wrote good books anymore. I’m shaking at the thought D:

  • Reply scorpiobookdreams January 10, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    This is such a relevant post as I was thinking about reducing my physical TBR pile (mainly for storage reasons as I’ve run out of room!). I like the idea of setting the end of the year as a deadline. I’m trying the Unread Shelf Project to get my books from 335 to 275 by the end of the year. Fingers crossed it actually works!

  • Reply Katie Brock | sherlockianbooklover January 10, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    In category 3 but as I actually own and have the space for ONE bookcase, I definitely need a purge before I buy anymore books. I’m only reading books on my TBR list this year (it’s just under 100) and although most of them are ebooks, any book be it ebook or physical that I rate below 4 Stars I’m not going to keep. I don’t want my TBR to go down to zero, but I need to put myself on a book buying ban until I have cleared half of it.
    I mean, I definitely like re reading books but I just need more space!
    I’m actually debating putting up another shelf just for my Harry Potter books because i collect the special editions of the series (not that I need another set but yeah)
    Great post!

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 11:01 pm

      Ooooh, yes, that’s understandable! I’m lucky that I have room for a few shelves, but if I don’t slow down on my purchases, I’ll have to buy a new shelf soon, and I’m not sure where it would go, lol! Thank you!

  • Reply abyssallibrarian January 10, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    I would say I’m closest to the third type. My TBR list is quickly approaching 2000 books and I’m okay with that but I’m also a little overwhelmed by it sometimes. Every time I go to look if there’s anything that I’m not so interested in, I end up renewing my interest in a whole bunch of books that I forgot about. I don’t really feel any kind of need to get my list down to 0, nor do I really think it’s possible since there will always be new books coming out that will interest me. There’s no way I could possibly read quickly enough to keep up!

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 11:02 pm

      2000! That’s amazing. *heart eyes* Lmao, I know it’s probably kind of overwhelming, but at the same time, I love it! I feel you, though – there are always amazing new releases coming out!

  • Reply Samantha Duffy January 10, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    I also fall along the same lines as you! I don’t particularly care what my number is, I just like to keep things “for a rainy day” so I don’t think twice about adding a million titles when I come across them.
    I like your idea though about having a dedicated shelf just for unread books! I imagine that is super helpful when deciding what to read next, and also, gets you excited for more purchases! Unfortunately, I live in a small apartment at the moment, with only ONE bookshelf (and its a small one). More than half my book collection is still at my parents house, but I am hoping to go through those books soon, and unhaul ones I didn’t like or don’t plan on reading.
    This was a very interesting post though. I have noticed a lot of people who are trying to cut down their TBRs and it does make you think about how you fall on that scale.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 11:02 pm

      Yes, exactly! I’ll honestly add books on a whim, because it’s not like I have to pay for my goodreads shelf storage, haha! But yes, that is definitely helpful to have the unread shelf for books I own. I hope you can work on sorting through your books soon! And thank you for commenting <3

  • Reply EIise @thebookishactress January 10, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    I’m definitely two. Until this year, I’d never had more than 20 books on my physical TBR, and to be honest, I sort of have an official goal to get back to there by the end of summer at latest.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      Good luck! <3 I didn't start buying books much until I was about 19, so I never really had owned, unread books until then. Now, of course, my number is a little obscene, but at least I won't be bored if the zombie apocalypse starts. 😉

      • Reply EIise @thebookishactress January 16, 2018 at 12:35 am

        YOU WILL NOT BE. if the zombie apocalypse occurred, I’d probably just reread my favorites shelf over and over again.

        • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 16, 2018 at 12:37 am

          Lmao, if we’re being honest, I probably would, too. It’d be comforting in a time of, you know… serious need of comfort 😛

          • EIise @thebookishactress January 16, 2018 at 12:42 am

            MOOD. just binge-reread my favorite cute books to all eternity.

  • Reply Rachel Lightwood January 11, 2018 at 6:15 am

    this is so appropriate for me rn. i literally made it my 2018 goal to get back to a zero tbr. well, as close to zero as possible. i think is legitimately impossible because my physical tbr is around 250 books – but that is 100% why i need to do it. i think owning that amount of books – which is my average total of an entire year!! – is too much. most of them are books i’ve owned for over two years so i’m obvs not that interested in them anymore and just need to get them read so i start a clean tbr. but i envy the people who give zero shits about how many books are on their tbr. it stresses me out, personally.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      I’m glad this was relevant for you haha! Good luck on getting close to zero! <3 Hopefully you're able to sort through them and figure out which ones you want to keep without too much struggle.

  • Reply Sarah J. January 11, 2018 at 9:59 am

    I’m more of number 3. I don’t really care how many books are on my TBR. If I look through my shelves and see books that I’m no longer interested I unhaul them. However, I’ve started to keep those books for my future classroom, so students can have access to them and I know that someone will pick it up and love it.

  • Reply Norrie January 11, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    Oh, i’m defo #1… hehe. I’m always trying to beat my TBR, but keep adding to it almost on a daily basis. I can’t win!
    I rarely buy paper books anymore, simply because I don’t have space. I used to move at least yearly in the past 8 years, so it was not convenient either. I’m a kindle toting savage now… 😀

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 11:05 pm

      Ohhh, yes, that’s understandable! It’s funny because I didn’t like ebooks much until 2016, when I suddenly kind of loved them? I still prefer physical books most of the time, but there is something SOOO convenient about ebooks!

  • Reply Scrill January 13, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    I’m right there with you on category three. There’s no way I can ever get my TBR to zero as I have my lists out for future book releases. I also don’t mind a long list, I feel like, at some point I decided this sounded interesting to read, I don’t feel like knowing that someday I might want to read it is necessarily a bad thing.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      That’s a very good point! I won’t lie, there are books that I own that I’m not super interested in reading anymore, but I keep just because it excited me once, so it might excite me again someday, lol.

  • Reply Annemieke January 13, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    I don’t want to zero my owned tbr books but I would like to get under a 100 (to indeed justify buying more and maybe because I do feel a little guilty towards my unread books haha).

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries January 15, 2018 at 11:09 pm

      Good luck! 😀 Hopefully we can both knock out some of our TBR shelves so we can buy more, hehehe.

  • Reply authortialee January 13, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    I always start with my physical books and purchased ebooks, and then move to my TBR on goodreads. My goodreads list gets bigger and bigger every year. There is no way it will ever be at zero and I’m okay with that. 🙂

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  • Reply tornpagesandroses January 28, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    I’m mostly number 3 but I get into moods where I want to lower the number of books unread especially since I have 500+ physical books and around 5k ebooks. Right now I’m in the idgaf mood lol

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  • Reply Ilsen Leon July 26, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    I definitely fall into 3 because I know I have a lot but I need to have something to read at all times. I only unhaul when I don’t like it or it’s problematic. Otherwise I love having books on my shelf.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries July 30, 2018 at 5:17 pm

      Same, 100%! I love physical books and full shelves, it’s my weakness haha! I also only unhaul super problematic or books I just hated.

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  • Reply Anna Katherine June 8, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    I feel like I am very strongly in camp #3 with camp #2 tendencies. I get overwhelmed by my goodreads tbr sometimes when I can’t decide what I’m in the mood to read and this feel like I have to go through a purge everything. Physical books I’ve gotten better about due to moving a lot, I only buy physical copies when I’ve already read it or know I’ll love it (like a favorite author/series) But ebooks and library books I have zero self control

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