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The Pros and Cons of TBR Sizes

When I first started getting really into the book community, there seemed to be a lot of focus on making your TBR as small as possible. I know that there are still people who focus on that, but it definitely isn't as prevalent anymore.

I used to be firmly in the crush-that-TBR division. but over the past few months, I've heard from a bunch of people who have HUGE TBRs and love it. Which brings up the question: what is the ideal TBR size? Does it even exist? I don't even know which side I agree with as to my own TBR. So I decided to make some pros-and-cons lists.

  • You'll probably always have something on your shelf that you're interested in reading. The bigger your TBR is, the more likely you are to be able to read the kind of book you want to read without having to run to the bookstore to get it. And less time spent running to the bookstore means more precious time reading.
  • It'll take a long time for you to run out of new things to read. There are any number of reasons you could be trapped in your house for a fairly long period of time. Snow storm. Illness. Zombie apocalypse. If you have a big TBR, you'll be able to fill up a lot of that time with new books, and you might not even seriously deplete your TBR.
  • You probably have more impressive-looking bookshelves. No matter how indifferent you are about the appearance of books, I think we can all appreciate the beauty of a well-stocked bookshelf. Bigger TBR = more books = fuller bookshelves.
  • You might forget about some books. I don't know about the rest of you, but there are definitely books on my TBR that have been there for so long that I've almost forgotten about them. Either that, or they've been sitting on my TBR shelf for so long that I've forgotten that I should probably read them.
  • It might seem unmanageable. No matter what size your TBR is, it's easier to read 5 books than 50. Once your TBR gets to a certain size, it might feel a little out of control, like you couldn't make it smaller if you tried. And then from there, it just spirals into a chasm of intimidatingness.
  • You have fewer excuses to buy new books. That is, if you're one of those peopel who needs a reason to buy new books. If you have tons of unread books already at home, you might feel a little guilty about buying shiny new ones and neglecting the ones you already have.

  • You're probably more excited about each individual book. If you only have a few books on your TBR, chances are that there's a good reason that each and every one of them is there. When you're excited about all of your books, reading your TBR becomes easy and fun instead of something you might feel that you have to do.
  • There might be some kind of sense of accomplishment there. If your goal is to have a small TBR, then both having and keeping it small is a pretty big achievement. It's really easy to let a TBR grow, and if you have a consistently small one, that can be something to be proud of!
  • You probably won't die if the pile falls on you. Let's face it. Books are heavy. Many bookworms live in dread of their bookshelves falling on top of them. If you only have a few books, you might not be crushed.
  • You don't have as many options. Maybe this is a good thing for you, if you're indecisive in picking what to read next. But if you only have a few books on your TBR and you're in the mood for something completely different, you're out of luck. Especially if you're on an (attempted) book-buying ban.
  • One book makes a much bigger difference either way. If you have a small TBR and you read one book, you suddenly have significantly fewer options to choose from. If you buy a book, then in comparison to what it was before, your TBR has grown a lot. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's something you're definitely a lot more aware of with a small TBR.
  • You might feel as if you have to read a certain book at a certain time. Personally, I'm not a big fan of "you have to read this book right now." If you have to choose a book from a small TBR, you might end up choosing a book that you're not particularly interested in reading, just because it's there.

Right now, my TBR is at a comfortable 20-ish books. Theoretically, I could get through that pretty quickly and be out of things to read. But I rely so much on books from the library that my TBR rarely gets much smaller.

Even after making these lists, I'm not really tempted to read everything on my TBR to make it smaller, or to buy tons of books to make it bigger. A lot of big and small is relative, and for right now, I'm fine staying at my happy medium.

How big is your TBR? Do you like that size? Are there any important pros or cons that I missed? Tell me in the comments!


  1. I've never really thought about trying to keep my TBR at a specific size. I think I just like getting through it because that means that I can get more books. Mine's pretty decent-sized at the moment, probably 20 like yours. But huge TBRs are definitely impressive looking :)

    1. I can't remember the last time I actually got through my TBR - I consider it a success when I keep my TBR the same size for a while! But I definitely understand the appeal of only buying books after you've finished others. I've just somehow never been able to do that.

  2. Haha, I love this post. I definitely have a big TBR, and you're spot on about those pros and cons! I think the only reason I'm not comfortable with a big TBR is knowing that I've spent money on a book and three years later it's still gathering dust on my shelf. D: That's why I'm on a strict book-buying ban this year, though having easy access to the library then kind of negates the TBR-crushing point of the ban xD

    1. My feelings EXACTLY. There's a couple of books on my TBR that have been there for years, and my TBR isn't even that big. And you're right again with the library - if I didn't go to the library so often, I'd probably have read those books a while ago.

  3. "You probably won't die if the pile falls on you." Hahaha I love it. Definitely a plus lol.

    I don't really know how to answer this though? Because I have mostly ebooks. And the amount of ebooks on my kindle is atrocious, but I didn't pay for most of them, so I don't feel a whole lot of pressure to read them. But, you know, as long as I had electricity, I'd definitely never run out of stuff to read lol. But I suppose I could consider review copies (also ebooks) my immediate TBR? I seem to be holding steady at about 10-15 of those on any given day. And it's actually been helpful for me having less options because of my terrible indecision. I'd love to have more physical books though just for those pretty bookshelves you mentioned!

    1. I hadn't even considered ebooks! That definitely brings in some different pros and cons, and I can definitely see why an ebook TBR wouldn't seem quite as intimidating. And indecision is a really good pro for a small TBR that I didn't think of. If I had a giant TBR, I'd probably spend way too much time just staring at it and trying to decide what to read.


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