Collecting books is an entirely separate hobby from reading them. It is an easy habit to fall into. After all, books are everywhere, even at yard sales and the supermarket. Although hardcovers can be a little pricey, paperbacks, ebooks, and second-hand purchases don’t cost an arm and a leg. Compared to some other leisure pursuits, books don’t take up too much room. With careful arrangement, perhaps among a smattering of tchotchkes, they can be charming home decor.
Books make for lovely and comforting company. The stories they hold are the promises of adventures yet to come. The pitfall is when one collects books faster than one can read them. Every reader has their strategy for tackling this pleasant problem called the TBR: aka To Be Read.
A Planner may map out what books to read for the upcoming month or even the next year. Possible motivations include preparation for an event, a project, or for the goal of self-betterment. What these all have in common is some degree of “I should”. Some examples include, “I don’t read much poetry, I should make a point to do so.” Or, “Man, I should read more books by POC authors. I think I’ll spend the summer doing that.” Reading with a purpose in mind is helpful when someone wants to work their way through certain books they always meant to peruse, but haven’t yet. The downside is the higher possibility of getting bored with the content, and the motivation of “should” running out before completing every title on the docket.
The Mood Reader
Mood reading is picking up whichever book strikes one’s fancy at that moment. Because the chosen selection is handpicked to fit a current literary craving, the experience should be highly enjoyable and satisfying. The drawback is this can leave many other books languishing on the shelves for months or years, waiting for fortune, and their owner’s mood, to grace their spines.
The Rabbit Hole Diver
Somewhere between the Mood Reader and the Planner is the Rabbit Hole. This is when an individual obsesses over one topic, genre, or fictional world. Falling further and further into this passionate compulsion, the inflicted consume every written word they can get their hands on which relates to their fascination. What starts as an infatuation becomes a mania. Less organized than the Planner, their path from one volume to the next is more organic and feelings-driven. As far as addictions go, it’s not a bad problem to have. The risk is the potential of getting burnt out on the subject matter.
The Mighty Bookworm
Nose to the grindstone, this reader plows through volume after volume without coming up for air. They conquer their TBR by having a book within reach, in one format or another, 24/7. There’s a paperback in their backpack, a full-to-the-brim e-reader in their desk drawer, hardcovers on their nightstand, and audiobooks on their phone for every moment in between. They may juggle up to a half-dozen tomes at a time. The drawbacks? Details may blend together and get muddled along the way.
The Mystery Lover
No, this is not referring to someone who reads who-done-it’s like they’re going out of style (see: Rabbit Hole Diver). This is someone who likes to play games with themselves to get through the TBR. It’s a recent trend on book-focused social media accounts. Some put all their books on their TBR shelf with the page ends facing out instead of the spines, then do a blind pull. Voila! Their next read! Another tactic involves wrapping all of one’s unread hopefuls in plain brown paper, labeling each with a number. Draw a number from a hat and grab that corresponding book. Sounds fun! But what happens when the lucky winner is not what the person was in the mood for? Cue the “Waa-waa-waaahh” sound effect of classic game shows when the contestant finds out that behind curtain number two was…a goat.
Getting through the TBR is not the point. The Dragon takes pleasure in immersing themselves in their hoard of books. Their presence is aesthetically pleasing and fosters feelings of cozy contentment. The keeper of the hoard will defend it tooth and nail. They know the risk of being buried under a mountain of books, but The Dragon accepts that fate with a toothy grin.
The Chaos Goblin
Picking up books at random, reading a chapter here, a passage there, and then putting them back down again, that is the Goblin’s modus operandi. Bookmarks, real or improvised, may or may not be involved. No plan exists. There is no distinction between unread, in progress, or already read. There is just the pile.
The Unicorn is the most elusive of all readers. They are fabled to exist, but are seldom encountered. This person actually reads every book that comes into their possession right after they get it, and before they obtain another. There is no TBR. It’s the stuff of fairy tales, but it’s nice to dream about.
All the bookish creatures I describe have one thing in common: they all get a twinkle in their eyes as their eager hands embrace a new book. In the end, there’s no wrong way to enjoy one’s personal library, and there’s nothing wrong with an expansive TBR. So grab one off the pile, get comfy, and enjoy.