Balancing Bookloads: Tricks to Navigate Your TBR

This post originally ran on my old blog on April 6, 2015.


It’s fun being a (now post-grad) English major. I was able to read and talk about books with other people who love them just as much as I did and do. I’ve gotten to find out a lot about my own reading habits and likes/dislikes, just from reading the assigned novels from class.

On the other hand, it’s tough to juggle reading for class (and now work) and reading for fun. Sure, reading for class/work can be interesting, but I’ve also got a TBR pile that’s taller than I am (and climbing). Although I’ve never been someone who minded reading several books at one (in fact, I prefer it), sometimes there’s just not enough time in the day to get all of it done.

So how to keep up with fun reading while still balancing schoolwork (especially if you’re studying or working in a reading-heavy field)? These are the tricks I’ve used to navigate my TBR:

Short Books

This one’s probably a given, but since a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately are longer, I’ve stuck to the shorter books when I’m crunched for time. Little novels (or novels with bigger text) are great for a quick, relaxing read without the stress of balancing more than one book at a time. I’d recommend something like Texts from Jane Eyre, Hyperbole and a Half, or a collection of short stories or poems.

texts from jane eyre mallory ortberg
There are, like, no pictures of this book online.

Books about Subjects I Know For Sure I’m Interested In

Sometimes I’ll read a book just because someone recommended it, or because I think I should read it, and many times when that happens it takes longer to read than I think it should, or I put it down and never go back to it. I’ve started saving books like that for periods of time when I don’t have a lot of work to do (so… never), and instead I focus on the books I know will hold my interest. For me, this is anything from YA novels that have just come out (like Burn Baby Burn, which I highly recommend), or historical fiction books (I’ve been telling anyone that will listen that The Song of Achilles is the best book I’ll read this year).

the song of achilles madeline miller
[Source: Madeline Miller]
Books Relevant to Work

Still in school? Try looking for books that are relevant to whatever you’re talking about in class. Once you’ve gotten into the mindset of a certain theme or topic, it’s sometimes easier to read a book along those lines. If you’re taking a Brit Lit class because you’re obsessed with, say, Pride and Prejudice, re-read it before you start on your required reading (obviously, time it right so you get all your work done on schedule). Then again, you might just want to give your brain a break and read something completely unrelated to your life, like Gone Girl. At least, I hope Gone Girl isn’t related to your life.

Fluff/Junk Food books

Read books that don’t make you think. Books you know won’t have any angst, stressful plot twists, or difficult language, books that will give your overworked brain a break. Think Bossypants. Think Hark! A Vagrant. Stuff like that.

hark! a vagrant step aside pops kate beaton
I have a copy of each of these that I keep in my car. [Source: Drawn and Quarterly]
Books I’ve Already Read

I’m an absolute monster when it comes to re-reading, which my grandma is oh-so-quick to point out every time she visits. Sure, I’ve got that ever-growing to-read list on Goodreads, but I’m gonna revisit my $1 paperback copy of Cheaper by the Dozen anyway. Sometimes, the only way to unwind is to pick up an old favorite that you know is gonna make you feel better. Embrace that feeling. Revel in it. And then go buy and read a copy of The Song of Achilles, because seriously, that book is freakin’ amazing.

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