Mood Reading and the TBR: A Balancing Act

I love lists. I like crossing things off and having visible, trackable progress on a project. I’m also a book monogamist. Unless I’m reading in two wildly different formats (like paperback and audiobook), I prefer sticking with one book until it’s done to avoid conflating plot details and my feelings (positive or negative) for a book.

All of this is why I’ve generally stuck to a Monthly TBR ever since I begun book blogging. Monthly TBRs are simply ideal for how my brain works. First, with pure mood reads I get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of options I have on hand. Monthly TBRs narrow down my options to a small pile, giving me some flexibility without giving me Too Much Choice. Second, it helps me stay on track with ARCs. Knowing that I average 5-6 books a month, I can better plan out what needs to get read every month to stay on track for my review commitments, make sure that I have my monthly self-published book, and whatever backlist series I’m working through.

Making Room for Less “Important” Reads

The downside to all of this is that there are a bunch of books that never quite make it to the top of my TBR stack. Books I 100% want to read, but for one reason or another don’t make the cut when my other options are FINALLY reading Abercrombie or Hobbs or some other chonky “seminal” piece of SFF. As a result, YA, STAR WARS, romances, and occasionally standalones linger on my TBR list for months if not years, never making it off the shelf and into my hand.

But last month, something in me broke. I think it came in part from writing a list of female authors on my TBR and realizing just how many of those books were in the fantasy romance space. It wasn’t that I only chose romance authors for my list of female authors, it was that fantasy romance books were not making it off my TBR at the same rate as other subgenres. Books more purely focused on sci-fi or fantasy got read, books that focused more on romance did not.

Part of the reason for that is that fantasy romance (for me) is a genre that is HIGHLY mood dependent. Some days I am desperate for some spicy love or angsty emotions, while the next day I’ll be completely fine with my regular sword and sorcery tome of the week. So last month, when I had a hankering for some romance, I decided to try something new: a backburner mood read. My TBR books would be my priority still, but I was going to keep something on hand to read at my leisure, whenever the mood suited me. That read wouldn’t go on any lists and wouldn’t have a deadline. If it took me two months to read so be it.

My first experiment thus far has been a success! I chose KUSHIEL’S DART, a fantasy romance read I’ve put off for multiple reasons, including the fact that it’s like 800 pages long. Four weeks after starting, I’m only a little over halfway through, but the point is I AM reading it. Sometimes I’ve gone multiple days without picking the book up, only to have the mood strike and find myself sitting with it for two hours. Some days I’ve stared at the sci-fi book I was reading and realized it didn’t fit my headspace right before bed, but KUSHIEL’S DART did. I read it when I feel like it, while still making plenty of progress on my monthly TBR.

Mood Reading: An Evolution, Not a Revolution

Look, I know nothing I’m saying about mood reading is truly revelatory, but I like talking though my book journeys because I’ve enjoyed reading about other people’s and find them helpful, even if it’s just to take reassurance that I am not alone in my particular neuroses. I’ve also just enjoyed seeing how my reading habits change over time. Before I was a book blogger, before I’d heard TBR used as a noun or knew of the concept of mood reading, I was a mood reader (albeit one who was already trying to create a reading queue to figure out how to prioritize her books). Now I’m trying to find a balance between trackable progress and “I just want to read STAR WARS tonight.”

My hope, should I successfully finish KUSHIEL’S DART, is to just keep a backburner mood read going in the future. Something low priority that I want to read, but won’t mind if it takes me a bit to get through. I’m hopeful it will help me slowly work through those poor books that are always a bridesmaid, never a bride, while also avoid any feelings of “falling behind” on my main TBR. (I’m using air quotes a lot in this article because I realize most, if not all of this, is arbitrary and in my head.) At the end of the day, I just want to give more books a shake and this seems like a great way to do so.

How about you? Are you a mood reader or do you live and die by a curated TBR?

11 thoughts on “Mood Reading and the TBR: A Balancing Act

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  1. I’m the complete opposite. I have to mood read or I struggle to get any reading done. Recently I’ve been getting arcs sent to me, so I’ve been loosely trying to stick to a TBR, but it’s a struggle. I’ve found it’s easier when I can mood read books on the side while I’m reading the books I need to review.

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    1. I do some “light” mood reading in that I choose the order of books from my Monthly TBR, but if I don’t narrow it down I get overwhelmed. But I definitely get the appeal of choosing whatever you want whenever you want!

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      1. Yeah it can be easy to get overwhelmed with choices. I guess I kind of always have an informal “list” of books I want to get to soon, but ultimately I pick at random based on my mood

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  2. This was really an interesting post! I usually read two books at the same time, one physical and one ebook, because most of the time I read when I am not at home, and lately I bring only my e-reader with me outside (and my back is really happy about it!).
    And I love to write down TBR, but then I am usually a tad too ambitious with them and in the end I don’t always follow them. I mix between them and mood reading (and I have to say that romance fantasy is a mood read for me, too, at least most of the time) and I don’t always read all the books on the periodical TBR.
    But I think that, starting from May, I would try for a bit monthly TBR (usually I go with seasonal ones because I can add more books) and try to be more realistic and less ambitious with them and see where ir will take me!

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    1. I usually start the year being really good about my monthly TBR, but then because I’m meeting my goals every month I start getting overly ambitious and it all falls apart! I like the idea of having an ereader “travel book” – before COVID it definitely helped to have a kindle book I could read in the app on my phone if I had to go stand in any lines while shopping or running errands. Good luck with your future TBRs!

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  3. Ah, that’s interresting.. I am a mood reader myself, sometime it be about the book contents, while sometimes it’s about language (ie craving reading a book in french VS english).
    For that reason, a season TBR works best for me i find– otherwise I barely knock any books id put in a monthly TBR xD as I can read 3/4books a month, having 5books for three months allows me more to accomplish it AND sneak in whatever I feel like reading too ahah

    Liked by 1 person

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