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?