What Is a TBR List? How to Create and Organize a TBR Pile

TBR List

Even though we’re all perfectly aware of the numerous benefits reading has on our health and state of mind, we also know how tough it is sometimes to move on from one book to another.

That is why it is always a good idea to have a TBR list in order to avoid the treacherous book hangover, to waste as little time as possible between books and to have well organized and effective reading habits. 

TBR List Meaning

First, the natural question you might be asking yourself is “what is a TBR list exactly?”, so get ready for the first (of many) aha moment of this article.

What Does TBR Mean?

TBR stands for “to be read” and it is an acronym representing the intention of a person to read a certain book or list of books.

What Is a TBR List?

A TBR list is a list of books one intends to read in a certain upcoming timeframe. 

While others call this concept simply having a reading list, some choose to go with the TBR version simply because it clearly states an intention to read. 

What Is a TBR Pile?

A TBR pile is an actual pile of books one intends to read rather than a list of titles.

Why Should You Have a TBR List?

While having a TBR pile is not always a great thing to have on a cluttered bookshelf or nightstand, a TBR list is essential for today’s reader, as it comes with a huge series of benefits. 

Some of the most important benefits of having a TBR list are:

  1. You will waste little to no time between books
  2. You will read more
  3. You avoid book hangovers
  4. Your reading habits will be more disciplined
  5. You won’t forget the books you want to read
  6. It can help keep your reading diverse
  7. It may help you get out of your comfort zone

How to Make a TBR List?

Now that the TBR meaning is no longer a strange concept for you, let’s dive into the process of creating your own TBR list, finding the right method and the correct approach that works for you and your style of reading. 

There are different ways you can create and manage your TBR list. Here are the most common ones:

  1. Reading tracking apps Like Basmo – the best option
  2. Spreadsheets
  3. Note-taking apps
  4. Specialized websites
  5. Pen and paper method

The Best Way to Create Your TBR Pile

If you really want your TBR list to be the best version of itself, providing you with the most benefits for your reading habits, great accessibility, ease of use and more functionalities, using an app with a dedicated TBR list feature, or a reading tracking app like Basmo is the best way of creating and managing your reading list.

With Basmo, creating reading lists, or TBR lists is extremely easy.

You can either choose to populate one of the predefined book collections, or you can create a new, personalized one. Once you’ve decided which list you want to populate, you can simply start searching for book titles and add them to your TBR list in just a couple of taps.

Managing your TBR list is also very easy. Books can be added or removed in mere seconds, and they can be arranged in several lists or categories so that you can keep your genres or authors separated in several lists.

Plus, you get a lot more from Basmo. It will help you have healthier reading habits, it will allow you to optimize your reading sessions, to take notes while you read so that you remember more from the books you read

As you can see, there are several ways to go about this and finding the perfect solution can be a little challenging if you are not sure why you are creating the list and how you intend to use it. 

The good news is that we dedicated a separate entire article exactly to this: to present to you all the pros and cons of each possible method of creating and managing your reading lists.

How to Organize Your TBR List and Keep It Tidy?

Now that you know how to create a TBR list, let’s see how you can manage it over years and keep it tidy and well organized. 

Again, the best way to organize your TBR list is to use a book tracking app like Basmo. This will allow you to create several lists (even customizable ones), which will be of great help in keeping up with the number of titles you plan to read. 

Step-By-Step Guide to Successful TBR List Management

  1. Decide how much you would like to read in the upcoming month
  2. Select the reading material you would like to go through
  3. Using your past reading experience, try to estimate the effort you will need to put into achieving your goal
  4. Create a schedule, select the days you will want to read in
  5. Track your progress using Basmo to make sure you stay on the right course
  6. Feel free to adjust your TBR list to match your needs
  7. Meet your goal
  8. Celebrate and start planning for next month

While having a huge TBR list to last you for a lifetime seems to be the way to go for many readers out there, our suggestion is to create several lists, separated by genre, author or even the timeframe you expect to need to go through all the titles (to read in next 3 months for example). 

How to Have Your TBR List Under Control

There are a couple of things you should always keep in mind in order to have your TBR list under control.

  1. Read mindfully. By having a mindful approach to reading, you will be able to always be aware of your needs, your taste in books and what you want to achieve through your reading. This can have a major effect on how you create, manage and organize your TBR list.
  2. Don’t make your TBR list too long. Being aware of your reading habits will allow you to set realistic goals and adjust your lists accordingly rather than be over enthusiastic only to realize that your TBR list is actually overwhelming you and setting you back.
  3. It’s ok to give up once in a while. Not all books are going to be your cup of tea. Every once in a while, you will find yourself reading a book that brings you no joy, it takes you forever to go through or is even making you reconsider whether you should be reading at all. 

Whenever you find yourself in such a position, you are a lot better off giving up on that book and reshuffling your TBR list. Reading needs to be a pleasurable activity above anything else. Don’t allow books to take the joy out of reading.

How Many Books Should Be On Your TBR List?

While there is obviously no exact answer that will be satisfying for everyone, the rule of thumb is to never add more to your plate than you can handle. 

Rather than having a single TBR list that ends up putting too much pressure on you to keep up, you are probably much better off keeping your list close to what you expect to be able to read in the next month for example and have an additional secondary list from which to progressively move titles as you finish the ones on the primary TBR list. 

How to Gather Book Titles

The process of creating a TBR list involves a little more than just finding the right method or the right tools for the job. 

In order to have a good TBR list, you also need the right titles to add to it. And considering the enormous number of books you have the option to choose from nowadays, this is not exactly the easiest thing in the world. 

We do have some suggestions for constantly getting decent book recommendations and finding new titles for your TBR list according to your taste.

  1. From Friends and Families. Never hesitate to ask them what they read lately or what books they think you might enjoy. Knowing you very well and being aware of your taste in books, they are likely to surprise you with some books that will become your favorites.
  2. Curated Lists Online. From the silly “top 10 books you should read this year according to your star sign” to really useful lists created by online publications or experts, you can find a lot of sources online to feed your hobby and constant need of new books for your TBR list.
  3. Visit a Bookstore. Walking around a bookstore can help you find some pretty interesting titles for your reading list. On top of the books you will see on the shelves, there’s a chance you will be able to get some very good recommendations from the employees there. 
  4. From Online Communities. Facebook and Reddit are homes to some pretty impressive communities dedicated to readers. Among other things, you will probably find out about a lot of books that are more than worthy of being on your TBR list.
  5. Follow Your Heart. Read about what you like (hobbies, interests), be mindful of your reading and your reading habits and learn to adapt to your own personal taste. Not all the masterpieces that have been proclaimed as classics or must-reads will be a good match for your taste.
  6. Add Titles From Your Favorite Author. There’s a reason why you have a favorite author and sprinkling a couple of titles from your favorite author among other, perhaps less pleasant reads, will make your TBR list a lot friendlier and easier to approach.
  7. Add Top Books From Your Preferred Genre. Whether you love sci-fi, romance or mystery books, you will be able to find some pretty amazing titles for your TBR list through a simple google search and looking at book sales per title. Sometimes bestsellers are bestsellers for a reason, don’t hesitate to give them a shot.

How to Reduce Your TBR Pile

Here are some general tips and tricks you can use to make sure you go through your TBR list as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  1. Simply read more
  2. Read more books at once
  3. Speed reading can help
  4. Try audiobooks to cover more ground
  5. Keep your books organized 
  6. Remove books that have been on your TBR list for a long time and never managed to read – there’s a reason it didn’t happen
  7. Check your TBR list regularly and update it according to your progress
  8. Don’t add titles to it unless you are 100% sure you will read them
  9. Realize that your “maybe I will read it someday” actually means you never will most of the time.

The Best Way to Reduce the TBR Pile

Obviously, the easiest way to reduce the number of titles on your TBR list is to simply read more. While most readers will come back with the already classic “easier said than done” answer, Basmo users will have the upper hand in their efforts to reduce their reading piles.

There are several functionalities in Basmo that are designed especially for this purpose: to help you read more.

Reading Goals

The app allows you to set realistic goals for your reading. You can either choose to set a goal in terms of the minutes you spend reading every day or to set a number of books you want to go through in a year.

Reading Statistics

Keeping up with your progress towards your goals is easy with Basmo. The app will provide you with important stats regarding your reading habits and will allow you to visualize your progress towards your goals, making it easier to find possible issues or negative habits that are keeping you from reading more.

Reading Planner

To take things even further, Basmo facilitates setting a reading schedule that works for you and your daily routine. You can select which days of the week you want to read in, what time your reading schedules should take place and will remind you of them through notifications on your mobile device. 

What Are the Cons of Having a TBR List?

There are of course some cons to having a TBR list as well. 

Some readers may find this way of organizing reading habits too restrictive, or may feel pressured by the size of their TBR list if titles keep piling on faster than they can keep up. 

Of course, this has more to do with each individual’s personality and is a matter of personal choice. Mood readers for example will clearly have a hard time using a TBR list.


Creating and managing your book TBR list can be challenging, it’s true. But with tools like Basmo, designed to make your life easier, allowing you to create digital lists that are easily manageable and editable, you can now be more effective than ever!

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