Do I want a zero TBR?

The concept of a zero TBR is something I started seeing pop up around booktube and the blogosphere last year and, at first, I had no idea what it actually meant. What on earth is a zero TBR? Why would I want to be someone with no books to look forward to reading?


That, of course, isn’t what a zero TBR actually means, though—at least it’s not my understanding of it.

I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder and someone who loves buying books and owning books, but it’s definitely something I’ve done more of than I should. I own so many books that I haven’t read that it’s actually pretty embarrassing, and that’s why I’ve got into the habit of culling my shelves around every 6 months. I don’t get rid of books just for the sake of it, though. If a book is being donated to a charity shop, it’s for one of the following reasons:

  • I’ve read it and didn’t enjoy it.
  • I’ve read it and enjoyed it but can literally never see myself picking it up again. (Maybe my reading tastes have changed since I last read it, or maybe it’s one of those stories I can only enjoy once.)
  • I haven’t read it and I’ve now lost all desire to do so.

Something I’ve learned this year thanks to quarantine is that while I do love the idea of having a personal library, I also love the idea of my bookshelves reflecting who I am as a person. I don’t want my bookshelves to only be full of unknowns, but to be full of the books and series I love most. That’s why, when I returned to my parents’ house in south Wales for lockdown, I spent a whole afternoon going through my bookshelves there and being ruthless so that my shelves held either books I love or books I’m excited to read.


Spending so much more time with my bookshelves, rather than with my kindle which usually accompanies me on my commute to work, has made me realise how much I’m missing out on by not reaching for the physical books on my TBR. Not only am I missing out on books that could be potential favourites, but I’m also missing out on chances to clear the space books are taking up on my shelves so I can replace them with books I love a lot more.

There are series I’ve read on my kindle, such as The Diviners, that I’ve loved and would one day love to buy hard copies for my shelves, but right now there’s no room for them because my shelves are mostly taken up with all of the other books I haven’t read yet.

I know for a fact I’m never going to be the kind of person who simply never buys new books: sometimes publishers can convince me to buy a hard copy of a book I might have bought on kindle just by making it beautiful (like The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, for example, which has lovely sprayed edges) and unfortunately I can’t rely on my library to have books that I would like to read because its SFF selection is very poor and inter-library loans cost £4 per book with no guarantee they’ll actually be able to get it for you (and no refund if they can’t).

Going forward, though, I would love to be the kind of reader who’s read the majority of the books on my bookshelves.

How do you feel about zero TBRs?

11 thoughts on “Do I want a zero TBR?

  1. Aayushi says:

    I think I am totally in for this idea! I am very picky with the physical books I buy, and even tend to buy physical copies after I’ve read the ebook because like you, I want my bookshelf to reflect my personality and not be a collection of random books. I still do have a collection of books I purchased as a teenager mindlessly and def have plans to unhaul them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gayathri Lakshminarayanan says:

    A while ago, I moved thrice in a year and had to lose a bunch of books and the rest is still stuck in my native. And I learnt it hard way that I can’t lug this large TBR around. And am so ready for this zero TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael J. Miller says:

    I can guarantee I’m going to continue to overthink this after I’ve commented BUT here’s where I’m at now. My gut is to say, “No, I love my shelves being full of things I’m waiting to read! It’s exciting to look at and see all the potential.” But when I think about it there is such a thrill of looking at a bookshelf and knowing I’ve read everything on it. It’s so much more fun, too, when someone points to a book to ask about it and I can actually say something as opposed to, “Well, I bought it when it was on sale buuuut I still haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.” So, while I’m not certain I’d like a “0” here, I would like the balance to tip a lot closer to “0” than it is right now!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thecorneroflaura says:

    I can never see myself with a zero TBR. I like having something I pick up immediately after finishing a book too much. While I have read about 5 out of 6 of the books on my shelves, the TBR pile has grown a lot during a recent reading slump. My book reading may have slowed down but my book buying certainly didn’t!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Emer @alittlehazebookblog says:

    Oh a zero tbr and me would not get along. 😅😅😅 My shelves are loaded with unread titles oops! I just love looking at my bookshelves and thinking of possibilities rather than what I’ve read! Yes I’ve got copies of most of my favs, but I’m the type of person who passes on or donates the books I’ve already read so I can have room for more new literary adventures 😊😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Angela says:

    I only have one shelf of unread books, so maybe 15 or so books? The rest are all books I’ve read and loved. I’m with you, I love the idea of my bookshelf reflecting me as a reader and things I love. I tend to feel bad about having too many unread physical books because I’ve probably spent money on them, and I’d like to make the purchase worth it by at least reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Marina_Books of Magic says:

    On one hand I agree with you, whilst talking about the physical TBR, and I should definitely start going through mine or I’ll run out of room to breathe and sleep xD On the other hand, talking about the imaginary TBR – the GoodReads one, I don’t see the deal with cutting it short (Many bloggers are making a huge deal out of it), because it’s basically a list of what I’d like to read some day, if I remove the books from it, I’ll forget they exist. xD And I don’t plan to stop being a reader any time soon. 😀 Great post Jess! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. evelynreads1 says:

    Currently I own 4unread physical books, so I guess that kinda counts as a ‘zero’ TBR. I like having a small amount of unread books, but for me 4 is a bit to little, since it barely gives you an option to what to red next! I think for around 10 is more ideal!
    I recently also went through my shelves, and removed some already read books, since I also want my shelves to reflect what I love to read!


    Liked by 1 person

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