Columns > Published on January 7th, 2020

I'll Never Read All the Books On My TBR — and That's A Good Thing!

There are more than 1,000 books in my want-to-read shelf on GoodReads.

I know this, because every time I add a book to that shelf (which I do multiple times a day, it seems), that number flashes before my eyes, rising just a little bit.

One drop into the ocean of my TBR; another, another, and you’d think I was drowning.

By some counts, I am — out of the more than 1,000 books on that shelf, last year I read merely 23. There’s not a chance in this life or the next that I’ll manage to read all the books in my TBR pile. Heck, if I stopped buying books today and quit my job and did nothing but read all day, it would take me a good half-a-year to consume everything on my physical shelves. Possibly longer.

I’m drowning in books I want to read. I’m overwhelmed by stories I want to consume. I’ll never see the bottom of the pile, never clear the shelf, and you know what?

That’s pretty great.

I’m excited about that! I’m energized by the fact that I have a goal that I’ll never meet.

I’m energized by the fact that I have a goal that I’ll never meet.

See, I live with pretty severe depression, and it’s hard for me to find reasons to be excited about life. I’m also very competitive, especially with myself. And having goals I’m working toward, things I want to accomplish? It gives me fuel. It helps me look to the future.

It’s really easy to get bogged down in depression and forget that there’s a bigger picture; forget that there’s more than the pain of the moment, the despair of a specific instant.

Taking a step back and looking at all the things I want to accomplish — including reading 1,000 books and counting — it encourages me.
In the darkest moments, I can log onto GoodReads, find my want-to-read shelf, and scour through the synopses of the books I haven’t had the pleasure of discovering yet. I can remember that Oh yeah! There is something exciting to look forward to!

I honestly can’t even count the number of times I’ve used my TBR pile to trudge forward through another day.

On a less personally apocalyptic note, because I know not everyone has a mental illness and not everyone needs the motivation to stay alive, I find that the joy of reading and continuing to read gives me momentum to make it through mundane, obnoxious tasks — momentum to make it through the sludge that is “adulting.”

If there weren’t a constant-growing stack of books I wanted to read, there would exist the possibility that someday I would read it all. That someday, there would be no more fictional worlds to discover and romp through; no more incisive take-downs of today’s society to devour; no more escapist fictions to save me from the bleakness that is today’s society.

I’m sitting in my bed right now, looking up at the books on my shelf, the books on my TBR pile. I see Ninth House, and I think about how Leigh Bardugo’s YA Grishaverse series has brought me joy in dark times. I see Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro, which he signed and personalized, and think about how impactful that book is going to be and how excited I am to read it. I see an Advance Review Copy of Where Dreams Descend, Janella Angeles’ debut, which I know very little about except the cover gives me Phantom of the Opera vibes and I think there’s a circus and I can’t wait to read it and find out.

From where I’m sitting, I can see some books I finished recently, everything from On the Come Up, Angie Thomas’ powerful sophomore novel which proved she’s just as talented as we all knew after The Hate U Give’s release; to my massive copy of Kingdom of Copper, the second book in S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy and the first book to make me realize just what exactly “world-building” means.

Books have been a part of my lifeblood since I was a young girl, and I hope they’ll stay with me as long as I live. Instead of being saddened by the knowledge that I won’t ever get to all the ones I want, I take encouragement from that fact — it pushes me to keep reading, empowers me to fight through the darkness, and reminds me there’s something to look forward to in the midst of adult drudgery.

About the author

Karis Rogerson is a mid-20s aspiring author who lives in Brooklyn and works at a cafe—so totally that person they warn you about when you declare your English major. In addition to embracing the cliched nature of her life, she spends her days reading, binge-watching cop shows (Olivia Benson is her favorite character) and fangirling about all things literary, New York and selfie-related. You can find her other writing on her website and maybe someday you’ll be able to buy her novels.

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