Recently Book Riot brought to light the many possible definitions of TBR — the To Be Read list. While some people consider their TBR to be only comprised of actual physical books (such as the books on their nightstand or titles they own but haven’t read yet), others use TBR to refer to literal lists — whether recorded by hand, by keyboard or via social media. To be honest, as someone who is well familiar with TBR as an acronym, I’m a bit chagrined to admit that I’ve never before considered the many possible competing definitions.
My own TBR is a rather multi-headed beast comprised mainly of:
1) The books on my shelves (and stored overseas) which I own but have yet to read — these are mostly titles I feel will merit lots of underlining and/or re-visiting.
2) A long “to read” list maintained on a social media site — this is where I immediately add books I encounter via on-line review or other noteworthy internet mention. Without this list many of the more obscure titles I hear about would likely fall back off my radar.
3) The vaguest section of my TBR — composed of the sense that there are books out there that I really should eventually, sometime, get to — e.g. sci-fi and fantasy classics I may not yet even be aware of, or fiction works by authors who I currently only know for their essay collections.
When I use the term TBR I am referring to any or all of these ideas collectively. I find that doing so is a good way of acknowledging the value of a title amongst bookish peers without having to specify how close I am to actually reading it (“Yup, that one’s on my TBR”). The lack of distinction doesn’t bother me because, given how much my next choice of read is driven by whim (when its not driven by the book jar), I’m just as likely to pick up something from my home shelves as I am to hunt down one of the elusive titles from the third grouping. For me, the TBR is both a real thing and a thing of fantasy – existing simultaneously as concrete items and abstract ones. In both cases, however, it equally represents a reader’s great hope: that there will somehow, someday, be time enough to get to them all.