Choosing & Organizing My TBR Piles

posted in: blogger | 14

Since mentioning in my Wednesday with Words posts that I’ve started (again) deliberately choosing my current reads by category, I’ve had a lot of questions about it. So, I thought I’d break it all down and answer the questions in one place that I can easily refer to.

Also, I added two categories, so this is already an update to my previous comments in posts.

Multiple Streams of Reading

Brandy started it all, of course. My reading for the last year or so has been spotty and haphazard and I’d been wanting to get more intentional and deliberate about it. So when I saw Brandy’s post, I realized it was time to revive my practice of “multiple streams of reading.”

If all my reading is left to whim, then I tend to overload and binge in a certain type or simply flounder and read online instead of choosing a book.

But when I have a list of books I’m currently reading, then I am more likely to pick one of them up instead of opening a Pinterest tab.

And when I can have only one book in one category going at a time, then I have to actually finish one before starting in on another. This reduces my tendency toward book ADD.

what-to-read

Organizing My TBR Pile

I keep the books I’m currently reading in a bag so they’re easy to move around, easy to put away, and convenient to grab if I’m going out (because books are my security blanket).

I got the bag at Craft Warehouse. It’s the perfect size and structure for a book bag.

In it I also keep a pen, a mechanical pencil, Post-It flags, and Post-It notes. And, of course, my Commonplace Notebook which is simply a 17-cent spiral college-ruled notebook.

Currently Reading Categories

So, here are my categories and what they mean for me.

Theology

This is any God-related title, regardless of subtopic. I like myself some heady stuff now and again and I also love Puritan writers.

Science

This is my “I will improve” category. I am not a natural science person, but I am trying to broaden my interests out of my own narrow little holes. The world is a fascinating place, and so I need to open my eyes a bit more. This year I’ll be focusing on Chemistry and periodic table titles because that’s what we’re studying in elementary lessons.

Humanities

I was very tempted to break this category out into three or more categories (like ‘education,’ ‘history,’ ‘culture,’ etc.). But because this category includes the topics I would normally binge on, I need to restrict this category and finish one before I start another. A book falls under humanities if it is non-fiction and about humans: education, history, culture, sociology, literary studies, and memoirs.

Vocation

This is my new category. I decided I did need a way to break humanities out after all. I need a way to include both a broadening humanities category and also have the option of keeping a book on one of my vocations going: homemaker, homeschooling, writing, productivity, etc. This category will tend toward including more practical titles, while Humanities will hold the more theoretical books.

Fiction

Whether it is classic literature or a current novel, I think it’s healthy to read quality fiction. Well-written novels give us insight into people and cultures and society in ways that non-fiction simply can’t. Reading novels is a way not only to learn sympathy (something I’m weak on), but even insight into yourself and your own motivations and affections.

Whim

This category might not always be filled, but I wanted a way to allow a random library book into the stack without trying to decide which category it fit into. It might also contain an audiobook if I have a paperback going in the same category. One of the things I appreciated the most from Alan Jacob’s Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction was the encouragement to not resist reading at whim, and to always make room for it even while pursuing a reading plan. So, I am.

Devotional

My other new category. Doug Wilson has shared his reading pattern, and one thing he does that I hadn’t thought of before was to have a certain stack of his favorite authors just cycles through rereading them. So, to my morning devotion reading time, I made a list of my top books that have been helpful to me in daily life and I will read just a short bit every day to help me keep my perspective and focus where it needs to be.

After another pass through, this list might change by addition or I might decide to rotate different books by the same authors, but right now it’s Holiness by J.C. Ryle, Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic, Joy at the End of a Tether by Doug Wilson, Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot.

When Do I Read?

Yes, it’s what people want to know, because yes, it is hard. I do often wish I did less so I could read more. Right now, that’s not an option for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in some other season and it doesn’t mean I can’t read at all now.

So, the devotional category is read for 5-10 minutes during my morning devotions, which honestly does not happen every morning, but I’m trying to make it more regular. I’m sleeping through the night most nights now, so it’s a lot easier than it used to be. Right now I’m walking most mornings and I’m using the audio Bible during that time – listen to the Bible one direction then turn around and pray on the way back. I’m nervous about the turn toward dark, cold mornings, though; I don’t know how long this will last.

I have a childhood family habit of reading while I eat breakfast or lunch. Too often this has become reading online instead of in a book. I’m moving back toward books during this time, but sometimes this time is too crazy to lose myself in a book and sometimes my lunch and my husband’s lunch break coincide and then I chat with him instead.

During quiet time a couple times a week I make myself close the laptop and pick up the book I’m procrastinating – the book I’d least like to finish – and make some progress in it.

One of my books is always an audio book, and so I’ll get in a few minutes of it several times a week while folding laundry or cooking dinner. But not every day.

My husband likes to read in bed, and I tried that but I’m usually too tired and simply fall asleep. Sometimes I do read before bed, though.

Most of my reading lately has been on Sundays. I don’t do things on the computer on Sundays, so more leisurely reading is an option. Also, when we were sick I read a lot more. The leisurely pace of Sundays and sick days (especially when a day is both a Sunday and a sick day) opens up the time and space for reading, and are to be seized.

So, most of my times are little moments, irregular though attempting to become more regular.

It still adds up and it’s still worth it to be purposeful about it.

14 Responses

  1. afterthoughtsbv
    |

    This is so great! I’m totally sharing it in my post tomorrow! :)

  2. kortney
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    much like Wilson did for you, Alan Jacobs gave me permission to re-read. i love tracing how books change over time, how books have changed me over time.

  3. Flora
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    Thanks so much for delineating this!

  4. Kelly Cook
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    What does TBR stand for?

  5. onefryshort
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    Love the post. I feel like I have so little time to read and there are so many books I would like too read. Well thats not exactly true, we use amblesideonline so I do get to read a lot of books to the kiddos during the day, but then I have no time left to read the books I want to read. I have been reading a lot on Sundays and also use booksshouldbefree in the car for audio books whenever we drive.

  6. Karen @ Simply
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    This is a great post! I like the bag idea. I keep at least one or two books next to the end of the couch I sit on. I also have a drawer where I keep books I’m currently reading. I am finding that I might benefit from a designated reading time for myself each day. Right now, I’m trying to set aside at least 30 minutes each night after everyone goes to bed. It’s quiet then. :)

  7. Mystie Winckler
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    Yes, quiet definitely does help!

    onefryshort: Don’t discount your Ambleside reading. That definitely counts. :)

  8. Dawn Duran
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    This is great, Mystie. I really enjoy learning about how others manage their reading lists. Thanks for sharing.

    • Dawn Duran
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      I’m testing this, Mystie. Please forgive me:).

  9. Gina
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    I go through reading phases…sometimes I’m always reading (and always more than one book) and other times, like now, I’m lucky to read 10 pages in a week!

  10. prairiegirl50
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    Due to Brandy’s post on Mother Culture, I have been doing the category reading as well. I am enjoying the reading the various books at the same time. It helps my reading ADD because I read as much as I can handle then I can hop on over to another book. :) Right now, though, with the onset of the new school year, harvest and fall activities, I am not getting much reading done at all. I am looking forward to winter and the slowing down of life so I can get back to my books!

  11. Amber
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    I love organizing my reading by category – I’ve been doing it since March and it has been an excellent practice. I find that I get more out of the books as I slow down with them and allow them to interact in my mind. I have however had to pare back my categories now that I’m using Ambleside with all three kids and keeping up with all their reading as well. But I’m finding Y7 quite satisfying for myself too, (yay, Churchill!) so that helps make up for the categories I’ve had to drop from my own reading. Right now I’m down to devotional, vocational, and poetic. It is a good mix for me and gives me just a little extra to chew on after reading all the Ambleside books.

  12. […] You can read about my book categories here. […]