Doing the 2020 Unread Shelf Challenge

Photo by Jonathan Borba (Canva)
The difficulty with being a person who loves books is that you end up with a lot of them.

As physical objects, they take up a lot of space.

Sometimes, the unread ones stare at me, accusingly. They say things like 'Why haven't you read me yet?' and 'You're not really as big a bookworm as you like to think you are-- you're just a person who likes the idea of owning a lot of books.'

So for the second year in a row, I have committed to doing the Unread Shelf Challenge, an annual commitment to prioritising reading books I already own, and making space in both my apartment and my brain.

The challenge is run by Whitney, a Kansas based booklover whom I first came across on the fabulous What Should I Read Next podcast. She provides you with regular emails cheering you on in your journey to get that Unread number down, as well as challenges such as instigating a 'No Buy, No Borrow' month in January-- which I almost managed to stick to. Let's just say when you've been in a library holds queue for a while and your book finally arrives, it's a bit hard to say 'no thanks'.

I'm finding doing the challenge really satisfying, and I'm learning a few things about myself as a reader, such as the fact that the books I really enjoy reading aren't necessarily the weighty, literary ones that everyone says I should like, that there's nothing wrong with reading a hundred historical romances in a row, and that I really should be finding out if I like an author before buying all their books and storing them in piles.

So here are a few guidelines and tips to help me (and you, if you're joining me) in my quest for a more enjoyable and less cluttered reading life:

  • If you don't like it by page 50, let it go.
  • There is no shame in unhauling a book that you haven't read if you don't remember why you bought it or if it no longer appeals to you
  • You need to count your unread books (but you don't necessarily need to tell anyone what your number is.)
  • If you love an author, read what you have of theirs before you run out and buy something new that's just come out. 
  • Treat your home books like library books-- make a pile that you could reasonably read in a month and if there are any left at the end of that period, sit down and assess why you didn't get to them and if you really still want to keep them. (Have you ever put off a book for ages, saving it for a rainy day because it's supposed to be sooooo goood? Sometimes setting aside a day to read the first few pages of each can save a lot of disappointment in the future!)
And of course, the quintessential tip to help you conquer your TBR--- always carry a book with you!