How do you organize and prioritize your reading queue?
December 25, 2021 12:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm sure this is about as far from a unique problem as you can get, but I am curious to hear about your techniques for managing it. I perpetually have a bunch of different books I want to read, and a short attention span for what to read next. I try not to have more than one in progress at once, but I don't always succeed at that either.

I (mostly) read for pleasure, so it's not as if it's important that I maximize my efficiency or anything like that. If I change my mind about what to read, it's not really a big deal. I think the main problem I'm trying to solve is that I will frequently find myself thinking of some book I bought months/years/decades ago and haven't read yet, tell myself "I will read that one next!" and then forgetting by the time I am ready to start a new book.

It's not so much the old "Netflix queue" problem of having a bunch of aspirational stuff in there that I think I "should" read but am never in the mood for (though there is some of that). I think it really is about just doing a better job of remembering all the books I'd been planning to read, so I go pick one of those rather than buying something new as I so often do.

Yes, I could simply keep a piece of paper or a text file with a list on it, but I'm wondering if any of you smart people have other creative solutions that I can use to trick my brain into behaving.
posted by primethyme to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: StoryGraph! It has an “up next” feature in the “to read” list where I believe you can plan your next 5 reads
posted by CMcG at 12:53 PM on December 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If the books you want to read are mostly books you already own, how about keeping a "to read next" shelf somewhere you'll see it often? And train yourself that every time you have one of those thoughts, go get the book and put it on the shelf. For my ADHD brain which has lots of similar problems, keeping things in sight is the best way to remember them.
posted by mekily at 12:59 PM on December 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I use a (Mac and iOS app) called Book Track, not exactly as designed.

I tag things as I enter them by broad category (some of my reading is for pleasure: there I tag for genre: mystery, SFF, romance), some is background reading for writing projects, some is Pagan/witchy stuff I want to read, and I have a couple of tags for specific projects where I'd like to keep track of what the next thing in that category I want to read is. I also have a priority tag for things I want to read sooner than later for some reason (upcoming discussions, new adaptation, etc.)

I go through and mark 2-4 titles in each category as "reading" (rather than "to read") When I want to look for the next thing to read, I pull up the "reading" list and pick something from there. I don't always keep up with it as well as I'd like, but it's pretty quick to do a cleanup pass, and it means books don't fall completely off my radar.

Marking multiple things means I've got a range of stuff depending on mood, focus, etc. that works really well for me rather than "here are your next 5 choices" which is often too few when I'm in a particular mood.
posted by jenettsilver at 1:05 PM on December 25, 2021

Best answer: Yes, I'm going to try what mekily suggested. I actually just ordered a little tabletop bookshelf for next to my bed, and plan to put the books I hope to read next right there.
posted by Glinn at 1:06 PM on December 25, 2021

Best answer: I use the iOS app Reading List. I basically add everything I come across that may be interesting. You can “organize” the books into lists, which is similar to tags or shelves in other apps - books can be on more than one list. You can also add notes and subjects. You can search by text in the subject field, but not the notes field. So you could make one “list” for what you want to read next if you wanted to. I have various lists including several for the source i.e. where I heard or read about the book. I don’t tag for reading next but rather when I want to pick a book, I go to the app, pick something that looks interesting & fits my current mood, and then look in the library app. The combination of what looks interesting and what is available at the library is usually (though not always) the main determinant of what I read next.

But I agree that if you already own the books, putting them in a physical pile is the best approach.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 1:13 PM on December 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Not to threadsit, but I forgot to mention that have a mix of ebooks and physical books, so while I do like the idea of a physical spot, it doesn't solve the problem entirely.
posted by primethyme at 1:17 PM on December 25, 2021

Best answer: You could keep a little notepad with your physical books though, and write the ebooks on it!
posted by Glinn at 1:22 PM on December 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Almost all of my books are unread, and I sometimes just close my eyes and grab something at random to read. All physical books, though, so I don't have a solution that includes ebooks.
posted by goatdog at 1:52 PM on December 25, 2021

Best answer: I use Goodreads to keep track of my to-read list, and created a "what's next" shelf and any time I think, "Oh, I should read that soon!" I add it to that shelf. Then I check that after I finish whatever I'm currently reading. I end up having about 10-15 on it at any given time; since my overall TBR is over 2,000 books long, this is quite helpful.

I like it better than a piece of paper or text file because it shows the covers and my monkey brain likes the pretty colors and gets more excited about reading them.
posted by brook horse at 2:08 PM on December 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I read exclusively on my Kindle. If I think of something I want to read, I find it on my Kindle if I already have it, open it, and then go back to the book I'm reading. That puts it second on the Kindle screen and I'm more likely to read it when I'm done with the one I'm on. If it's not a book I have, then I check it out or put it on hold at my library.

I also keep a neglected list in Google Keep of all the books I want to read "someday."
posted by phunniemee at 2:14 PM on December 25, 2021

Best answer: My To-Be-Read queue takes up an entire shelf, but its contents are often ignored when something new (to me) grabs my attention. Or somebody gives me something to read. In other words, I guess I'm physically organized, but the prioritization is changing constantly.

Every couple of years I'll inspect everything in the queue, and shift anything no longer interesting to the Little Free Library down the street (because I've come to the grim realization that life's too short, and I won't be able to read everything).
posted by Rash at 3:19 PM on December 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I do read multiple books at a time, in part because I am in different moods at different times. And so it's nice to be in the middle of, say two library books, a book on my Kindle, a book I own, and when I finish that, decide whether to pick up something else or one of the ones I'm in the middle of. One advantage is that sometimes I don't make it back to a book at all and when I think about it, I realize that I didn't like the book enough to finish it. When I have one book, sometimes I just won't feel like reading for awhile before I'll have that same realization.

Anyways, generally if I want to read a book I'll either place a hold or put it on my "for later" list at the library (if the library has it), depending on how much time I have and ability to read books as they come in. I also have the problem of aspirational books. I put the books in most excited for on hold (so they come in as soon as possible). The books on my list I figure I'll want to read at some point and whenever I have lulls in my hold list I'll place holds from my list, of whatever looks best. And then there are the books that just stay on my list. And at some point, I take those off, because I didn't actually want to read them, apparently. (Sometimes I'll open up the catalogue page again to read the description, make sure before deleting.)

For books not at the library, I keep a text file with info about the book. For many, I'm merely waiting to place a hold or at least hopeful the library will get a copy, so I keep the file in chronological order. For others, it might be that I'm waiting to buy it in paperback, so I've just got a list of the titles and authors that's true for.

Anyways, once I have a book in my possession, I keep track of which ones I'm reading/want to read next in a physical stack for the physical books. I'll rearrange occasionally and put the less interesting ones back on the library shelf and keep the enthralling ones in a heap next to me in my favorite reading chair. I have the books I want to read in my Kobo or Kindle at the top/page 1, so that I see them next, as soon as I close the book I'm in, I see them. (It's harder to read more than one at a time here, but still nice, for the same reasons.)
posted by blueberry monster at 9:21 PM on December 25, 2021

Best answer: This year I did a challenge that was called Lost and Found. The first ten books are "Lost", which are the 10 oldest books on your TBR. You don't have to finish them but if you don't, you should remove them from your TBR. Next ten books are "Found", which is any that you've added in the six months before the date you finish the first list. Then there is a third step where you read 3 more Lost books or from the same author of one of your Lost books, 3 more Found books (or same author) and 4 more in either category. It helps you be decisive about the books that have lingered on your list for so long.

I think any way you can break up your TBR into smaller chunks and take turns with them will help. Do you track your reading, in an app or paper list? If you can include the type or other TBR division you can see which ones you are neglecting. I don't see an issue with keeping up to 3 books in rotation at a time, but try to keep them different enough so you can keep the plotlines apart in your head.
posted by soelo at 9:48 PM on December 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Goodreads has a "Want to Read" tag. All books that are not already on your Goodreads shelf have the "Want to Read" button visible under the picture of the book cover. It's easy to add the books to the list and to access it.

I rename the books on my ebook reader so they have numbers in the title: 1 for the next book I want to read, 2 for the one after that, etc. I could add comments with the reading order to the books in my Goodreads shelf I guess.

I can never read more than 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction book at the same time - I mix up all the plotlines and the details if it's more than that.
posted by gakiko at 2:33 AM on December 26, 2021

Best answer: I send myself emails with the title of books I've been recommended and the tag "toread" in the subject line. Whenever I need a new book to read, I search through my email for that tag.
posted by matkline at 7:16 AM on December 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all. Great ideas!
posted by primethyme at 8:07 AM on December 26, 2021

I had this exact same problem, and I decided to try solving it earlier this year. What's been working for me is what brook horse mentioned, using a "what's next?" shelf on Good Reads that I try to keep under 20 titles. I use the "Want to Read" button on Good Reads for anything that sounds interesting to me - my TBR queue, but it's hundreds of books long

I was hoping something like Libib would give me an android app that's a more focused version of Good Reads, available offline, for this purpose, but it doesn't work offline.

The Story Graph looks really intriguing so I'll try it out. Thanks for the recommendation, CMcG!
posted by jacquilinala at 9:21 AM on December 26, 2021

I use an Amazon 'gift' list I call "library".

When I run out of loaned books (digital plus physical) I check the library list and add a bunch of holds to each of the methods (ebook, audiobook, physical book from library) I read.

My holds list is my to-read-next list (at 2 libraries) and I try to keep a nonfiction and sci-fi going at the same time, with an ebook and audiobook +/- physical book. Occassionally I sub a non-SF fiction for either if it was recced very very strongly.

I've also taken a challenge from a friend and am only reading women, BIPOC, and lgbtq authors. I keep expecting to "run out" of SF but I haven't - I'd recommend the same challenge to you, you may be as surprised as I have been!
posted by esoteric things at 6:36 PM on December 28, 2021

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