Discussion: How Do You Choose the Books on Your TBR?

We book lovers always complain about our never-ending TBRs (to-be-reads) that we’ll probably never cut down to a sizable amount. I’ve always considered myself to be pickier than most when choosing what books I want to add on Goodreads, download an ebook of, purchase for myself, or add to my TBR. But if I were to estimate, my entire TBR—virtual and physical—would be around 150 books give or take.

For me, that is not at all a manageable amount, considering I’m not one of those wizards who read 10+ books a month (seriously what are ya’ll on), and because I, like many other readers, regularly add books to my TBR.

That got me thinking about why I even add books to my TBR. I narrowed it down to two things, and I’m gonna mention them here, but in this post, I also wanted to mention other reasons why readers would potentially add a book to their TBRs. I think this post could be a really fun discussion about what makes us decide that we want to read a book!

By the way, and I’m 99.9% sure that you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been posting very consistently lately. This is intentional because I need to focus on school more :// But today’s a Friday, and I’m finally allowing myself to write a blog post!

My Personal Reasons

The main thing that makes me automatically add a book to my TBR is good reviews. I add books to my TBR primarily because I expect that each one of them has the potential to be a 3-5 star read. The more good reviews and praise a book has, the more likely I am to want to read it.

Even though hyped books can be a letdown, I find that most are hyped for a reason. I mean, one of my favorite books of all time is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Even though that book is the definition of hyped, it’s just so *chef’s kiss* good.

The second, albeit smaller reason, that I add a book to my TBR is the hype, aka my FOMO (fear of missing out). You could argue that good reviews = hype, which is correct, but I’m mentioning hype as separate from good reviews, because hype constitutes a lot of people talking about the same book or series, and I really hate it when I have no idea what’s happening whilst people talk and gush about the same book. It’s like not being in on a joke.

Image result for part of your world ariel gif
literally me when someone talks about The Shadowhunter Chronicles, which I haven’t finished yet

I think my TBR is smaller than normal because these are the only two main reasons why I add books to my TBR. There are instances wherein these two reasons clash because a book that everyone’s talking about’s reviews may not interest me. If that happens, I probably won’t add the book to my TBR anymore. Sometimes I also add a book to my TBR even if no one talks about it because I really think I’ll like it.

Lol, does my process make sense? I just spent a couple hundred words trying to explain it, but it probably doesn’t.

BONUS REASON: This reason is kind of a cheat because I think it applies to everyone, and the point of this discussion is to list reasons that not everyone will agree with, but I also add a book to my TBR if it’s a sequel to a series wherein I read and loved the previous book/s. Even though I’m really bad at continuing series, I have a bunch of sequels on my TBR because I can’t wait to see how the story will continue and where the characters will end up!

Other Potential Reasons Why Readers Add a Book to their TBRs

Let’s get the most obvious reason out of the way: the synopsis, which is a brief description of a book. A good synopsis makes us want to read a book because of what it promises, or because of what it leaves out.

Another reason to add a book to your TBR is the author. If you enjoyed a book by an author, the probability that you’ll enjoy another work of theirs is high. Maybe you enjoyed the writer’s style so much that you couldn’t resist picking up another book by them. I think that a lot of people did this when they read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and then proceeded to read her backlist along with Daisy Jones and the Six.

Readers also add a book to their TBR based on its genre. My favorite genre is fantasy, and I’m more likely to add a book to my TBR if it’s fantasy (as long as the reviews entice me). A genre is a favorite for a reason. Personally, I like fantasy because I like fantastical worldbuilding and magic systems, but a lot of people read contemporary because it provides more relatability.

Speaking of relatability, another reason to add a book to your TBR is the diverse representation it offers. Though I’ve personally never seen myself in a book, a lot of people have. And that’s because diverse books, especially the ones that are own voices for the representation, allow people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, neurodiverse people, etc., to experience catharsis through reading. It shows us that we’re allowed to take up space in the stories we consume, and that we’re not destined to simply be supporting characters in the story of an able-bodied cishet white man.

Image result for i freaking love diversity gif

On a more shallow note—and I know that I’m gonna be calling a lot of you out—readers sometimes add a book to their TBRs purely because it has a beautiful cover. Look, we’re all a little vain inside, and before we see the author or synopsis of a book, we see its cover. And if it’s a good one, we’re captivated and immediately want to read/buy the book—no questions asked.

Image result for it's pretty gif

Lastly, we could decide to add a book to our TBR because of the tropes it offers. I think we have favorite tropes because they bring a beloved theme, plot conflict, character dynamic, or something else we adore, into a story. Take the fan favorite enemies-to-lovers trope—I love it because of the tension, angst and banter it provides.

Writing this post made me realize that all of the reasons for us to add a book to our TBRs intersect in some way. There are so many reasons to want to read a book, and that’s exactly why I’ll die without having read nearly all of the books I want to read.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Is there a reason I missed? Do you agree with anything I wrote?


48 thoughts on “Discussion: How Do You Choose the Books on Your TBR?

  1. Wonderful list Caitlin… I think I agree with everything you said 😊😊😊 and FOMO is one of my main reasons too, though I’m trying not to let it drive my reading choices these days…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you so much, Sahi!! i have a love hate relationship with FOMO, because on one hand, it has driven me to read a lot of good books, and it makes me feel really validated about reading the books that everyone’s talking about, i also think that it shouldn’t be a main factor in making me read books because what if i’m reading books to be in on the hype and not because i actually want to read them, you know
      Good luck on not letting FOMO overtake your reading choices!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am also :// because I need to be focusing on school, but I’m also :)) since I saw this post pop up on my Twitter feed (AND NOW IM READING IT)

    I definitely agree and relate to so many of the reasons that you’ve mentioned, and I think most recently I find myself adding books to my TBR because a lot of my friends love it (and are hyping it up) and I’ve also been auto-adding a lot of new Asian authors who have upcoming releases BECAUSE WE CANT HELP BUT SUPPORT(!!) I also tend be a little vain at times and add books due to their cute covers and especially a cute sounding plot 😎💛

    The FOMO reason is ESPECIALLY real though, and I think I ended up reading a lot of books in recent years because of it specifically. So many people read it, and you feel like you’re missing out because you don’t understand?? Still, like you said, I’ve managed to find AMAZING reads because of it so there aren’t many regrets!

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    1. AHH, TIFFANY I LOVE YOU 😭💕💕 good luck with school though!! You got this!

      I’m so glad you agree! Ahah, friends hyping books up is a big reason why I read books. I really want to gush about books with them, you know? OHHH, I FEEL THE ASIAN BIT. there are just so many good Asian books coming out in 2020—I’m dying to read them!! Omg a cute sounding plot would be the perfect comfort read, especially after reading a lot of darker books!

      ahhh, you summed it up so perfectly!! I hate FOMO because it sometimes pressures me too much, but the fact that I’ve read amazing things because of it makes it worth it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think covers are so important. I don’t think I’ve added any books to my TBR purely because of its cover but its definitely brought several to my attention, pushing me to read the blurb and then add them to my TBR. Hypes a major factor too although im always in two minds about getting on with hyped books – I want to because they’re everywhere but I worry about being the one person not to love the book in question /:

        Liked by 1 person

      2. personally, I don’t really see myself as the type to read a book JUST because of the cover, but it sure does help. actually, a new release has recently been getting lots of rave reviews, but I’m still so put off about reading it because I just find the cover so hideous :”)

        I always seem to be that person haha! I think it’s just a matter of knowing what I’ll like. I also try reallyyy hard to tamp down expectations, and remind myself that even if I don’t love the book as much, it’s ok to have differing opinions!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Is it one that you like the sound of? If so I hope you find some way that you can manage to read it. Maybe you could get a library copy out and just temporarily cover it in paper or something? That was just a random idea that popped into my head but actually, thinking about it, I have seen some people on Instagram create their own covers and they look absolutely stunning. I have no idea how they do it though.

        Yes that’s true. I’ll try to remind myself of that when I get around to picking up one of the hyped books on my TBR. Although I honestly do hope I enjoy them as they’re so widely loved :L

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of good reasons listed in the post. I try to consistently vary my books based on genre. But once I know I’m looking for ‘sci fi’ then I definitely start looking at the description, cover, and other reviews (when available). The title is the only one that doesn’t typically influence me, although shorter book titles are easier to work with when using them in blog titles, or other social media places, like instagram.

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    1. thanks! ohh, varying the genres I read is something I should really work on. I read a lot of fantasy and contemporary, mostly YA, and I always feel like I’m limited because of that. I know that there are so many books outside those genres and age groups that I’ll love!

      thanks so much for sharing your process—it was so interesting! shorter book titles are easier to work with. i once came across a book title twelve words long, and the first thought that came into my mind was that it probably wasn’t good for the book’s publicity HAHA


  4. These are all so true for me as well!
    I tend to add books to my tbr if I really like the hype, have it on a library hold or even just want to read it somepoint in the (most likely far away) future. I recenty cleared about 300 books from my tbr and added the ones I could remember since my theory was that if I remembered, then I want to read it.

    Good luck with school!
    – Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so glad that you agree, Emma!
      that’s such a good process! I cleaned out my tbr a little recently too, and it was so stress relieving! Personally, my condition was that I think that I’ll actually like the book, because sometimes I add a book I know I won’t really like purely because of the hype

      thank you so much! I really need it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. 100% relate to you on the school front, it definitely sucks that I can’t dedicate as much time to my blog anymore ://
    Loved this post Caitlin! Personally I tend to add books mainly because of the hype!! I have such a huge backlist so for me, 99% of the time the books I add are old ones or new releases I see reviewed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ugh, why does school exist honestly. blogging is so fun, and I’m very devastated that the good old summer days when I could dedicate all my time to it are over

      thank you!! ahhh, I’m so bad at reading backlist books. the fomo plays in, because new releases are the books being talked about the most, so I tend to gravitate to them more than I do backlist books. But every book on my TBR has received a good review from at least one person!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I mean, all of these are accurate, I use them all haha. That said, I have a short-ish tbr (below 300 books on Goodreads). For me it ultimately comes down to the synopsis and to good reviews + I tend to check the average rating – I did a two post series on my blog trying to get out my habit of paying too much attention to the average rating, but… it is HARD still. If it’s not the hype, or good reviews I see first I’ll most likely check out books because of their cover and the tropes if I see people mention them on twitter. After that I go to check the synopsis and the reviews – either, or most likely both are essential for me to add a book to my tbr. I’m a bit picky, I guess. Anyway, loved this post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m super happy that you found them accurate! the average rating is such a good way to deduce whether I actually want to read a book or not! I should really check it out more often. but I get that focusing on it too much can get hard—I hope you find the balance!

      Thanks so much for sharing your process! It was so interesting to read about❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with all of these. Honestly for me the main reason I pick up a book is based on reviews.

    If I see a glowing review, I’m 99.9% going to add it to my TBR🤣 of course I have to love the synopsis as well, but I’m not super picky so normally I do!

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  8. ew we dont like school bc we dont like less caitlin content 😭😭 but seriously i hope youre managing everything well. this is such an interesting discussion post. honestly, i haven’t thought much about what MAKES me pick up a book aside from like,,,,hype and pretty covers (looks like im shallow, gasp)

    but youre so thoughtful and well spoken ugh the skill, i could never. I FEEL you so much on not getting shadowhunter references. i read a recap of all the books bc there NO WAY i could read through all of them (and i wanted to read the dark artifices) but i still have no idea what anyone is saying oops

    authors whose books i loved before are DEFINITELY a big reason why i add books onto my tbr. another reason i pick up books is if an author or reviewer i trust gave a book HIGH praise, it makes me really interested in picking it up. and ofc when my friends force me to read books with them (or to read their favourites)

    this is such a great post, i literally love reading your discussion posts, highlight of my week 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. your comments are the highlight of my week 😭😭 thank you so much May 💕💕

      Ahh, I’d expect that everyone was keen on having less caitlin content, but you’re actually sad about it?? ADKDFJFD ILY.

      lol, picking books up because of pretty covers is so valid. publishers just really know what they’re doing. personally, if I’m not interested in another author’s other works, either because of the reviews or premise, I won’t pick their other books up :// Idk why I’m like this, but it’s so interesting that that’s a big factor that you take into consideration since no one else in this comment section mentioned the author has a big factor :00

      OMG YES. like why did cassie clare want to torture us by writing so many books set in a single universe!! like I’m sure a lot of them are great, but why do i was to slog through 393949 books before I can fully appreciate them. and I could just read the books I’m interested in without rereading the other ones, but I really want the full experience. i just.. really want to know what people are talking about when they talk about TSC, especially TDA


  9. Ahh this is such a great post! I tend to add books to my TBR because of the hype for sure, even if I’m trying to be more careful with it all and to add it when it’s hyped AND I’m actually interested in it, as well 😂
    Genre plays a huge role in my TBR-additions, I love contemporary so, so much and tend to add a lot more contemporary reads than other kind of reads. I also always adore it when there are promises of some tropes I love, especially the childhood friends one, or when it has strong siblings relationships because I LIVE for that.
    I think the biggest influence that makes my TBR grow, though, isn’t even the hype, genre or cover or all of that, it’s… well, you and all of the other fantastic blogging friends I’ve made, recommending all the incredible books… .I have to add them to my TBR, then, haha.
    Wonderful post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you so much 💜 i’m trying to be more careful about that too! It’s a slow process, but recently I’ve been unhauling books that I just know in my gut won’t be worth my time even though I’ve heard good things.
      ahh, I should really reach for more contemporaries, especially ones with those tropes because you recommend so many good ones! I’m just the opposite and always reach for fantasy :”)
      AHH, SAME. I’m so lucky that I follow mostly YA book blogs, so recommendations usually overlap or else my TBR would be *overflowing*

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is such an insightful post, Caitlin, I really agree with all of the points you made here!💖

    I’d have to agree with you that the biggest reason I’ll add a book to my TBR is by reading positive reviews about it. If a blogger has a similar reading taste to me, chances are high that I’ll enjoy the book! Then once I go to the Goodreads page for the book, I’ll usually look through some of the top reviews and decide if the book looks like I’ll find it interesting.

    YES, I’m so with you on also having the synopsis and genre influence my decision! For me, those are more of secondary factors that I’ll take a look at after I initially visit the Goodreads page for the book. Then I’ll decide if I genuinely find the synopsis intriguing and if I think I’ll enjoy it based on the genre- let’s be honest, for me, I’m more likely to read it if it’s contemporary, haha.

    Wow, I never realized I had so much of a system until I read this post?? This was brilliant, thank you for this post, Caitlin!!😇

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad that you agree!! Positive reviews and recommendations do so much for me! But if the synopsis doesn’t intrigue me enough, I probably won’t pick the book up. I’m so sad about this, but I’mm wayy pickier about contemporary books because I’m a fantasy lover at heart! I’ve been eyeing Emma Mills’s books for a while now though, and I should really read one of them! There are also a lot of contemporary books on my TBR that I haven’t reached for yet because I always gravitate towards fantasy :”) But I think that it’s time I burst out of my fantasy bubble!

      awww, I’m so glad that my post helped you realize this!! :””) Thank you so much ❤❤❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is such a cute post! I love it, Caitlin! ❤ I honestly agree with basically everything you said! The main reason that I choose books is that I *think* they will be a 3-5 star read (or at least I hope and pray to Lady Luck that they will be lol). The synopsis, tropes, and a gorgeous cover also help me reinforce the decision! 🙂

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  12. Sending you best wishes with school!! 💛💛
    This is really interesting discussion, when I was younger and didn’t know about the active book community on social media (it was a dark time) I used the website fantasticfiction.com where you could look at all the authors books (I didn’t even know about goodreads) and it came up with similar books if you clicked on one so I got my recommendations from that really as I checked out the synopsis to see if I would like it!!
    But now I use reviews and hype (and book covers if I am being honest)!! At lot of the time it will be if I hear it has tropes that I like or if I see a quote that I love I will pick the book up (I have done this many times ahha)!!
    This is a great discussion and I definitely relate to your reasons (I absolutely love the Ariel gif)!! 💛


    1. Thank you—I really need it, honestly.
      Ahhh, that’s so interesting! Honestly, I wonder what books I would read if I had no knowledge of social media and picked books up purely because of the synopsis or cover!
      Ahh, quotes are such a good way to draw someone in!
      THANK YOUUU. and I’m literally Ariel when someones talks about TSC haha

      Liked by 1 person

    1. haha same!! I consume soo many book blogs and also booktube videos on youtube so it’s a problem :”) I do follow mostly YA book blogs, so the recommendations I do get are kinda similar. That being said, that means that I don’t really get to branch out as much as I’d like to :/


  13. i don’t know exactly how i choose books to be in my TBR, but i do agree with positive reviews and sometimes hype, though i also have to be interested in the story, otherwise not even a crazy amount of hype can convince me.
    recently, author has been the main thing for adding new books to my tbr. since i re-started reading more this year, i found out so many amazing authors, such as katie henry and gloria chao, and i’ve already added their most recent titles to my TBR. i also have some old favorites that i know i’ll read whatever they put out.
    diverse representation is also an important factor for me. i’ve been trying to read more & more diversely and i’ll add books to my TBR simply because they offer a rep i haven’t read about yet, such as non-binary protagonists or disabled characters. i think in cases like this, rating and reviews matter even more, because i want to make sure i’m supporting a book that has great rep, and i wouldn’t be able to judge.
    great post, caitlin!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lmao I’m so susceptible to hype because it can convince me to read almost any book. But I think that even if a book is really hyped, if it’s genre isn’t something im interested in, I still won’t pick it up.
      I’ve never read anything by gloria chao but I really want to! And Katie Henry’s name sounds so familiar but I just can’t place it 😅
      Oh, same! Reading diversely is more fun, and it also supports marginalized authors, which is a win win. I’m really proud of the fact that most of the books on my TBR are diverse in some way! But you’re right that we should always check the own voices reviews first.
      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I currently have *checks Goodreads*… 282 books on my TBR shelf! Yikes. I really loved this discussion and I agree 100% that some of our reasons end up kind of intersecting or intertwining. I’m big on adding books to my TBR because of the genre or synopsis. I usually wait a little while with super hyped books to see how everyone is feeling about it a few months afterward (hence why I JUST read RW&RB). Although I am suchhhh a sucker for beautiful covers, I never ever add a book to my TBR or buy it just for the cover! One thing I’m certainly guilty of is adding an authors backlist (or future releases) after loving one of their books. I also really like reading for diversity! I’ve read much more diverse books in the past few years than I got a chance to read as preteen/teenager and it has made such a difference in the types of books I enjoy!

    This was a really awesome post Caitlin! I love your discussions!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can do it, Brittany—I believe in you! Ahh I’m so glad! I think that it’s way smarter to add books just because of the synopsis or genre. Honesty, hype isn’t that good a measure for how much you’ll enjoy a book, but I always use it anyway 😂 ohh, I never heard that take in reading hyped books late! I’m always late to the hype train, but I really want to change that because I feel like once I read something, everyone’s already done talking about it. But sometimes I do wait if I feel like the hype is gonna affect my expectations too much.

      Oh same! I never add it or buy it solely for the cover, but it does help a lot. I have refused to read books just because I hate the cover though 😂 I used to not even know what diversity was, but when I started doing it more and more, I fell in love with it and it’s truly made reading more fun!

      Thank you so much! I really love yours too 💚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would have sooo many more books on my already crowded TBR if I added to it for other reasons 😅 I feel like hypes just often put too expectations on the reading experience for me and I’d rather wait on them! I like to give it time for there to be a few average or negative reviews so I can see the downside of the book, too, so it becomes a little less hyped in my own head!

        I don’t think I’ve ever refused to read a book because of the cover but I’ve definitely decided not to buy them for their covers!! Some covers are just… not good. Honestly 😅 Diversity in books is AMAZING and I’m sooo so happy that this community is constantly hyping up diverse books and giving them the recognition they deserve!!

        As always, you are very welcome! & Thank you ♥

        Liked by 1 person

  15. * gasp * Caitlin! How dare you call me out like that! Pretty cover TBR adds make up maybe 80% of my TBR 😂

    I think that what I add to my TBR varies based on where I’m going to get it from. Like if I’m going to buy a book then it has to be something that has high ratings on Goodreads, something that reviewers/bloggers I follow have read and recommended, or something that’s pretty hype. Everything else is pretty much added on a whim since I use my kindle to take books out from the library. So I just do it based on covers, which does result in me reading some trash, but oh well 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh that’s such an interesting post! I feel like you have gotten the most important reasons figured out 👍 The synopsis is a big reason why I add a book, if there’s something interesting or unique there, I’m more likely to be intrigued. But good Reviews play an important part, because a book that sounds good but has bad reviews makes me think twice about adding it 😮 I also feel like the author itself has a big impact, especially as I have my auto-buy authors, but I also feel inclined to check out debut author’s books if they appear on podcasts/Twitter and talk about their upcoming books 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you!! Ahaha, I’m so impatient that synopses are such a slog to get through for me. I really rely on the reviews and the short summaries that reviewers give.

    Ohh yeah, same! If an author has an amazing twitter presence, I’ll want to read their book more. Personally, I don’t really have auto-buy authors because I always always check reviews first, but I do have authors who i trust a lot and will most likely read all books by—Leigh Bardugo and C.S. Pacat!


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