How Do You Organize Your Goodreads Shelves? (Specifically “TBR”)

Before I get to my big question, I’m going to talk a bit about how I organize my TBR pile.

I add all books that I own and want to read to my “to-read” shelf. But then I created a separate shelf called “wishlist”. This wishlist shelf is for books that I do not own but want to read. Then, when I finally buy a book on my wishlist, I transfer it over to the “to-read” shelf.

It’s very important to me that I make this distinction. I do not want to mix books I do own with books I don’t. When I sit down and get ready to pick a book, but do not want to buy one, I scroll through my to-read shelf. I don’t have to worry about it being filled with books I don’t even own.

However, since I’ve started blogging, I’ve picked up on the fact that many bloggers do not do this. They seem to mix books they own with books they don’t, and just put all books they want to read on “to-read”. It makes me feel like I’m doing it wrong! (even though obviously I can do it however I want!)

How do you organize your to-read shelf?

Do you put books you don’t own on that shelf? Why or why not?

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64 comments

  1. I don’t use Goodreads much (I prefer LibraryThing and BookLikes). The books on my to-read shelf are books I actually own but have not read yet, and all the books I really, really want are on my wish list on Amazon. This works for me as I am not good at keeping lists up to date.

    Rosemary recently posted: Reckoning – John O’Brien
  2. Hmm I don’t think you’re doing it wrong – everyone just has their own way of doing things. I do keep track of books I own (also separating in own-tbr and own-read) and my wishlist, but they’re not exclusive shelves. To-read for me is everything that I’m interested in reading at some point in time, but it’s over 300 books (compared to some that’s small, but meh) and I do like to prioritize. So I have an additional non-exclusive shelf must-read-soon which are the higher priority books (most of which I own or are at the very top of my wishlist/to-buy list), and I keep an exclusive up-next/to-read-soon shelf of the next 10 books on my queue to read. I do have them in a sortable list, but I pick and choose and that helps me keep track of my review copies and stuff as well.

    I also keep unreleased books on an exclusive shelf awaiting-release just because I haaaate having things on my to-read list when I couldn’t essentially go and pick it up and read it right now. And I have another (whoa my system is elaborate) exclusive shelf for classics-to-read – because those are more long term goals, as in bucket list books, books to read before I die, but I’m not necessarily that interested in right now. So that keeps the to-read list to a manageable size.

    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted: Top Ten Books I Picked Up Because of the Title
  3. That’s nearly how I do it. All of the books I want to buy go on my wishlist and then once I buy one I move it over immediately to my to-read shelf. I mainly keep track of my books at Booklikes now which can be a bit of a hassle at times but still easier than Amazon (only because I didn’t realize I could have more than one wishlist there until this week) for me but other than buying the books beforehand that’s nearly how I do it. I would hate to mix everything all in to-read. That’s how I originally had it on Goodreads and it was a nightmare going through that and adding them to booklikes and my blog. I finally brought some order to that chaotic mess.

    Jamie Pinson recently posted: That is so me!
  4. I’ve basically given up on my TBR shelf. There are just too many books now! I just keep a mental idea of books I want to read. I have a little checklist list kind of things for the books I have to read ASAP i.e. review copies or sequels. Every now and then, if there’s a book I think I’ll forget about, I’ll add it to my TBR but other than that, I’ve thrown it out the window haha!

    Laura Plus Books recently posted: LGBT Month: Sign Ups
  5. My to-read shelf is all clustered with everything, BUT I have an extra “home” shelf where all the books I own and haven’t read yet are on. And when I buy a new book, it goes onto that list. So this is where I scroll through to find my next reads.

    Which means: yes, the distriction is important to me as well. Me to-read shelf is like 5 times the size of my home shelf, so it’d take me forever to find things on my to-read which I already bought, especially if there’s no note jumping out at me.

    Caro @ The Book Rogue recently posted: Tahereh Mafi: Destroy Me
  6. I do this exactly the same way as you. All books I OWN and have not read yet go onto my to-read shelf (I also have a non-exclusive ‘owned’ shelf so I can keep track of books I own and have read), all books I want to read but do not own go onto my want-to-read shelf (because I do not necessarily want to BUY them). I really have to keep track of books I own so this works for me πŸ™‚

  7. Books that i own and I want to read go on my To Read shelf.
    Books that I own, want to read, but are from books I received for review go on my To-Read-First shelf.
    Books that I don’t own, but want to and are already released, go on my wishlist.
    And books that have yet to be released, but I really want go on my waiting-for-release shelf. =)

    It’s very easy for me this way. This way I can easily keep track of the books that I have to read first because I got them for review. And every month I check my wishlist and maybe buy a book or two from it. πŸ™‚

    Bieke @ Istyria book blog recently posted: DNF: Mystic City by Theo Lawrence
  8. I used to have a to-read-asap shelf for books that I own and want to read, but then I completely forgot about it, started getting lazy and totally gave up on that. What I do now instead is I have a separate shelf for unread books and I just go through those when I have nothing to read. I should really try to be more organized.

    I’m thinking of listing them down (on my laptop) or arranging them by genre so that I’ll pick from the books in the genre that I’m feeling on a specific day, since sometimes I’m into romance, sometime’s I’m looking for action… Yeah, maybe I should try that. I love the way you’re so organized, though!

    Aimee recently posted: Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer
  9. I do it the same way that you do! I used to mix books, but it go so confusing especially with the Kindle books I own since it’s not like I can see those sitting on my shelf. I definitely like to divide them up to keep better track of them. And it helps when my family wants to buy me bday gifts and I can just link them to my wishlist shelf.

    Rebecca @ The Library Canary recently posted: Frozen: Let It Go
  10. I put every book I want to read(owned and not) into my to-be-read shelf, but then I also have an “owned-tbr-shelf” and a “wishlist” shelf. Every book on my TBR shelf is then in on one of those two shelves. I like being able to separate them by those two shelves, but also just have a shelf with every book I want to read. I like to think of it sort of like file folders on my computer–these are all in *this* particular folder, but then there’s two sub-folders, etc. But there’s definitely no wrong way! I’d probably do it your way if I had thought of that when I created my Goodreads account, but I’m too lazy to change it all to that way now.

  11. When I first started using Goodreads I never even knew you could make your own shelves and then by the time I figured it out, I didn’t want to mess with it. I just recently went through my TBR pile and erased books that I don’t have and didn’t think I would actually read because I wanted it to reflect what I was going to actually read. Then make a wishlist or books I wish I owned section and start adding the ones I actually don’t have. I really do want to be more organized…lol.

    Stormi recently posted: It’s Monday! What are you reading!
  12. My Goodreads TBR list just has everything I want to read – which makes it huge! I like your idea of separating what you have vs. what you don’t – it would makes things a little easier! Oh well… There are so many books I want to read that I have mostly stopped adding them to Goodreads and just keep mental and paper lists. When I put the review in Goodreads, the book comes off the TBR list.

  13. I think my system is a bit complicated but it works for me. I add anything that catches my eye to my tbr. But I also have bought, arc, freebie, won and wishlist shelves as well so it also goes on the appropriate one of those. That’s how I track books I have available to read and helps me mix up my reading between the various books I want/need to read.

    Trish @ Between My Lines recently posted: Book Review : Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
  14. You guys have such complex methods to organize your tbr and I really like the idea. All books I want to read go on my to read shelf and then I choose random books off of that. I don’t buy very many books so I think I would make it more complex if I bought books, but I get books from the library so I can easily pick a book to read and put it on hold at the library and have it within a few days.

    Rachael @ Rachael Turns Pages recently posted: A Month of Rapunzel: Rapunzel Readathon Announcement and Sign Up
  15. I think that if you buy all of your books then your method sounds great. I get a lot of my books from the library. So I just have one long TBR list. I do have a book with all the new titles I’ve suggested from the library. And I also have another list of e-books coming out that i want to get. But for some reason I am pretty good at remembering what i have on my kindle. So i haven’t had any problems yet.

  16. I’m a mixer. Since moving for college though, my physical TBR has shrunk. So I can easily go through my ereader and figure out what book I want to read. Plus I only have a single shelf of physical books. I archive/put on the cloud all the books I’ve already read. It ends up not being so difficult to sort through. Once I settle down and my physical TBR gets bigger, I’ll probably have to separate them. For now though, it works for me.

    Amy M. recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday: Rewind
  17. If you’re doing it wrong, then I’m definitely doing it wrong! I also separate books I own from book I don’t! But I go a little further…

    To-Read (exclusive): These are books I either own or are at the library.
    Library: Books I want to read that are at my library.
    Library-Inter: Books I need to request through inter-library loans.
    Wishlist (exclusive): Books I do not own, and the library doesn’t have.
    Booklending: Books on my wishlist that are available at book lending.
    To-Read-Free (exclusive): The many, many freebies I have collected over the years.

    I also have shelves for Netgalley and giveaway wins (plus a few others), but those are the main ones on organizing books I haven’t read yet.

  18. I don’t think you have done it wrong, many people do it however they want and no one way is wrong. Honestly for me, you gave me a great idea to help me organize my tbr list, I had been wondering how I was going to do this. I joined goodreads around April of last year and have a lot of organizing I need to do. My computer is in being fixed and has put me at a standstill for most things, like my blog and all the ebooks I have on it that can potentially be lost due to not having them backed up yet. For me I finally found an outlet for something I love when I found goodreads then blogging which I jumped into feet first and feel I need to take a time off and figure out about how I want to make my blog more about me then the fact that I love to help and cut down on the promotional aspects. I know that the authors do need the help getting the word out there about their books, but I found that I had let that part take over to where I have not had time for much else like organizing and doing more with my blog to make it more me and mine.

  19. I don’t think you’re doing it wrong. I just think the norm is to add everything to the to-read shelf because we want to read them. After reading your post though, I actually like your way better because it makes better sense. You know what you own and what you don’t and you won’t have to worry about duplicates, which I have done.

  20. Hah, I do the exact same thing with my shelves! I like keeping my To-Read list to books I own, because it helps me keep on track on the ones that are actually, physically, staring me down every day at home. And I do the same thing with my wishlist!

    Although, I think I go a bit more overboard than you do. I have a wishlist, and a second wishlist (for the books I wanna read, but not quite as badly as the ones on my wishlist), and then there’s a maybe list. AND THEN I have another list for ebooks I own and need to read, and another one for books I plan to read, but will be borrowing from my sister. I know, it’s ridiculous. o_o

    Kelley (Another Novel Read) recently posted: Important Announcement! (& Book Bloggery Week-in-Review #48)
  21. I don’t think I’ve even considered organizing that shelf. Haha! But that seems like a really smart idea. I’d just be way scared too since mine is way over 1K books. The most organizing I do is going through and slimming down my TBR shelf or putting my priorities on my wishlist. Which is also big….. Yeah I can’t say I’m that organized! Go Asheybaby!

    Xoxo, Inky

  22. One thing I know for sure from looking at the Goodreads Feedback group is that EVERYONE shelves differently. I personally use “To Read” as all the books I want to read, whether I own them or not. I like to use the shelving options more for genres, etc. It’s just how I am. But in the Feedback group I’ve seen probably half the people say they do it like you.

    But then I see other people with the same shelves as me using them in a different way (which is totally fine, if not slightly confusing for me). For example, I used to break it down by year – this was because it got REALLY hard to figure out which books were released or not, and newer release books were harder to get from the library. So I shelve them by the year they were published. Others use the years for which year they READ the book. Neither way is wrong, it’s just personal preference.

    I want to try and set up BookLikes or Literally separating the owned/eARC books from the rest and see if I can get this mess under control – I never know which books I have and where (Kobo app? Kindle? Audible? ARGH!)

    Bree recently posted: What’s Next? February 20
  23. Also, Goodreads has a feature (in the US, I think) that you can mark a book as “owned” and then sort that way, so you could potentially have the “To Read” shelf work along with which books you own. It was a LONG time ago that they rolled out that feature, and I’m not entirely sure that it’s still enabled…but it might be.

  24. I think it would make a lot of sense to only add those books I truly own and need to read on the “to-read” shelf. BUT, the button to add something to the “to-read” shelf is so easy and convenient, that I add books to my list with just one click (and that is why I have over 7000 of them!). I’ve been considering making a separate own and unread shelf while I’m reorganizing my actual bookshelves soon.

  25. Yeah I definitely know what you mean! I’ve always wanted to add a shelf with books that I own and are going to read soon just to make that distinction, but I’ve gone so long just piling all the books I want to read, whether I own them or not, onto my TBR for no real reason. I feel like it really depends from person to person, but I definitely get your logic with having a “wishlist” and “to read” shelf. And it’s actually a totally smart idea! Great post, Ashley! <33

    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday (2): Favorite Covers
  26. oh that’s a fantastic idea! I love getting organized but just never take the time but I really like your idea of separating out using to-read and wish list! Think I’ll borrow your idea as I set up my account on Booklikes (also recommended by one of your commenters) love these tips Ashley!

    Stacy (The Novel Life) recently posted: Book Review: The Fixer
  27. I don’t really keep up with my Goodreads shelves that much so I only start adding them to my ‘own’ shelf when I start reading them. I do have a spreadsheet though of books I own and have yet to read. I don’t use the to-read shelf a lot because if I’m intending to read a book, I either have it on my wishlist at TBD or if I see it at the library I’m sure to borrow it.

    Charlotte @ Gypsy Reviews recently posted: The Difference between Inspiration and Copying
  28. Aside from the standard read, to-read and currently reading shelves, I also have the following shelves:
    -read in 2013 = for books I read in 2013
    – top tbr – books that I want to read SO bad πŸ˜€
    -up and coming – books I’m waiting to be released.

    So there, that’s it. I don’t like having too many shelves in my Goodreads because I feel like it’s so cluttered. I like my shelves to be neat and simple πŸ˜€

    Farzy @ Boooks Keep Me Sane recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday #5: Favorite Covers (REWIND)
  29. Everything I have the slightest curiosity about goes onto my To Read list. Perhaps that’s why its over 1000 pgs? I like your dividing it, but I don’t think I can be that organized. I think I do need to start a new shelf of ones I really want to read so I don’t lose track.

    Amanda recently posted: Review: Froi of the Exiles
  30. I don’t really use shelves on Goodreads to be honest. Everything just goes into TBR, read, and currently reading. The only shelf I made myself was a DNF one because I think I’d like to keep track of books I don’t finish. Other than that, I really don’t organize my books and don’t really think I need to either but I think what you’re doing is really cool! If I had more books on my shelves, it would definitely be good to make the distinction!

  31. I’m the same way – I have a ‘to-read’ shelf, which is only for books I own and a ‘wishlist’ shelf, for books I want to read but do not have. I also have a ‘wishlist-library’ shelf for books available at my library.

    I’m very particular about cataloging books on Goodreads. I use the private notes field quite often, mainly to note where I got the book (NetGalley, library, bought, etc.) and to jot down notes for book in a continuing series (so I don’t forget what happened in the previous book).

    Brianna (The Book Vixen) recently posted: Book Review: Alpha’s Claim: Manlove Edition Anthology
  32. I separate want-to-read as ones I already have, from wishlist books on a different shelf. Like you, mixing them would try me crazy! I also have a few option tbr shelves to help me find specific types faster, like Netgalley or Canadian reads.

    Sarah recently posted: Review: Precious Thing
  33. I completely agree with the way you do it…I guess since this is the way I have always done it as well. I need to keep that distinction between what I have available to read and what I “wish” to pick up to read. In addition to my Owned-read, library-read, owned-tbr, & wishlist shelves, I also shelve by format (print, audio, e-book) and by review type/source. This way I can search via multiple methods to bring up exactly what I want to select from. IE. I’m in the mood for a netgalley e-book and off I go thru that list. I’m planning to go thru though and consolidate some of my shelves…I have too many…lol

    I also keep a spreadsheet of all review books, source and release date for when I want to read based upon that rather than mood.

    Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf recently posted: Cat Thursday – Knit One, Purl Two, Piper Three
  34. I used to mix, but then I read Hannah at So Obsessed With’s post about organizing shelves and why it’s a good idea to have a wishlist shelf for those books that you want, but don’t own yet. I agreed so much with her reasoning, that I’ve since switched to having a TBR of only books I already own, and a wishlist for those I want to read but don’t have yet.

    I haven’t sorted through my eBook collection though, so I might have some on my wishlist that I do in fact own digitally :/. One day! Haha

    Kelly recently posted: Book Review: Everbound
  35. My to-read list at Goodreads is just a pile of everything I clicked Want to Read. I haven’t really sat down and organized any of the shelves at Goodreads. I like your approach though and would probably help me out since since organization on my Kindle Fire is not the best. On my e-reader, I had my wish list, then I organized a folder of to-read on the kindle. Now everything has so much stuff on it it would take me days to even make a dent in organization!

    Tanya @ Rantings of a Reading Addict recently posted: Review ~ White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland
  36. Every time I add a book to Goodreads, I first check to see if it’s available at my library, or which source it’s the cheapest to buy from (several different online bookstores). I’ll put it on shelves dedicated exclusively to where I’m going to buy it from if it’s not a library book. My shelf of unread books I own is called ‘to read own’ and my ‘to-read’ shelf is where everything uncategorised (or unreleased) lives. Periodically I’ll go through it checking if my library got the book in or if the price has dropped on any of my purchasing sites*.

    *Occasionally this is thrown out the window when I find the book in a local bookshop.

    Nemo @ the Moonlight Library recently posted: Top Ten Popular Authors I’ve Never Read (67)
  37. I’ve always just put everything on the TBR shelf. I need to sort it out, because really, it’s gotten insane. I love your system! I totally need to adopt something similar, because what I have now isn’t working. I did at least make a shelf to put all my Galleys on, but I think I need a second one, one for reviews galleys and then one for approved galleys so I know what I have but need to read. I have way too many requests active right now, so I need to get on them, but it’s hard when you can’t see what you actually have.

  38. We do it the same! I set up a separate exclusive shelf called wishlist for books I don’t own. My TBR shelf are strictly for books I own. I take that one step further by putting the books on my TBR shelves onto either the ebook or physical book shelves so I know where to look for it. My ebook and physical books are only for books I own or have read. For whatever reason I like to know what format I read a book in.

    Stephanie @ Once Upon a Chapter recently posted: Mini-Review: The Transfer by Veronica Roth
  39. I’ve got a shelf for wish list but the books do show up on both “to read” and “wish list” for me because I didn’t make the wish-list a sticky shelf. I don’t mind it because the reason I created my “I want it” shelf is so that when I go to buy a book I have a list to choose from rather than just shopping for books that I don’t necessarily need. (I’m one of these people that buy a book because it’s got an amazing cover on it. I’m terrible that way.)

    I very much like your idea of keeping them separate though, but usually when I’m looking for a book to read I just scroll through my list on the kindle or look at my bookcase or what have you. I may just have to “borrow” this idea and make the wishlist a sticky shelf. You can never be too organized when it comes to books.

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