If you've noticed your To-Be-Read pile of books grow at an exponential (and alarming) rate and threaten to take over your life - you are not alone. This being January and the start of a new year, it also makes for a perfect opportunity to do something about it - or, at the very least, vow to do something about it. The road to an empty TBR is paved with good bookish resolutions.

But how, pray, does one tackle such a monstrous pile of monstrosity?

The answer: with organization! With glitter! With a really snazzy jar!  

Which sounds simpler than it is, really. We may be readers/bloggers/students/ employees/overlords/dragon tamers, but when it comes to organizational skills, most of us are in dire need of assistance.

By dire, I mean in-my-nightmares-I-am-being-chased-by-a-giant-calendar.
By assistance, I mean someone-pull-me-out-of-this-calamitous-quicksand-of-schedules-and-management.

Hello. My name is Someone. And I am here to help.


  • It doesn't have to be a jar. Not really. Your TBR-container is as flexible as you will make it. It can be a hat. It can a bucket. It can be a bowl! You have a bowl! (Assuming you don't eat off the ground, in which case... no judgment here. The five-second-rule thing is real no matter what scientists say. Which is that it isn't.) You can also use your chest, your ceremonial cup, your ancestors' goblet. The usual stuff everyone has laying around.
  • Decorations are optional, but recommended. If dragons were to suddenly invade your place of residence, you would have a much better chance of pleasing and befriending them if your TBR jar is at least a little bit shiny/sparkly/chock-full of gold. Whatever works best for you.
  • If you have a stationery problem, in lieu of seeking help, you may put your multicolor post-its/markers/paper to good use and jazz up your jar! (See pictures below for a visual.)

1. The Everything Jar

Recommended if: the unread books have taken over your house and they're holding you hostage, your TBR benchwarmers are over five years old (and multiplying like amoebae), or you are an ambitious bundle of ambitiousness and no project is too large for you to tackle.

How it works: Like all good house projects, The Everything Jar requires an epic staring contest before anything can begin. In this particular case, stare your bookshelf/e-reader down until it submits to your dominance. Then grab six hundred thousand sheets an appropriate amount of paper and proceed to jot down every title on your shelf/your e-reader that you own but have not read. Take periodic water and food breaks and, if necessary, ice your writing hand and massage it to relieve the cramps. Once finished, grab a jar/bucket/cauldron and place all the book titles therein. May the odds be ever in your favor.


  • You'll lessen your substantial TBR. With so many books in your jar (and the assumption you follow through on being an ambitious bundle of ambitiousness), within a few short months' time, you could reasonably expect to regain control over some areas of your house as the books slowly retreat in surrender.
  • New favorites among old books! At least a few books will make you wonder WHY you let them sit unread for so long. You'll beat your head against the wall for it, which is the down side, but it'll also inspire you to pick up even more of those mysterious covers which have been staring at you from your shelf and judging you for months and years.
  • Cheaters allowed. With so many thousands of books in your cauldron jar, even if you pick a title you momentarily dislike, you can allow yourself to re-pick. No one will know! (Except your conscience, but you've done away with that years ago as a seasoned cheater.)


  • Might require a jar roughly the size of The Boston Library. Depending on the size of your TBR.
  • You may not be interested in reading all the books on your TBR. Or most of them, really. Let's face it - that entire section of your bookshelf over there is dedicated to impulsive cover-buys. (In which case we suggest donating some to charity. That'll lessen your TBR, too, and you'll be a benevolent bookish benefactor of alliteration who'll make someone else's day.)
  • It might make you its slave and you'll read nothing but your jar-picks all year. It's your own fault for having so many unread books, really. It's a well-known fact that books plot world domination and pick the weakest of the herd to do their bidding.

2. The Hipster Jar 

Recommended if: you came down with a severe case of the Required Reading (we are so sorry!) or if you've decided that this will be the year when you will finally follow through on your promise to read more diversely, but at the same time you aren't willing to commit to the TBR jar full-time and want some flexibility for new releases / ARCs / your random choices as well.

How it works: Turn to your go-to genres. Pet them, hug them, cuddle with them, and then say goodbye. For this TBR jar project, you'll need to go your separate ways temporarily. Go through your TBR and pick out the books that aren't in your comfort zone / aren't your favorite genre, but which you've been meaning to tackle all the same. Write them down and put them in your TBR jar. We recommend sticking to 1-3 of these per month (12-36 in the jar total) so it leaves room for The Great Escape To The Preferred Genre in the interim. But make sure to add several more than your monthly goal, to allow for re-picking if the one you pick isn't something you actually feel like plowing through at the present.


  • You'll stick to your plan/schedule/task. If it's a resolution, you'll conquer it. If it's an assignment, you'll tackle it. If it's a bookish throne, you'll build it. The phenomenon of sticking to a resolution in January and then reverting back to your comfort zone will be a thing of the past when you have a new out-of-the-comfort-zone book to pick every month.
  • Leaves plenty of room for new releases/other reads you feel like at the given moment. If diversifying your reading is more of a good intention than anything else, this jar is the perfect balance. You do it once/twice a month, then go back to your trusted fantasy and dragons. Or, y'know, whatever your preferred genre is.
  • Forces you to step out of your comfort zone and explore yet-unexplored genres/areas/topics.


  • It probably won't cover a lot of your overall TBR. You'll still be in danger of getting buried under it and only be found a week later by a worried relative/friend/colleague.
  • Obviously, these aren't your go-to picks. You may not necessarily find yourself actually wanting to read them when the time comes. But, hey, this is why you won't be using your jar all the time.
  • Doesn't care about your schedule. (Rude!) If you intend to partake in NaNoWriMo/join a monastery in Tibet/travel the world in a hot air balloon, this jar will still expect you to find the time to pick out a book or two and read them. Every month. This is the Goal Jar, and darn if it won't make you stick to those goals!

3. The Challenge Jar

Recommended if: you're about as decisive as a kid in an ice-cream shop, you're a consummate mood-reader, or you don't really even want to tackle your TBR, but you really want a pretty jar and a project.

How it works: Procrastinate actually starting this task by googling the available ready-made reading challenges for 2016. The particularly popular ones are the Popsugar 2016 Reading Challenge, or challenges that popular Booktubers (the book-specific corner of YouTube) tend to partake in. Drift off to Tumblr and dawdle away an hour or two. Finally, come back, jot down the specific challenges and put them in a jar (which you will then spend an additional day or two decorating, because that's the whole point).


  • Lots of room for improvisation. "Read a book longer than 500 pages" can mean sci-fi, a classic, fantasy, literary fiction, or anything else your flighty heart desires.
  • Built-in support system. The beauty of ready-made challenges is that they already come with a community that's making their way through them the same as you. The Popsugar Challenge has a giant Goodreads group, their own website, an Instagram/Twitter tag you can use to find other readers, et cetera. And if you opt for inventing your own non-specific challenge, you can share it with your friends and even if their tastes/bookshelves are much different than yours, they can still participate. (Or make a really snazzy jar full of glitter, good intentions and zero follow-through. But, hey, it'll still be a bonding experience!)
  • Some book falls into several categories. In which case you are supposed to only choose one, but hey. We won't tell if you don't.


  • It may not necessarily fit the books you own. Unless you design one yourself, a lot of challenges may feature many monthly topics which your books don't cover, thereby forcing you to buy more books and making this an exercise in futility. We want to LOWER our TBRs here. Theoretically.
  • It isn't entirely your own, or catered to your tastes. Alternatively, you could have plenty of books which fit a particular challenge - your roommate/mom/brother has a giant stack of Nicholas Sparks novels and they give you one each Christmas, but you really hate romance. This would make "read a romance novel" possible, but not at all appealing.
  • It might hypnotize you. With so much room to maneuver, if you're orientation-impaired, at the end of the year you might find that you bent every challenge to such a large degree that you didn't actually complete any of them properly. Oops!

Talk to us, TBR tacklers! (Alliteration whoa!) Do you own a TBR jar, and how do you organize it? Or are you yet considering one? Leave us a comment and let us know, or find us on social media where we wage battles against our own jars, to unpredictable results.