The Unread Shelf Project (and my 2018 reading goal)

One of the reading goals I had last year was to read more from my pile of unread books. While I did do this, I also added far too many new books to the pile. When I counted all of my unread books at the end of December (paper, electronic, and audio), I had about 175.

Me in January: "I'm going to reduce my TBR (to be read) pile this year to just a dozen or so!" ... Me mid-year: "Yeah! I'm doing great!" ... Me in December: "Oops." 😬

I know I can read a lot in a year, but that was overwhelming. I don’t need, or want, that many unread books at home. I’d like to have a very small selection of unread books. Five seems like a good number to me, but realistically it will probably be five paper books, a couple ebooks, and a couple audiobooks. I think that will be just enough to offer a bit of variety, while still leaving room for borrowing or buying new books.

So my goal this year – and yes, this is my only reading goal – is to read through my unread books.

As soon as I made that decision, I suddenly felt motivated to weed my unread books pile. The number of paper books I had didn’t even fit on my shelf, so I decided to weed them until they could all fit. I got rid of most of the books that I could find at the library. Then, any books I didn’t think I’d reach for in the next couple of months. And, finally, any books I didn’t think I would replace if they magically disappeared.

That got me down to down to 89 books. Three of these have since been read and another three were quit. As of today, I have:

  • 56 physical books (3 in progress)
  • 4 magazines (1 in progress)
  • 7 audiobooks
  • 16 ebooks (1 in progress)

This feels very manageable to me, especially as I’ve decide to be really ruthless with quitting books. I’m genuinely interested in all of the books I have left, but I don’t want to waste my time on books I’m not enjoying. So, I’m going to give each book a couple chapters, but if I’m not enjoying the book, I’m not going to keep reading it, regardless of how long it’s been waiting to be read.

I do have a few odds and ends of things that will be added throughout the year:

  • A few pre-orders
  • A monthly audiobook from my Kobo subscription
  • Uncanny magazine (electronic)
  • Uppercase magazine (quarterly)
  • And, let’s be honest, at least one or two of the books that I refuse to remove from my Chapters wishlist

I’m also trying to be sparse with my library borrowing: I cancelled over half of the holds I had at the beginning of the month and will be avoiding putting more on hold for the time being. The only exception being audiobooks because I tend to get through those pretty quickly as I listen to them on my commute to and from work.

At first, I was just going to wing it, see how many I could get through in the next couple of months, and re-access the situation mid-year. But, then I discovered the #theunreadshelfproject2018 on Instagram via Jennifer who I met online through the Novel Editions online bookclub. The Unread Shelf Project 2018 is co-hosted by @theunreadshelf, @katereadsbooks_, and @calsreads. There are occasional challenges (monthly and weekly, I believe) which, so far, seem to be designed to both help you see what’s in your unread pile and to motivate you to read those books. For example, two of the first challenges were to count all your unread books and to feature an unread book on Instagram each day for a week (the intention being that we should re-visit our unread books).

I probably won’t do all of the challenges because following rules flies in the face of my rebel nature, but I hope to use the challenge as a means of motivating me, especially when I get tempted by all the pretty new-to-me books I could be buying (I’m looking at you The Good Lands!)

So, there you are. My 2018 reading goal is to read books I already own. Next year, I might tackle all of the art books I own and haven’t really read (unless skimming or looking at pretty pictures counts).

What are your 2018 reading goals? Do you also find large piles of unread books very stressful? Or, are you one of those magical people who can own 300 unread books without batting an eye?



  1. Haha, the tip to weed your books based on whether or not you actually want to read them might be earth shattering for me. Did a big weed a few years ago but we once again have more books than shelves so some have got to go!


    • At one point (i.e., when I ordered/bought them) I wanted to read all of them. I was probably even super excited about them .. until I got home and remembered that I had 5 library books waiting to be read and 5 more books in progress. It felt like Marie Kondo for unread books: Does this spark joy? Yep! I want to read it right now. Keep!

      I’m going to do the same in a few months in case I change my mind about any of the ones I kept. (In fact, I’ve got a reminder to review my whole bleepping apartment every year … though, it is a small space, so I can do it fairly quickly.)

      Then I’m going to not buy books unless I have time to start them IMMEDIATELY.


    • I think that I need to take stock regularly. I’m bad about accumulating things like books and just ignoring how many I have unread. And, at the same time, it stresses me out so much!


  2. […] This project is going quite well, so far, though I did allow myself to get a little stressed out about library books this month. Despite cancelling most of the holds I had, a number of them all came at once. After stressing out about it for a few days, I finally just decided that I had to return all of them. I could borrow them later, when I have fewer unread books on my shelf. […]


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