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My TBR Book Jar Experiment — Is It Working?

Text reads Update on My TBR Jar Experiment with a background of book covers

It’s nine months since I decided to revisit the TBR book jar idea so I thought I’d share some insights on how the experiment is working out.

For those of you who haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about, I should explain that the TBR book jar is a way of helping indecisive readers (me!) choose the next book to read from all the hundreds of unread titles on the bookshelves.

You fill the jar with slips of paper each bearing the title of a book you own but have yet to read. Then, when the time comes to choose your next read, you pull one of the slips from the jar.

I’ve modified the standard approach a little. My “rules” are that at the start of each month, I choose three slips and commit to reading one of the selected titles within the next two months. If I fail to read the selected book, then it goes straight into the donation bag ready for my next trip to a charity shop.

I started doing this in February and the experiment has been remarkably successful. Ten books chosen of which I’ve read eight — the remaining two includes the November choice so doesn’t “need” to be read until end of January. The only month I failed was June when I ended up with Angel by Elizabeth Taylor. Though it was the best of the three titles picked out that month, I couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm to actually read it so into the donation bag it went. Here’s a run down of what I read from each month’s selection:

February: Fox Fires by Wyl Menmuir — Read

March: The Survivors by Jane Harper — Read and reviewed (here)

April: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh — Read and reviewed (here)

May: The Christie Affair by Nina Gramot — Read

June: Angel by Elizabeth Taylor  — Fail so have donated

July: Consequences by Penelope Fitzgerald   — Read

August: Nada by Carmen Floret — Read

September: The Snow Hare by Paula Lichtarowitcz— Read

October: The Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny — Read

November: Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple — to be read by end Jan 2024

To my astonishment I have actually stuck to the “rules”. I confess that when I first used the TBR jar (I’m estimating that was around 2014) I frequently cheated — if I picked out a book I wasn’t in the mood to read that month, I would put the slip back in the jar and pick another …. and another… and another until I got a result I could live. So really there wasn’t much point in having the jar!

This time around I feel less constrained because I have three choices AND more time in which to read the chosen book.

It’s too early to declare victory of course but I’m encouraged that the experiment has got off to a good start. Let’s hope it continues.

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