How to build your TBR (to-be read) pile

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TBR: What is the easiest way to build a mile-long list of books to be read?

I am in a unique position to answer this question for several reasons:

  • I have my MLIS and have taken classes on reader's advisory
  • I have sat at the help desk answering questions for patrons about what they should read next for numerous years and have used different databases through the library to find reads (NoveList in particular)
  • I used to buy nonfiction for the library and currently buy romance titles for OverDrive so I have looked through several different bookish journals monthly to see what's coming out (Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal)
  • I have written personal reviews on Goodreads, a book blog, and Instagram for over seven years

At this point, my ~unofficial~ number on my "Want to Read" list on Goodreads is 1,253 which makes me want to cry just a little bit.  That number is added to weekly and I think we all know it'll never be whittled all the way down.  But that's okay.  I'm here to help you build your list just as high as mine and then we can all cry together and spend the rest of our days trying to finish our reading hopeful lists.

Reading Tracker Websites


Goodreads is the resource that I can confidently say I have used the most over the past decade.  Aside from being the website where I keep track of what I want to read and sort them according to different genre and trope shelves, they have a few different ways of finding new things to read.

1) At the top of the page there is a dropdown menu if you click the word "Browse."  From there you can access recommendations, giveaways, new releases, lists, and be able to explore.  They make it easy to choose which genre you are looking to check out and the lists vary from generic to specific depending on what you're looking for!  I've used the lists a LOT here at the library for building displays, buying new books, etc.

Goodreads browse menu

2)  While on the record of a book you are currently reading or interested in they have a list of other books similar called "Readers also enjoyed"

Goodreads Readers also enjoyed list

3) Goodreads also has the ability for you to add "friends" and over time you can build up a group of people who have both similar and differing tastes.  Their current and recent finished reads will show up in a feed and you can read whey they rated a book and read their review if they've posted one


Storygraph is a newer reading tracking website and in some ways, more functional and aesthetically pleasing than Goodreads.  It's a little harder to find compiled lists of books but right on the home page they have a recommendations list based on the genres and things you put down as enjoying when you make an account

1) Recommendations on home page

Storygraph rec list of books

2) Explore page (you can get to that by clicking the teal Explore button that you can see above) where you can fill out a fairly in-depth list of what you're in the mood for and they will then curate you a collection of books based on how you answer

Storygraph mood checklist


Social Media

As with any form of social media, recommendations from these next two platforms can always be taken with a grain of salt. 


BookTok (Bookish TikTok)

I personally don't trust most recommendations from BookTok because things can so easily get sensationalized on there based on a gorgeously made video, a single popular BookTok reviewer with a huge following that recommends something, or ONE tantalizing quote that makes a sub-par book blow up.  HOWEVER, I do think that you can find certain niches and creators that specifically fit what you're looking for and interested in.  I personally have found a lot of great romances on there!  I think it's definitely worth checking out at the very least.  All I did to get there is tap on the magnifying glass and type in booktok into the search bar!  From there you can find BookTok reviewers, or search posts that include that hashtag

BookTok creators


Bookstagram (Bookish Instagram)

This is *my* current place to find recommendations!  I have made so many amazing friends in the Bookstagram community over the last few years and at this point I have come to trust many of their recs which is super helpful when browsing.  If you know a certain person has similar tastes as you, it's easy to throw one of their most recent books on your to-be read pile for later!  Plus some of the creators on there make super cool reels and take gorgeous photos.  It's so much fun!  I have included a screenshot of a profile I really love.

An instagram profile grid

Bookish Journals/Magazines

While there are a LOT of different journals and magazines you can get chock full of upcoming books that have been review by professionals, they typically require a subscription of some sort.  Some of those titles include Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist.  I have used all of them at least one point in time during my years as a librarian who purchases books.  It's great to read reviews by people who do that for their job as they are usually all very concise and informative, but you also have to remember that is just one person's opinion.  Just because they didn't star a book in their magazine, doesn't mean you won't love it!


The BookPage is a publication that our Friends of the Library group has paid for us to receive monthly!  It includes Q&As from authors, features different genres and sub-genres, and shows books that will be published in the upcoming month (and reviews of them) in fiction, nonfiction, young adult, and children's.  You can come pick one up near the checkout desk any time!



These are just a few suggestions that I personally use to help full my TBR.  I think the biggest thing to remember is that everyone is going to have different tastes than you so sometimes it's not worth it to sweat about what someone else has rated or said about a book.  If you see a cover or summary you like, add it!  Don't spend too much time looking at reviews that could sway you away from what could potentially be your new favorite book!  And finally, as always, feel free to come ask me questions on the help desk.  Happy reading!

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Arielle Hemingway
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