As of right now, my Goodreads TBR list is nearing 450 books long and with a bunch of new book-recommendation podcast episodes patiently waiting for me to tune in (my current fave is What Should I Read Next?), the list will only become longer before the day is out. But which of these must-reads are truly musts?
I entered my summer break knowing I’d have to read at least 20 elementary-level books in preparation for next school year, but even with those on my plate, I saw June, July, and August as my window do some serious “grown-up” reading. But when vacation started, I didn’t know where to start. Did I want to pull a title off my shelf that I’d been meaning to read for ages? Or did I want to catch up on the newest releases? As a result of my ambivalence, I ended up binge-watching Gilmore Girls, reorganizing the basement, and thinking up new zoodles recipes. I was in a slump, no question about it. And once I’d finished all 153 episodes of Stars Hollow comfort TV, I knew I needed to get my act together.
I put my thinking cap on and developed a master plan: I’d go through my Goodreads TBR with the goal of choosing 10 books that I was most excited to read. I would write the titles down on slips of paper, put them in a hat and pull one out at random each time I needed a new book to read. Each time a slip was taken out, I would replace it with another title I’d had my eye on. I reasoned that no matter what title fortune chose for me, it would be one I’d been looking forward to.
In practice, I wasn’t able to narrow my list to 10 titles (big surprise). I ended up with 15 must-read books – a combination of new and backlist – and put the slips with their titles written on them in a little cookie tin that I named the Magic Book Tin of Mystery (let’s call it MBTM for short). I’m on my fourth MBTM pick, and so far, this method is working like a charm. I like that I made the initial title selections, but that fate has had the final say.
The first title I pulled was The Winter People, and I didn’t think I would be in the mood for a paranormal mystery/thriller, but I stuck with the plan…and loved it! I haven’t been crazy about everything I’ve chosen from the MBTM (Rich and Pretty, by Ruman Alaam – bleh), but that’s life, right? In a world where an abundance of choice can cripple the decision-making process, putting my reading life in the hands of chance has been a relief.
I’m going to continue with the MBTM method for the rest of the summer, and if you’re having trouble prioritizing your TBR, I’d definitely recommend it. You already have enough choices to make on a daily basis (have you seen how many different kinds of Oreos there are now???). Just let that wheel of fortune spin!
Here are the original 15 titles I put in the MBTM:
(I’ve bolded and given star-ratings for ones I’ve read.)
The Girls, by Emma Kline
Rich and Pretty, by Ruman Alaam – ★★
Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro
Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld – ★★★★
The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon – ★★★★
Bats of the Republic, by Zachary Thomas Dodson
The Star-Touched Queen, by Roshani Chokshi
Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
Shadow of the Wind, by Carl Ruiz Zafon
Jurassic Park, by Michael Crighton
Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear – ★★★★
The Tusk that Did the Damage, by Tania James
The Telling Room, by Michael Paterniti