Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Unread Shelf Project 2018: My Sign-Up Post

{I already posted about the March challenge for this project, but I've finally gotten this (lengthy!) sign-up post together.}

I've been following Whitney's @theunreadshelf account on Instagram since early January. I found her when there was some New Year buzz around her #theunreadshelfproject2018. It's mainly an Instagram thing and my account is mostly just pictures of my kid, so I told myself I wasn't going to join. But I've really enjoyed following along for some TBR-tackling inspiration anyway and I've been feeling inspired to do more than just follow along lately. I don't have a Bookstagram account, but I have a book blog, so why not participate in my own way? Other bloggers have been writing Unread Shelf Project posts outside of Instagram, so here we are! Below is Whitney's original post explaining the basics and rationale behind the project:

Who’s excited for 2018?! 🙌🏽💃🏽🎉. . . I’m joining up with @katereadsbooks_ and @calsreads to host The Unread Shelf Project 2018 - to encourage and challenge you to read the unread books you already own. Check out my story for a video about it and keep reading! . . It is sooo easy on social media to get caught up in book FOMO and frantically buy more books than we can possibly tackle quickly. I currently own 161 unread books...🤦🏽‍♀️ Which is about half the books we have in our 900 square foot house, which is kinda amazing we have room for all those. 😂. . . Anyway! In 2018, I am committed to reading my unread shelf and not buying or borrowing books until I meet my goals. It’s an exercise in contentment, self-discipline, and enjoying what I have instead of accumulating more. . . Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing our personal goals for #theunreadshelfproject2018 and week- or month-long challenges to help us get there. . . This is not an exercise motivated by shame or guilt. It’s a recognition that many of us have more books than we need, and it’s time to slow down and READ. . . I hope you will join us, whether you have 10 or 100 unread books! The first challenge for you over the holiday weekend is COUNT YOUR UNREAD BOOKS. To set a realistic goal, you have to know where you’re starting from! . . Feel free to share your total in a story or post, and tag me and #theunreadshelfproject2018 so others can follow! You can also repost this graphic to show you are participating! . . I can’t wait to see what you all come up with. Happy reading! (And counting! 😉) . . #theunreadshelfproject #kcbookstagram #bookstagram #unreadbooks #readingchallenge2018 #readyourowndamnbooks #books #readingchallenge #contentmentchallenge
A post shared by Whitney - The Unread Shelf (@theunreadshelf) on

The key points for me are:
"It’s an exercise in contentment, self-discipline, and enjoying what I have instead of accumulating more."
"This is not an exercise motivated by shame or guilt. It’s a recognition that many of us have more books than we need, and it’s time to slow down and READ"
Other than the Instagram focus, I had two more reasons for not joining earlier: 1. I was sticking to my decision to not join more year-long challenges and 2. I reallllly didn't want to face the music and tally up all my unread books. My change of heart on reason #1 is that I'm considering this a replacement for the 2018 Goodreads Challenge I never joined. Plus, this is a project, not a challenge right? Ahem. Anyway. As for reason #2, I had a rough idea of my number of unread books from Goodreads, but my tracking has gotten unwieldy over there. (It couldn't be because I have too many books could it? Nah, that can't be it...) I'm much better at using Goodreads for ratings, reviews, and connecting with other readers -- cataloging over there has not been my strong suit, hard as I've tried to keep everything all in one place. So when Whitney shared a screenshot of the app she's been using called Book Buddy (free version with 50 book limit or unlimited pro version for $4.99), I went ahead and took a chance on the pro version.

A big part of me thought it was a huge waste of time to go through and scan all my unread books into another service, but I also liked the idea of a fresh start for tracking my TBR and turned it into a bit of a project with my son. Though he did lose interest before we finished, it occupied us for a decent chunk of time we were stuck inside. He was a particular fan of the sound effect when a barcode failed to scan which sounds like a car horn (don't worry, you can turn the sounds off if you're not entertaining a toddler!)

So we combed through the house and scanned in only unread books and books I've read since the beginning of 2018. My unread number is embarrassingly huge, but I'm going to throw in a few explanations/excuses. First of all, I've included just about every single unread book in the house across all ages, genres, and formats (minus a very few of my husband's books I don't plan to read). Picture books, fairy tales, middle grade, poetry, easy readers, ebooks, audiobooks -- all of it. So that stack of early readers from a garage sale my son is still too young for? They're on my Unread Shelf. And the pile of picture books from the used bookstore or the library discard shelf we didn't get to yet? Yup, those are too. And on and on. I also included some books I've technically read before, but purchased with the intention of re-reading. I know that inflates my unread number, but I wanted to see the full scope and then take it from there.

Going through my shelves as I just did for this project reminds me of the wealth of great stories I already have at my fingertips. It reminds me I already have a great variety to choose from depending on my mood. I am fortunate that it's easy for me run to the library to borrow books on a whim and that's amazing! But it's far too easy to reach for the library stack because there are due dates to comply with. So this is about shifting my focus, slowing down, and enjoying what I already have. And it's also about clearing out some of the excess to send off to new homes and share with others -- culling is definitely part of my plan for this project.

Now here is the part where I tell you I've been going back and forth about whether or not to share my actual Unread Shelf number here on the blog. For a long time, I had a TBR counter on my sidebar, but I got rid of it because it didn't actually help keep me accountable like it was intended to. At times it seemed like it downright backfired and I really don't want to repeat that experience with this project. So it feels like cheating, but I'm going to keep the numbers to myself. I will admit this much -- I don't have an unread shelf, but more like an unread library -- eek!

I try to remind myself that all those unread books includes digital as well as print. It includes a lot of freebies (Amazon First ReadsAudiosync, Volumes etc.), used books, library discards, and bargain books, but it's still a LOT of books, no matter how good the deals were. I'm trying to think of books as good investments (which Julie reminded me of recently!) and I love to lend out books, but building a family library has definitely outpaced my reading ability. And even though I want to make progress on my Unread Shelf, it's NOT all about numbers. I want to think of our library as a resource and remember that reading is not a race. I don't want to reduce my reading life to stats and an overgrown checklist -- the app and the numbers are simply tools to help guide and organize me. If those tools start getting in the way, I have no problem letting them go.

I'm not sure exactly how I will do updates going forward, but I'm setting my official first goal to read all of the unread picture books that have been lingering around. I love picture books, so that's a goal I can get excited about. I probably just need to "borrow" a stack from our own shelves instead of the library for a few weeks and I should be all set :)

The title of this very blog refers to my overflowing shelves -- or what I thought were overflowing shelves nearly seven years ago. And the whole point of starting a book blog was to read more of them! But I seem to veer further off course the longer I hang out in the bookish corners of the blog/podcast world. In a lot of ways, I'm actually OK with that, but maybe this project will help me get back to my bookish roots. I know there are so many great stories just waiting for me to uncover -- and I look forward to experiencing them :)


  1. You're not sharing your number? But I'm curious! :) No, actually, I get it. You included a lot more in your tally than I did in mine when I catalogued my books. I didn't include any of my son's books, which I'm sure increased your number by a rather large amount. It's awesome that you know your starting place but that you're not letting it stress you out. I love your goal of reading all your unread picture books. We always have a huge stack of library picture books, but rarely pull ones off of our own shelves, which is something I need to change. Best of luck to you as you tackle your unread piles. May it be an enjoyable experience discovering all those treasures on your shelves!

    1. Thanks Julie! I didn't *officially* share the number in the post because I didn't want to make it the point of the post or have it be a starting point I'd then need to report back in on. But I don't mind sharing it in general...and with all the kid books and the I-bought-this-to-reread-it books, I've crossed the 1000 mark -- eek! A few weeks in, I'm really enjoying the Book Buddy app because it so so clearly shows me the "read" number increasing regardless of whether or not the "unread" number is going in the right direction. I've already added in some more books since this post that are Easter and birthday gifts as well as some others. So I stand at precisely 1073. I have an unofficial second goal of getting that under 1000 -- those picture books should really help!

  2. I started following this hashtag on instagram. It has been fun to follow although I'm not offically participating I'm tyring to read more books off my shelf this year. The month of March I'm only reading books I own. I'm on my third book and it has been so much fun to make progress.

    1. It's great inspiration isn't it? Officially participating or not, I think it's just a really great bookish project in the Bookstagram community :)

      Great job on March! 3 books only halfway through the month was great -- I hope you enjoyed the rest of you March reading as well :)


I'd love to hear what you think :)