The Book Jar: How to Select the Next Book to Read

Sunday, April 06, 2014
How many of you have dozens (or hundreds) of unread books on your bookshelves or in your Kindle or Audible queues?

I do! And that doesn’t even take into account all of the books I want to read and just haven’t purchased yet.

With this overwhelming number of unread books in your midst, how do you choose which one to read next? This is an important decision. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to read a book, couldn’t get into it, donated it to the library sale, only to repurchase it from the library sale the following year, at which point I either repeat the cycle or end up loving it.

To select a book, I will stand, or sit, in front of my bookshelves and randomly grab books I haven’t read, read the back cover, read the first page, and then read one random page in the middle. I do this until something strikes my fancy. Is there a better or more efficient way to select a book to read? Probably.

I've stumbled upon The Book Jar (first at The Book Riot and then on Alex in Leeds), and the idea intrigues me. To create a Book Jar, you first need a jar. And then you need strips of paper. On those strips of paper, you write the titles of all of your unread books, and I suppose you could include the titles of books you want to re-read. You could even color-coordinate you strips of paper to represent different genres. And then, finally, you fold the strips of paper, place them in the jar, and wait until you need a good book to read.

When you’re ready to select a book, you pull a slip of paper out of the jar and voila! The title on the slip of paper you choose is your next book selection.

Lovely idea, although I must admit my first thought is “how long will it take me to sort through my book collection and write ALL of the unread titles on little slips of paper?” Then I wondered if it would be more effective to type the names of the unread books in, say, an Excel document. Then you would have a digital record of all of your books. When you’re ready to choose one to read, you just need to select a number at random and voila! The title beside that number on the Excel spreadsheet is your next book selection.

Personally, however, I find the colored pieces of paper in the jar aesthetically pleasing and hope to create a Book Jar if for no other reason than to add to the décor of my home.

How do you select books to read? Would you consider creating a Book Jar?

Written by: Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor


Sioux Roslawski said...

Anne--I like the idea of a jar, but I usually just pick up the book that calls to me the loudest.

Thanks for the post.

Margo Dill said...

Interesting idea. I probably wouldn't do this because it would take time, but you could implement it with new books you get. I love to read. And I try to read 1 to 2 books a week, but I'm still behind in my reading. And sometimes I do forget books I want to read, etc.

Thanks for the idea!

SE Hudnall said...

The idea reminds me of the concept of a "job jar" from a cartoon strip. Hi and Lois? I can't recall.

I have hundreds of books in my personal library but I have to say this (and it isn't bragging!)there isn't one that I have not read, including the cookbooks.

People talk all the time about having stacks of books they haven't read yet. I can't do that. I can have a list of books I want to read but once a book enters the house it must be read! Now. . . immediately. Sleeping, eating, and other activities fall by the wayside. I just can't handle an unread book in the house. How does anyone do that? :D

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