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The TBR Stream

Bookmarked Too Many Needles by Oliver Burkeman (

I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that you, like me, have a large pile (or digital equivalent) of books or articles you’ve been meaning to get around to reading, plus maybe a long queue of podcast episodes to which you’d love to listen, if only you had the time. It’s the archetypal “first-world problem”, I know. But one worth reflecting on – because it’s a microcosm of a broader mistake that makes it more stressful than in needs to be to build a fulfilling and productive life: the problem of Too Many Needles.

The problem of your to-read pile is very much not one of filter failure. It’s not that you’re deluged with things you don’t care about, and need help figuring out what’s truly of interest. It’s that you’re overwhelmed by things you do want to read…The problem, as the critic Nicholas Carr explained, isn’t filter failure. It’s filter success.

The solution to the overwhelm of the TBR… I like this perspective… fits with the idea of the antilibrary.

[Treat] your “to read” pile like a river (a stream that flows past you, and from which you pluck a few choice items, here and there) instead of a bucket (which demands that you empty it). After all, you presumably don’t feel overwhelmed by all the unread books in the British Library…

My personal solution is to save things to Pocket and then never look at Pocket so I know if I ever want to I can find the article and read it. Assuages my mental hoarding tendencies 😉

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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