Bookish Time-Wasting Strategies

Being self-employed has certainly helped me develop better self-motivation and self-discipline, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still procrastinate with the best of them. When I do, though, I try to keep it book-related. Here are ten of my chief time-wasters:

  1. Requesting advance books via NetGalley and Edelweiss. I really don’t need any more books, but I can’t resist trawling the online listings to see what’s coming out in the next few months. It feels like a special treat to get to read favorite authors’ new books before they’re technically released – I have the new Jonathan Safran Foer, Maria Semple and Alexandra Kleeman books lined up to read soon.
  2. Checking out The Bookbag’s and Nudge’s offerings for reviewers. The same goes for these: more print ARCs on the pile is the last thing I need, but I simply have to know what they have for reviewers to choose from. Sometimes I come across books I’d never heard of, or ones I thought were only available in America. Still, I am trying to be very choosy about what I volunteer for.
  3. Browsing Goodreads giveaways. I’m going to sound like a broken record – I seem incapable of resisting free books, wherever they come from. Every few weeks I spend an hour or two occasionally switching over to the Goodreads giveaways page while I’m doing other things online. It takes some persistence to wade through all the rubbish to get to the entries for proper books you’d actually be interested in owning, but it can be worth it. Over the years I’ve won 49 books through Goodreads.
  4. Catching up on Twitter. I follow a ton of publishers, authors and publicists on Twitter. I am very bad about using the site regularly – I usually only remember to go on it when I have a blog to promote, and otherwise find it rather overwhelming – but when I do I often find information about a bunch of new-to-me books and see competitions to enter. I’ve won a couple of books and tote bags this way.
  5. Sorting through book-related clippings. I keep a file folder of clippings, mostly from the Guardian, related to books I think I’m likely to read. Every so often I go back through the file to find reviews of books I’ve read in the meantime, recycle ones I’m no longer interested in and so on.
  6. Rearranging my bedside books. Pretty much the same books have been on my nightstand shelves all year, but I’m constantly adjusting the piles to reflect their level of priority: review books are at the top, in chronological order by deadline; other rough piles are planned sets of reading. I take some glee in arranging these groups – adding a memoir here and a work of historical fiction there – all the while imagining how well they’ll complement each other.
  7. Organizing my Goodreads shelves. In addition to the standard “to read,” “read,” and “currently reading” shelves, I’ve set up a few dozen customized ones so that it’s easy for me to search my collection by theme. Recently I decided “illness and death” was a bit too broad of a descriptor so set up some more specific categories: “bereavement memoirs,” “cancer memoirs,” “old age,” etc.
  8. Culling the books on my Kindle. The digital collection is currently at 259 books. Every so often I take a long hard look at the e-books I’ve amassed and force myself to be honest about what I will actually read. If I don’t think I’m likely to read a book within the next year, I delete it. (These are all books I’ve downloaded for free, so it’s not like I’m throwing money away.)
  9. Looking up prices on If you’re based in the UK, you probably already know about this website. I resell a bunch of books via Amazon, but sometimes the going rate is so low that you’re better off selling things as a job lot to WeBuyBooks. Their offer is often reasonable, and they frequently run deals where you can increase it by 10%. You box up the books and they send a courier to collect them from your front door – what could be easier?
  10. Ticking off books from lists. I don’t actively seek out books from 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die or the Guardian’s “1000 novels everyone must read” lists, but maybe once a year I go back through and tick off the ones I happen to have read recently.

Do you have any bookish time-wasting strategies? Do share!

13 responses

  1. Carolyn Anthony | Reply

    Even your time-wasting is organized! We are hopeless perfectionists!😊

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can tell I’m a former librarian 😉


  2. I like to procrastinate on Goodreads – I’m guaranteed to find some good books I have never heard of and that I really do not need to be adding to my list. 🙂
    49 books!! That’s awesome! I have yet to win even one. I was starting to think it wasn’t even worth the effort anymore, but I guess it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a really good run back in 2014, I think it was. It’s hard to strategize, but I think the more you win — if you are faithful to read and review the books — the more you continue to win. Also I think your level of activity on the site in general can help. Who knows, it’s all based on algorithms :p I currently have a backlog of 8 giveaway wins to get through, but they keep being edged out by other books on the pile.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I relate – # 7 always fun often triggered by seeing someone else’s shelf title and #8 for me substitute iPod for Kindle. Was just thinking today that I need to do this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am pretty good at not ordering free advance copies, probably because I live in an area full of people like me and charity shops, so I know everything I want to read will appear there anyway!

    I do have a terrible time-wasting habit which I tell myself is productive, but … I have a massive spreadsheet and I’m entering all the books I’ve read with the month I read them so it forms an index to my reading journals. I have 2007 onwards online in my old LiveJournal blog which I moved over to my WordPress one, but 1997-2006 are just on paper. There was a card index by author, but I didn’t keep that up. It’s so easy to think I’ll just do one month’s worth then find myself typing and typing …


    1. That sounds quite useful to me! I keep a massive Word file each year with my reading list and any notes I’ve taken on the books. I’d be quite devastated if I ever lost them. I used to just keep a book list and print that out at the end of each year, but haven’t printed the last 3 or 4. Before that I kept lists by hand (high school through uni, I think).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally do the thing where I go back over the 1000 Best Books lists (or whatever!) and tick off the ones I’ve read. And I’m glad to hear both of We Buy Books and of Nudge’s/Bookbag’s constant need for new reviewers…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They don’t pay, of course, but…FREE BOOKS! Nudge also publishes select reviews in New Books magazine, so it’s a chance to be in print.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great article Rebecca. I spend way too long on Good Reads rather than reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never gotten involved in groups for that reason, and I try to minimize comments/discussion. Goodreads has seemed to take up less of my time now that I turned off e-mail notifications.


  7. Guilty as charged to some of these – NetGalley in particular. I’ve given up on Goodreads give aways because as you say there is so much dross plus the majority are not available to UK readers. As for Twitter, I blow hot and cold – far too much to digest

    Liked by 1 person

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