Tips for Battling Reader’s Guilt

As book advocates, we know just how much joy reading can bring to people’s lives. But with so many books and so little time, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.  Many readers even feel guilty for not hitting all of their professional and personal reading goals. Below you’ll find common guilty feelings and tips for combating them.

My NetGalley Shelf is overflowing with unread books
Let’s start with one of the most relatable problems in the NetGalley community: Shelf overload. My first tip is to make changes to prevent this from happening in the future. Consider implementing a system where you only request one book for every book you’ve reviewed, or limiting the number of books you request per month. This will also help you to focus on the books most relevant to your job or platform. A request hiatus, while you get your Shelf under control, can also help to keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Next, tackle your existing Shelf. I have tips here for how to squeeze in more reading time to help you knock those books out fast. Try my personal method: prioritize books with upcoming publication dates or those that were recently released.

I’m reading quickly, but my Feedback Ratio is low
Some NetGalley members leave a review immediately after finishing the book, while others wait a few days or until much closer to the pub date. Find a method that works for you, and if you choose the latter, consider having a set day and time of the week dedicated to writing reviews.

If you find yourself stumped on what to say when you sit down to write, check out these tips for writing reviews and writing critical reviews

And remember, as you work to get your reviews under control, try limiting the number of new books you request. Here you’ll find more tips on how to recover after tanking your Feedback Ratio!

I’m so focused on upcoming releases, I don’t make enough time for backlist books
Book advocates are juggling a lot: upcoming, current, and past releases. It can be difficult to feel like you’re devoting equal attention to all of these books. My recommendation is to create a reading schedule that encourages you to alternate between the release categories that mean the most to you. I try to aim for an even split—I’ll read a book releasing this month, then one that’s releasing within the next season, and then a backlist book (that’s already been on sale for at least several months). I can’t say I perfectly divide my attention like this every month, but a schedule has helped me to stay on track more often than not.

I feel guilty about DNF-ing
DNF stands for Did Not Finish. While DNF should be considered carefully when you’re being given books to review, it’s also important not to spend time on books you know early on you won’t be acquiring for your place of work or recommending on your platforms. Personally, if I’m struggling with a new book, I try to give it 50 pages to hook me before I DNF, with exceptions made for books with problematic or harmful content early on. NetGalley offers an option for not giving feedback on a book, and if you change your mind and do want to submit a review in the future, you can do so from the Not Active section of your Shelf.

I feel guilty when I’m not reading
Reading is wonderful, but you deserve time for all of your interests. For those who must read for work, don’t be afraid to set rules for yourself. If I spend my Saturday afternoon reading a book for an interview, I let myself relax during the evening. I’ve also gotten into the habit of reading a certain number of pages or chapters per day, so I always feel accomplished without needing to dedicate all of my free time to work assignments (Netflix isn’t going to watch itself, you know). Make sure you’re setting achievable goals without putting too much pressure on yourself to be reading and reviewing all the time. Even if it’s your job, it shouldn’t take over your whole life.

Do you have any tips for battling reader’s guilt? 

Share them with us below!

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

  1. I did have a problem with prioritizing reading. My shelf is not overflowing, it is not empty but manageable. What I did to prioritize my books to read is create a Current Month TBR shelf on my Good Reads account. I try to read and review the books at least a month before they are published. so in June I put all the books publishing in July on my Current Month TBR shelf. Those are the books I am reading in June. I have one book left for July.
    When I read the books I take them off that shelf and the are now read. When all the books for the month are read I fill my shelf up with the next month’s books. So next my shelf will have all the August publishing books on it. That way I can focus on only a few books each month.

  2. Oh dear, yes, I can relate to many, almost all of these! Thank you for sharing this. I’ll start requesting one book after I read two, I’m already buried deep in many review copies.

  3. I must admit, some of my reviews are just “purchased for my library.” I feel bad but don’t publisher’s want to know that? I made a list of what I haven’t read (instead of actually reading new stuff during quarantine). I like lists and this was satisfyingly horrifying. BUT- it did give me some direction and structure to work from. As a high school librarian, I’ve just had to accept I will never get everything read for school, or my personal pleasure. That’s the life of a reader.

  4. Hey Kelly,

    You angel!! Thank you for righting this article. The tips and advice you gave is wonderful.

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