How To Bulk Up Your TBR List

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Hey there. I’m Steph Auteri, and I’m a recluse.

It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, I commuted from New Jersey into New York City, working first in publishing houses and, later on, on a permalance basis for online magazines and even a daily newspaper. At that time, I discovered books by flipping through my trusty copy of Time Out New York and attending lit events at places like Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, McNally Jackson, and the Strand. I browsed the New Books shelves. I read reviews. I even listened to Oprah.

Then I went full-on rogue. I started working from home full-time, leaving the house only to buy groceries and go to yoga. And something funny happened. I wasn’t going to as many lit events. I was no longer reading TONY. But my to-be-read (TBR) list was ballooning.

Over the next year, I’ll be blogging about a number of things, including the books you can buy for just about anyone in your life (or just for yourself). But to kick things off, I thought I’d share with you all the ways in which I discover new writers and new books, all without leaving the house.

Lit Mags:

I often feel as if I’m the only one still subscribing to print magazines. Does that make me a lame oldster? I don’t care. There’s nothing more exciting than bringing the mail in and finding—amongst the bills, the catalogs, and the crap addressed to the previous owners of this house—the latest issues of my favorite lit mags.

The ones I’m most partial to are Poets & Writers, Creative Nonfiction, The Sun, Slice, and Oxford American. (I have a thing for narrative nonfiction.) But there are an overwhelming number of lit mags out there, known and lesser known, for whatever your reading tastes. Just check out databases like those offered by Poets & Writers and Duotrope.

I read them primarily to get myself to fired up. To motivate myself to write the type of writing I love the most. To be inspired. But often, I also find myself so immediately sucked in by a writer’s words that I fall deeply, helplessly in writer-love. Then I know I’ve found someone worth e-stalking and reading for a good, long time.

Lit Blogs:

PolicyMic recently did up a widely shared piece on the “10 Literary Blogs Every 20-Something Should Read” (which I bookmarked despite being an old and decrepit 34). And there are a ton of good ones on that list, well known in literary circles.

But they’re not the only ones out there. Not by far. There are plenty of other book nerds out there (besides us, that is), blogging on sites like The Rumpus and The Millions. There’s been a ton of great book content on Flavorwire these days. I’m always seeing fantastic content on the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog.

And my favorite blog for finding new TBR candidates is Book Riot. Reading their blog is like hanging out with a group of your best bookish friends. And in addition to the spirited lit commentary, they have regular features like Fresh Ink; Buy, Borrow, Bypass; and The List List that ensure I’ll never ever ever in my entire lifetime finish reading all of the books I want to read. They’ve even started sending out packages through Quarterly. If you subscribe, you receive a package four times a year containing a book the Rioters love, plus lots of other book-related goodies. BOOK NERD CHRISTMAS FOUR TIMES A YEAR.

Tumblr Feeds:

Because I’m hip to what the kids are doing these days, I recently became active on Tumblr. My Tumblr is a mishmash of yoga stuff (I’m a teacher), drool-worthy home libraries, mugs of coffee (because of course), and cat gifs. But where I get the most value is in some of the literary Tumblrs I follow. Among my favorites are Go Book Yourself (“book recommendations by humans, because algorithms are so 1984”), Proof Reading (brilliant books and booze pairings), Out of Print (yes, as in the company that sells book-themed clothing and accessories), and Bookshelf Porn (I can’t help myself).

Book Nerd Tweeps:

Before Tumblr came my first love, Twitter, where I while away many hours while telling my husband, defensively, “It counts as work!” If you want to be part of the ongoing online conversation about literature, I suggest following some of the following tweeps:

  • Ploughshares (because duh) and all my fellow bloggers
  • Joe Hill: One of several authors I follow who is always down with jumping into various book nerd convos
  • Gabrielle Gantz: The Director of Publicity for McSweeney’s and an arts and culture blogger
  • Electric Type, because they’re always putting together amazing nonfiction and fiction, short-form and long-form, lists.
  • Harper Perennial, because they’re a book publisher with a sense of humor.
  • Waterstones Oxford Street: A big-box bookstore with an even odder sense of humor. I think I follow them solely out of some morbid sense of curiosity.
  • Molly McCardle, because she’s doing great work with The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, PANK magazine, and the Believer, and I’m equal parts jealous and fascinated.
  • Electric Lit, for feature free, fantastic fiction every Wednesday.
  • Rachel Fershleiser, former public programming director at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe and now handling literary and nonprofit outreach at Tumblr. Coolest career ever?
  • Michele Filgate, the events coordinator at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn. Because professional bookslingers give good book advice.
  • I could go on forever, but I’ll restrain myself.

The Local Indies:

Of course, if you want to leave the house, I suppose that’s allowed. If you can, check out your local independent bookseller. I’m lucky enough to have a cute one near me, and to also be within commuting distance of NYC. IndieBound has a great directory if you’re curious where your closest indie is.

And now you’ll never have time for anything but books ever again.

You’re welcome.

(image via)