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How I Built the Ultimate TBR List Using Airtable

How I Built the Ultimate TBR List Using Airtable

airtable is my favorite way to keep track of what I’m reading next

When it comes to being a bookworm, there’s one certainty: That your TBR (“to-be-read”) list / pile / shelf will always be out of control. The more you read, the more books get added to your list, and before you know it, you’re this guy:


(I love being this guy.)

I used to use Wunderlist to keep track of which books I wanted to read next. Eventually, as my list grew, I started adding due dates to them to keep track of the next month or so. And then everything got out of hand.

Because all of a sudden I was reading a few advanced reading copies (ARCs) — both print and NetGalley — each month. And I needed to keep track of when they were going to be published so I could read and review them before that. And I wanted to make sure I was reading two Book of the Month (BOTM) books a month so that I can whittle down my pile. And then there were library book due dates. And book club due dates. That’s a lot more than a simple list could handle.

Enter: Airtable. This is a tool I use at work, and the part of my brain that loves to organize things into spreadsheets (what can I say, I went to business school) loves it oh, so much. Here’s how it works.


What is airtable?

Basically, Airtable is a giant, flexible spreadsheet that you can slice and dice and filter and sort and view in all sorts of useful ways. It’s also free! (You can check it out here.)

Each row in your Airtable is a record, and each column is an opportunity to categorize or add info to those records. That’s pretty straightforward, like a normal spreadsheet. But where Airtable gets really powerful is by allowing you to do more than just type into the cells — you can format the columns as things like dates, multi-select lists, single-select lists, URLs, numbers, checkboxes, and way more.

So by having all this info — fully customized — for each record, Airtable lets you view things in more useful ways. Maybe you group rows by category, or by date. Maybe you create a view where each record appears on a calendar grid, and you can drag and drop them around however you need to. Maybe you like Kan Bans, or cards. Etc.


So How did I build my TBR?

So glad you asked.

I have one book on each row, and the book title is the first column, as a short text field. Then I added:

  • Target Date: The day I want to finish the book. This is a date field.

  • Month: The month in which I plan to read the book, as I plan my monthly TBRs. This is a single-select field.

  • Tags: Different types of books that I want to keep track of. This includes ARCs, NetGalley books, library books, book club books, BOTMs, etc. This is a multi-select field.

  • Due Date: If there’s a certain day when I must finish a book by, then I add it here. Things like library due date or ARC publication dates. This is a date field.

  • Number of Pages: So that I can make sure I’m not overloading myself (LOL what a joke). This is a number field.

  • Notes: Just in case. This is a long text field.

  • Read Checkbox: Once I’ve finished a book, I check this box, and then it gets filtered out of all my other views. I have a different filtered view for finished books in case I want to look back. This is a checkbox field.

You can see these in the banner image above.

Here are the views I created:

  • By Month: All records, with Read books filtered out and grouped by the Month column. This lets me see all the books I have planned for a given month. It’s permanently sorted by Target Date. If I haven’t assigned a month to a book, it’s also filtered out of this view.

  • Calendar: A calendar view of my TBR, with Target Date as the primary date.

  • BOTM: A list filtered so that books with the BOTM tag are showing, and Read books are filtered out. I have other views for other tags, as well

  • Backlist: All records that don’t have a Month assigned to them, with Read books filtered out. When I want to fill up my TBR for the month ahead, I pull from here.

  • All Books: Everything I haven’t read yet, sorted alphabetically

  • Finished: All books that have the Read checkbox checked.

I also have a second, simple tab where I keep track of ARCs I want to request soon.


Can I Just Copy Yours?

Actually, yes! Click the button below to view a read-only version of my TBR Airtable base. (WELP, welcome inside my life lol.)

Then you can click the “Copy base” button up in the top right-hand corner. It will prompt you to sign up for a free account and duplicate my base into your account. Then you can get all my books, tags etc. out of there and get yours in!

Happy planning! Let me know in the comments if you try it out.

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