Seven Reasons I LOVE Goodreads
Goodreads is a fantastically useful site for anyone looking to organize their book piles and track their reading.
The allure of creating my own shelving system motivated me to join in 2011. Since then, I've been a regular user.
Before Goodreads, I had a binder with book lists that I had picked up from bookstores, libraries, teacher friends, and organizations. If a friend recommended a book, I'd write that information on a scrap of paper or napkin and throw it into the binder. A librarian friend of mine shared how she had used index cards to keep track of what she had read so she could refer back to her notes.
What a paper nightmare!
When I discovered the benefits of Goodreads, my reading became much more focused and I opened myself up to many more reading recommendations.
I love that I can adjust my privacy controls and email notifications.
When I made my account, this prep work took a little bit of time. Goodreads gives numerous options for setting up your account.
I do change up my options every now and then. I had originally opted to receive several email notifications and I signed up for every newsletter.
When the email became more of a hassle than anything beneficial, I opted out of several notifications and some of the newsletters. Customize as you wish!
I prefer having control over who my friends on Goodreads are, so I require anyone to answer a question. Then I decide if I want to add them as a friend. I've ignored a few people whose accounts came across as spammy.
Amazon bought Goodreads in early 2013, and as soon as it was available, I unchecked the option for allowing partners of Goodreads to display my reviews. I love Amazon, but I don't want them highjacking my thoughts. I created my Goodreads account for me, and I'm willing to share with other Goodreads members.
I can add books and shelves. With no limits!
Everyone begins with three shelves: read, to read, and currently reading.
For the shelves I've created, I've stuck to mostly traditional genre names. If I wanted to create a shelf for the book list for a class, or a wish list shelf, I could. And I find myself adding shelves as my reading tastes expand. For instance, when I started listening to more audiobooks, I added that shelf as another way to cross-reference my reading habits.
Goodreads employs a five-star rating system. One downside to this system is that I can't give half stars. Some readers work around this limitation by beginning their review with their true star value, like 4.5 stars. I just stick to five stars because I find that easier.
For most of the books that I added from memory, I tried to rate them as accurately as I could remember them. For a few, I wrote reviews, which were really more the impressions that I still had of the book years later.
For books that I've read since 2011, I've written reviews. I decided that I wanted a true record of my reading.
And it's come in handy.
When friends ask me for recommendations, I'll flip through my shelves and I'm shocked to remember a book that I read just last year. Rather than forgetting books or struggling to remember a title that I read that time when that thing happened, now I can refer to my digital reading history.
If writing reviews doesn't appeal to you, you don't have to. Or if you have thoughts on a book that you'd rather not share with the whole world, you can take advantage of the Private notes area. Just click to edit review, click the link for more options, and you can add notes that only you see.
And adding books is easy. Frequently, I'll be out with friends and someone will mention a book. I can look up the title with the Goodreads app, decide if it looks interesting to me, and easily click to add the book to my Want to Read shelf. I love not having to grab for napkins!
I love adding my friends and following people, especially authors.
Adding friends and following people is a great way to do a little background research on books I'm thinking about reading. Sure, I read professional reviews and I listen to book podcasts, but those people don't know me.
And I've decided that life is too short to waste time on books I don't like. Some people bemoan how the book blogger is destroying literary criticism. I see the book blogger and Goodreads reviewing member as the people who are helping me choose books I want to read.
When I select a book title, the summary information shows first. Then the ratings and reviews of my friends populate right under the summary. Below them are the ratings and reviews of anyone I follow. Lastly there are the ratings and reviews for the most voted upon reviews.
I choose who to follow with specific criteria in mind. For a few of the people I follow, I value their opinion on science-fiction or fantasy books or some other genre. Other people I follow because they read so much, posting a book review or more per day. I may not agree with their every opinion, but they articulate their opinion well, so their reviews really help me figure out if a book is worth my time.
And then I have some favorite authors who are active on Goodreads, so I follow their reviews. When Pat Rothfuss wrote, "I love it when I pick up a book and it surprises me" about Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines, I knew that I must read this book. And it was surprising and interesting and funny and original. I loved it. I was leaning toward reading the book, but knowing that one of my favorite fantasy authors loved it too sealed the deal!
All of these reviewers take the time to share their thoughts about a book and often offer better critical perspective than some professionally written reviews I read. If a reviewer offers a negative view of the book without attacking the author, then that viewpoint is often helpful to me.
Friends can send each other book recommendations too.
I love this feature! I don't see all of my friends every day, and if someone hears about a book or finishes reading a book and wants to alert another Goodreads friend, it's easy to send them that book recommendation.
And if I find a book that I know so-and-so would love, then I send off that recommendation. This kind of sharing I can get into!
I love pushing myself with the Reading Challenge and tracking my progress.
In 2012, I randomly set my reading goal at 50 books and somehow I found the time to read that much. Since then, my goals have been modified and decreased, but I still love tracking my progress. When I see the message that I'm one book behind schedule, I can evaluate what's going on in my life and try to find the time to read more.
And the timeline statistics always make me giddy. I love seeing this snapshot of how a year progressed for me. How many books did I give five stars to? What was the longest book I read that year? Based off my shelves, what kinds of books did I read?
I love my book clubs and groups on Goodreads.
These communities are full of wonderful people. I've met folks from these groups at events they host and we all swoon over our favorite reads. I'm not so great at keeping in touch, but I'll frequently check out what these fellow book groupies are reading for some inspiration.
The discussion forums for these groups are also chock full of useful information. People will discuss the nuances of books, they offer recommendations, they philosophize, they post book news and release dates. Even though I'm not a huge participator, I love lurking and soaking in everyone's ideas and perspectives.
I can get lost in their Listopias and Choice Awards Lists.
There are thousands of book lists on Goodreads. Sometimes I just read through them to see how different people view various books.
Other times, I'm looking for particular recommendations. I've never been a huge non-fiction book reader. If I wanted to know more about a topic, I'd find an article or documentary. But Goodreads has helped me find some great non-fiction reads.
I can type in keywords like leadership, creativity, or medicine, and see what lists appear. When I get the results with several booklists, each list will show up with its title, the number of books on the list, book cover images for the five top books on that list, and the number of votes the list has received.
Every year Goodreads also asks readers to vote on their Reader Choice Awards for best books in various categories. Sometimes I'll just scan through those archives and find books that I vaguely remember hearing about.
Goodreads has so many other great features too. You can enter giveaways. You can try your hand at the Never-Ending Book Quiz. You can search for favorite bookish quotations and place them on your home page. You can read author interviews or participate in Author Q&As.
It truly is a paradise of books for any bibliophile out there.