Okay, so I’ll get it out there first off: I love Goodreads. I am a Goodreads fangirl. Excepting perhaps Facebook, Goodreads is my favourite social media network. Like so many book-related things these days, it is owned by Amazon (sigh)… but I overlook that because it has instigated such a positive change in my reading life and behaviour.
If you’ve never tried it, and one (or all) of the below statements applies to you, there’s a good chance you’d enjoy using it too:
- You like reading books
- You wish you could find the time and motivation to read more books
- You have trouble keeping track of the books you’ve read
- You struggle to find new good books to read, or to keep track of what you want to read
- There’s a certain author (or series) you adore and you’ve read their books exclusively over and over again for fear you’ll never find anything as good… but you’d like to find something new and be proved wrong.
- You like recommending books or discussing them with friends
You also have to be okay with what you’re reading – and what you think of what you’re reading – being somewhat public (the extent of which depends on privacy settings).
So, why is Goodreads useful to people who find themselves in any of the above categories?
It Makes Reading Social
Reading is generally a solitary activity. You spend hours with your nose buried in a book, and if the story moves or delights or angers you, chances are the only way you can express that is if you’re part of a book club, or have a friend or partner who has read the book.
Through marking books as “to read” or “currently reading“, and through rating, reviewing and recommending books, or even through joining a Goodreads group, Goodreads makes you feel like part of a reading community. Your update feed regularly shows you what other friends are reading, rating, reviewing or marking as “to read”. It doesn’t matter if your book-lover friends live in other cities or countries (as most of mine do), you can still easily connect over books you’ve enjoyed.
It Encourages You to Read More Books
For me, this was perhaps the best outcome of joining Goodreads.
That depressing pile of purchased-but-unread novels on my bookshelf? It finally began to shrink, even though I was adding more to it. This wasn’t purely a result of joining Goodreads (things like trying out audiobooks and joining a book club and reading during my commute helped), but it motivated me and helped me sustain that motivation.
Goodreads has many features that make you want to read more books:
The reading challenge. This is the most powerful motivator Goodreads offers. You set a goal at the start of the year for how many books you want to read (be realistic and start small!) and throughout the year it shows you whether you’re on schedule or not. Once you reach your goal, it congratulates you and announces this on your update feed, where you also see when your friends have successfully completed their goals.
Currently reading. Goodreads displays what you’re currently reading on your profile page (and your website if you add a widget – mine is in the sidebar). When you finish a book, you mark it as read and add the next book to “currently reading”. This gives you a public sense of making progress through your reading list, and is more satisfying than just plopping a book back on your shelf or closing your eReader. On your update feed you’ll also see what friends are reading and can like or comment.
Recommendations, reviews and ratings. Let’s say you reach the end of a book and you LOVED it. You want to tell everyone about it, but you’re alone and your cat is giving you the blank I-don’t-care stare, and when you finally encounter another human being they look notably bored by your enthusiastic rant. So you hop on Goodreads instead and express your delight any number of more satisfying ways: by rating the book 5 stars, writing a review, recommending it to a friend who might like it or adding other books by that author to your “to read” list.
All of these things make reading books, finishing books and finding new books a more satisfying experience, and encourage you to read more.
You Can Keep Track of Books You’ve Read
Goodreads enables you to keep track of what you’ve read and “shelve” books in different categories of your choosing. Its shelving, searching and sorting mechanisms also make it easy to see all the books you’ve read of a certain genre, or look up which year you read a book in.
Obviously a book shelf or ebook library helps with this as well… but if you read books from a mixture of sources, or borrow books from others, or are simply out and about when you want to look up the title of that elusive book you’ve forgotten, Goodreads (and the Goodreads smartphone app) make it easier.
The longer you use Goodreads and the more up-to-date you keep it (note: you can add past books and back-date them when starting out), the better the records you have.
Recommending and Gifting Books is Easier
Once you have a record of books you’ve read and what you thought of them, it’s easy to recommend books to other people.
For example, recently a relative asked if I had any recommendations for good epic high fantasy series, and while a few came to me off the top of my head, I was able to use Goodreads to recommend several more great series I might have otherwise overlooked.
As I discussed more extensively in a post about buying books as gifts and the Goodreads “compare” function, it’s also a bonus if your friend happens to be on Goodreads, because you can see what they’ve read and enjoyed, and avoid buying them a book they already have.
It Helps You Find New Books to Read
Goodreads makes it easy to discover new books you might enjoy through a variety of features, often tailoring recommendations to your tastes:
Friends’ Ratings. When you have friends on Goodreads that share similar tastes to you, you can easily see which books they’ve rated highly or added to favourites lists… chances are you might like them too!
Readers also enjoyed. This display appears when you view a book on Goodreads and displays similar books that readers also rated highly – thus making it easier to find a book like one you’ve already enjoyed.
Feed updates and recommendations. As you scroll through the updates feed you’ll not only see friends’ ratings, but also Goodreads recommendations based on your previous ratings, favourite authors and what’s currently trending in your favourite genres.
Goodreads Choice Awards. At the end of every year users vote to nominate books for the Goodreads Choice Awards, and winners are categorised by genre. Sometimes checking out the nominees is a good way to find out what readers have liked in your preferred genres.
Listopia. This is a section of Goodreads where users can vote for the books in a certain genre or category. So if you’ve decided you’d like to try out some more paranormal romances, or perhaps some hard science fiction, there’ll likely be a list with user-voted suggestions.
You’ll Know What You Want to Read Next
People often recommend books to me at festivals, conferences or just whenever the topic of books comes up in conversation. Before Goodreads I would inevitably forget the titles or lose whatever piece of paper I had scrawled them on.
Now, when someone recommends a book that sounds like it’s right up my alley, I pull out my phone and add it to my “want to read” list. When I see an intriguing book recommended or advertised online I do the same thing.
It Informs You of New Releases By Favourite Authors
If you add authors to your favourite authors list in Goodreads, or have read and highly rated books in a series, it will generally tell you when a new book comes out either through an email, monthly Goodreads newsletter or on your updates feed (depending on your account settings and preferences).
It Doesn’t Take Much Time
There are a variety of features on Goodreads that could take up a lot of time if you regularly used all of them: groups, listopia voting, favourite quotes, competitions, ask the author sessions etc.
However, if you just use basic functions to occasionally update what you’re reading, add and rate books, and check out what your friends are reading (which is all most users I know tend to do), it consumes very little time compared to other social media sites. Like reading books, the pace on Goodreads is generally slower.
And you don’t have to think up witty quips or status updates, scroll through thousands of tweets, or do daily updates!
Minimal Privacy Angst
If you’re reluctant to share personal information about yourself, Goodreads is a relatively angst-free platform. You can choose to share minimum information when completing your profile and, unlike Facebook, your updates don’t usually aren’t about your private life. On Goodreads, I’ll happily interact with people I’ve never met in person and add them as friends, where I would not on Facebook.
The one thing people will learn from your Goodreads profile is what kind of books you do or don’t like… so you have to be okay with that. You should also be aware that authors use Goodreads too, and can see your reviews and ratings of their books. If you have a problem with that, you can choose not to rate or review books, and simply add them to your shelves.
So Should You Join?
Those are the reasons why I find Goodreads useful and fun, and I highly recommend it to all book-lovers out there… but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and these are my opinions, so ultimately you have to try it out for yourself. If you do end up using it, and want to expand your friend list, feel free to add me… I’m always willing to befriend fellow bookworms 🙂
And for those of you that are already on Goodreads: What do you think of it? What do you use it for and why do you like or dislike it?