I’m late to this game. I waited way too long to start using Goodreads. As with a couple of other social media sites, I signed up and let it lie fallow for years. What I understand now is that Goodreads is like a Facebook focused on books and readers. Someone probably told me that years ago but I didn’t get around to Facebook either – so I didn’t get it.
With Goodreads, I can find hundreds, usually thousands, of people who’ve read the same book I did and want to “talk” about it. So far, the majority of comments have been civil and many are thought-provoking.
Of course, when there are thousands of reviews and comments posted, which ones do you read? Which ones are shown first? As with other social media sites, there are complicated algorithms to determine what lands on top. Furthermore, there are scores of people out there trying to manipulate the system, to become “influencers” among book reviewers and commentators. But that’s ok. You can skim around and read the five-star or the one-star reviews to get a taste.
I find the rating on Goodreads more honest and less inflated than what I see on Amazon. (Amazon now owns Goodreads, so let’s hope they don’t mess with this.) You can join any of the thousands of “groups” that form around different reading interests and get involved only with the ones you like. You can “friend” people if you choose, and focus on corresponding with them. It just takes a bit of time to find your way.
As an aspiring writer, it’s been valuable to realize just how intensely personal and subjective is the love of a particular book. The myriad of factors that feed into it are a complex mix of the author’s style and the reader’s personality and experiences. Books that I grudgingly give two stars may get four or five from some readers – or the other way around. The point is that a writer can’t please all the people all the time, and best not to try.
Another reason I like Goodreads: writing reviews forces discipline on me – it helps prevent me from racing through books like so many bags of chips or cookies, with no time to savor or digest. I’m delighted if someone reads my reviews and comments but it doesn’t actually matter much since the main value for me is in thinking about the book analytically and finding a way to express my thoughts. And it’s so handy having a record of my reading all online in a place I can find.
For any book lovers out there who haven’t got onto this platform, you might spend a few hour exploring Goodreads. I’d love to hear what you think.