I am a librarian and I read a lot. For years I tracked the books I read by writing down the titles in my day planner on the date I finished reading them. Four years ago, I switched to Goodreads and I’ve never looked back. It’s brilliant!
First of all, what Goodreads is not. It’s not a site to find and read free e-books. More on that later.
Goodreads is a web site and an app for recording the books you’ve read. Why is it better than writing them down in a notebook? Let me count the ways:
- Every book is matched with its book cover and a description. The book cover alone helps me remember what I’ve read 100% better, especially after I return books to the library. If I still need to jog my memory, the book description is just a click away.
- I don’t need to flip through years of day planners, calendars or library receipts to find out when or if I read a book.
- I can sort the books I’ve read by title, author, format (e.g., audiobook or e-book), date read, any tag I entered, and more.
- My account is accessible from the website and on my tablet and phone apps everywhere I go.
Goodreads is easy to join and easy to maintain. To get started, all you need to enter is your name (any name or nickname is fine), an email address and a password. Creating a profile with more information about yourself is optional. You can invite people to friend you or not, so your listings can be completely private.
Then, you add the books you’ve read (or, start today and list every book you read going forward). To add a book, you start typing in the title, and click on the right match from a list of suggestions.
From the drop-down list, choose if you have read it, would like to read it, or you’re reading it now.
That’s it! To track your reading, those are the complete instructions. Easy!
If you are a book nerd or a data tracker, you can do so much more. Casual readers, go no further! (I saw a video on YouTube in which the channel owner moaned a lot about how Goodreads took the fun out of reading because it “requires” you to set goals and categorize everything. It does not!)
Each time you enter a book, you have the option to assign your own tags to it. Each tag is called a shelf. Let’s say I read a dystopian novel. I can tag it dystopian and it will be added to my virtual shelf of dystopian books. I can also add it to another shelf which I could call fiction, adult fiction, novels, or whatever I like, and it will be added to those shelves, too. I can look at a page of all the books I’ve read, or all the dystopian books I’ve read, or all the adult fiction books I’ve read. There is no limit on the number and type of tags I can add to create new “shelves.” Goodreads still counts this as just one book read.
You can use the tags/shelves to manage your own book collection. For example, you can tag a book owned or mine, you can say from library or Shelly (for a book your friend Shelly told you about) or even bookcase 3 or office to indicate where you store a book. At any time, you can display the list of all items on a particular shelf, or go back to the view of all the books you’ve read.
One feature I love is the ability to tag books as Want to Read. In the past, I used all kinds of ways to remember books I’d heard of and might want to read in the future: I would take pictures of them at the book store or library, email the titles to myself, bookmark a website, add them to my Amazon wish list, write them down in a notebook, etc. Want to Read is one of the default tags on Goodreads, as shown in the nearest picture above. When I’m looking for something to read, I like to consult my Want to Read list first, and select something that has already come to my attention. Of course, it’s always appropriate to get distracted by new books, too!
Another popular feature is the ability to set a reading goal for the year and track it. You choose how many books you want to read in the calendar year. As you mark each book read, it gives you a running total. The goal setter provides a one-line, non-nagging reminder if you are ahead or behind on your goal on a month-to-month basis. For instance, if you want to read 24 books this year, and you have finished 5 books by the end of February, your Reading Challenge area will say you are one book ahead of schedule.
The rest of Goodreads is gently social. To be honest, its users don’t use the site for expressing their enthusiasm about books as much as you would think. The capability is there, but I believe a lot of users just want to track their own reading and no more.
When you join, you can invite friends from Facebook, Twitter, or your Gmail or Yahoo address books. This is not required. You can also send anyone you know a link to your Goodreads page and invite them to friend you. You can search your real-life friends’ email addresses or names if you think they’re on Goodreads. Or, like me, you can post your Goodreads link on your blog 🙂 If you send a friend request and it is accepted, you can see all the books your friend has read. You can even click “compare” and the site will show which books you’ve both read!
On to your feed, or your personal Goodreads home page. Whenever you open the app or log into the web site, the first screen you see contains all the latest updates from your friends. The most popular activity among friends is to display what you’re currently reading, even though you haven’t finished it yet. Earlier, I said you can look up books and mark them as Read or Want to Read. If you have friends on the site, you may want to keep them up to date by also posting what you are Currently Reading. When you finish the book, you change its status to Read. If you don’t finish it, you can remove it from your site, or give it a tag like DNF (did not finish).
For each book you read, you have the option of rating it one to five stars. Goodreads has assigned meanings to the stars: 1 = didn’t like it, 2 = it was OK, 3 = liked it, 4 = really liked it and 5 = it was amazing. You can also post a review. When deciding whether to read a book, the general tone of the user reviews is a good indication of the book’s popularity (similar to using reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor). But if someone gives up on a book or doesn’t like it, they are less likely to post a review, unless it really irked them! When you mark a book as read, the site also asks if you’d like to recommend it to any of your friends. If so, they will get a notification. The site itself will also recommend books to you, based on your previous reading. I find their recommendations very good, especially compared to Amazon, which factors in books that you’ve browsed or purchased as gifts. There are also lots of user-generated lists, such as Best Historical Fiction or Cult Classics.
I’m sure it’s no surprise to regular readers that I also like the stats they provide for you!
A few last notes. Goodreads was acquired by Amazon and it partners with Audible. You can click links on the site to purchase books from Amazon and give a little kickback to Goodreads. However, you can also add your own public library link to your page and see if the book you’re searching for is there. Like Wikipedia, it uses volunteers to build its content, but it’s a for-profit site. There is a column of ads on the home page and an average of one ad on each additional page. Authors can pay to feature their books, but this is clearly indicated. Goodreads itself, or groups of fans, can dedicate pages to their favourite authors or books, whether the creators of the works approve or not. And, as with all social media, fans or trolls can make or break the reputation of a book or author. Goodreads is available as a web site or as an app for iOS or Android. I use it on my iPad and the mobile version has good functionality. Before I went on Goodreads, I tried out LibraryThing, but left when they started charging a fee. LibraryThing is non-commercial and does not allow promotions, and it caters more to people who want to catalogue their books in detail.
As for using Goodreads to read books, there is a small section called Creative Writing where users can post their own works, but it does not seem to be a significant feature of the site.
This was not a sponsored post. I just like the site. Feel free to friend me! My page is here. If you have any questions about Goodreads, I might be able to help. Happy reading!