Goodreads is a six year old “social cataloguing” website aimed around the reviewing, sharing and personal recording of books read. It is a brilliant premise that is underused, underrated and missing from any other book-based website that I know of. Ultimately, it is such an easy to use and logical design that I don’t understand why more people don’t use it. Or, rather, why more people don’t openly use it- perhaps almost everyone I know is on it but, like me, haven’t connected any of their other accounts to it and don’t talk about it in the real world!
Consequently, I must admit that I don’t use many of Goodreads’ fantastic features. As well as not connecting my account to any friends or my Facebook account (I think it might be too much if I’m constantly telling every one of my friends and acquaintances what book I just finished reading), I have never ventured into the world of online book clubs that are so easily within my reach on this website. I appreciate that everyone has a different approach to enjoying their reading experience, but mine is more explicitly personal than a book club would allow. Even in English Literature lessons at school, I would often rather listen to others’ readings of the text and consider mine around this, unless something particular occurred to me that no one else seemed to notice. One day, perhaps during what could be my last free summer this year, I may participate in such a book club to see what Goodreads has to offer me that I’ve been missing out on!
I also rarely write reviews for books there. However, this is due more to my own laziness than any fault on Goodreads’ part. If any book has affected me particularly, or reminded me of any significant themes, then I would rather write a carefully considered blog about it than a short and gushing review that a few Goodreads users may possibly read. On the contrary, I am very grateful for those users who do take pride in writing, however in depth, about any book that they finish, as it enables the basis of Goodreads to work. There is a whole database of opinions about almost every book out there, and the website’s starring system is so trustworthy that I now always check the score of a book I am considering buying. It seems such an obvious tool now, but it’s the equivalent of checking imdb or Rotten Tomatoes for movies, and there is nothing comparable for books. Equally, the website database includes almost all possible editions of any book, meaning that you can match up the edition you’re reading onto your lists, or possibly even check discrepancies between them.
Other than the reviews, the two features I find most helpful are the bookshelves and the yearly reading challenge. The former allows each user to essentially create lists of books they want to read, have previously read, in different genres they enjoyed- the possibilities are endless and, importantly, completely personal. The latter is a tool for recording the different books you read within one year, with the ability to set a personal target- I’m going for 40 books this year after I managed 34 in 2012- and it whenever you check up on it, it tells you by percentage and by number of books how on track you are towards your target. I find this truly motivating throughout the year, as it gets exciting to see how many books you can read in a finite space of time whilst potentially selecting a completely wide range of genre and themes to devour.
Overall, if you are at all interested in books, I recommend giving this website a go. There is no better place to look when trying to decide what book to buy next (although I do still like reading Amazon reviews too!) and the scope throughout the literary world is just unrivalled.