I’ve been using Goodreads to track my reading since before I was a really big reader. My mom was actually the first person to tell me about it, and it was before there was a social media app for everything so I remember thinking that a social media app for reading sounded weird. But I made an account like the good daughter that I am, and got to tracking!
My use of Goodreads has changed over the years (that’s one of the great things about it!), but I’ve heard a few people say recently that they’re not sure how to use it, so I thought I’d take some time to discuss my favorite features.
This is probably the big one. Every book you “shelve” on goodreads must fall in to one of three categories: read, currently reading, or want to read. After that you can create as many shelves as you want. Common shelves that I’ve seen include: DNF (did not finish), genre-based shelves, rating-based shelves, year read based shelves.
Primary Use: I use the Read shelf for two primary reasons: filtering by date read for wrap up posts (monthly, and annually) and filtering by rating for that time when someone asks what book they should read and they’ve already read all the amazing ones I can think of.
Tips and Tricks: You’re not limited to the categories listed for you. If you want to add or remove columns for sorting, click the settings link at the top of the page
Things that could be better: You can’t see how many books you’ve read in the current year on your read shelf without filtering by date and scrolling back to January. If you want a quick tally, start a reading challenge (the goal can be 0!) and it will then keep track of books you read in a calendar year. You also can’t sort by genre at all. This is why people make those shelves, but I wish it could be more automatic.
Primary Use: To let someone (or just myself) know what I’m reading! Sometimes I’ll update this with my page number or % of progress through the book, but really that’s just if I’m bored and looking for something to click on
This one’s straightforward so no Tips/Tricks/Thing That Could Improve here!
Want to Read
Primary Use: This one has two purposes for me (which brings me to my Things That Could Be Better…). One is to catalog the books I own and one is to jot down books people recommend to me or I hear about and don’t want to forget!
Tips and Tricks: This is the only list that can be ordered! I use this all the time to arrange my TBR! (Again, mostly if I am bored and looking for something to click on — Goodreads is a great guilt free option for that!)
Things that could be better: There should be two lists – one for books I Want to Read and own, and one for books I want to read and don’t own. It’s important for me to keep the books I own in there so I don’t forget them, but then they get jumbled in with books I’ve heard about and the list just gets so long. Also my boyfriend/family always ask what books to get me and I wish I could point them to my Want to Read list, but then they’d more than likely buy me books I already own. This is probably my biggest pet peeve with the interface! (Goodreads, are you listening?!)
Primary Use: As I mentioned before this is for you to catalog anything that Goodreads won’t catalog for you. Genre, Author Ethnicity/Gender, Source (library, publisher, purchased), and Ratings are popular lists I’ve seen in the past. I currently only have two additional shelves: Unread Shelf- Fiction and Unread Shelf – Nonfiction. This is helping me with my issue with the Want to Read Shelf, and my goal of alternating fiction and nonfiction this year. When I’m going to choose my next book, I generally check these places depending on which side of the fiction/nonfiction coin I’m on.
Things that could be better: One thing that drives me nuts about these shelves is that you can’t rank them, like you can your Want to Read shelf. Since I use them as a second source of TBR I’d love to put them in order (just me? k.). It also took me the longest time to figure out how to delete one that I had made. I’ll tell you how. Under “My Books” and adjacent to the word “Bookshelves” (above your list of shelves) there’s a link that says “(edit shelves)” and that’s where you do it! Since it was pretty far away from the create your own shelves list, I had the hardest time finding it at first.
Ratings on Goodreads are huge in the publishing industry. When I went to the San Diego Festival of Books, author Michelle Gable mentioned that one of the ways she mentors new authors is by reviewing their books on Goodreads. She and the other authors also said they live for the 4 and 5 star reviews on their titles as well. Truthfully, I’m not very consistent when it comes to posting my reviews to Goodreads, but I so commend anyone who does. However, I am pretty diligent about leaving a rating and a few words.
When I go to Goodreads, I mostly look for the synopsis and the ratings, and since I hate spoilers, I won’t read any reviews until after I finish the book.
I may be one of few, but I love the Goodreads monthly newsletter! It keeps me up to date on books coming out that month and has a specific section for books coming out by authors you’ve read. I also find the interviews and blog posts they include are pretty enjoyable too. I’m really not a newsletter person but this one works for me!
And let’s not forget the social networking side of this interface. I love seeing what my friends are reading (if you couldn’t already tell that from my blog)! Since I live in California and most of my friends are from the East Coast, one way we stay in touch is by following each other on Goodreads. I love getting a text from a friend I haven’t talked to in a while saying “I saw what you’re reading in Goodreads, what do you think?!”
I’d say most of the conversations that are started from Goodreads take place over text, which probably isn’t what the creators of the platform want, but for me it works, and each of those texts brings me so much joy and connection.
You don’t have to use all the features
Among the things I don’t use are Lists, Browse, and Discovery tools. The only way I’m discovering books on Goodreads is if a trusted friend of mine gives it a five star rating. I totally support you finding books on Goodreads if you’re enjoying that, but I have found the recs don’t totally work for me. I have a ton of other sources for finding books I like (I wrote about that here).
A coworker recently told me that he doesn’t use Goodreads because he tried and it recommended too many books to him. My only thought was “try it again! You don’t have to lean in to the recs!”
So basically, I’m here to say that this platform is far from perfect and far from being what everyone needs, but I find it to be pretty easy to use and a great way for me to track my books and interact with friends. I hope you can find a way to use Goodreads to improve your reading habits, or just have another thing to click through that brings you joy. 🙂