Tools of the Trade: Goodreads

Posted by on Aug 12, 2013

I’m starting a new feature here that I’m calling “tools of the trade”. This will be where I discuss places and things that help me in my quest to read as many great books as possible before I die. The first one up is a website and discussion forum called Goodreads.

I joined Goodreads a while ago, and frankly haven’t spent much time on it, so I’m still in the learning process. It is an online gathering of readers. You can put in the books you’ve read, rate them, organize them by shelves, get recommendations based on you previous ratings, but to my mind, the absolute best part is when someone gives you a great book recommendation, you can go on there, find the book, and rate it as “to-read”. Then the next time you’re looking for a new book (and you’ve already read all of my recommendations, naturally) you log on, and click on your “to-read” shelf, and voila: no more book recos missed because they leaked out of your brain.

Incidentally, I think the art of recommending books is much like the art of giving good presents. You know those people who conscientiously, every year for your birthday or special holiday or no reason at all, give you some lovely and thoughtful gift that reflects none of your tastes, interests, hobbies, or space availability? (I am not pointing any fingers – I come from a family of extraordinarily good gift givers, then married one, which is both awesome for my own selfish gain and incredibly intimidating when it is time to reciprocate.) I think many book recommendations are like that. People tend to assume that just because they loved something and it changed their life, then you are also going to love it and it’s going to change your life, too. Never mind that they love a good tear-jerker romance and you are more into witty police procedurals.

But back to Goodreads! There is also a social aspect of it, where you can make friends, or follow your favorite authors, or join discussion forums. I haven’t done much with this part of it, but I’d like to get more involved. I found the website just a little intimidating while learning to navigate it, but the more time I spend on it, the easier I find it. And as I said earlier, I absolutely love that I can save my book recommendations. It’s also visually organized, which works very well for me.

Is anyone out there on Goodreads? If so, be my friend –  my username is lectorsbooks (creative, I know). Are there people in your life who, when they recommend a book, you run the other way? Anyone whose recommendations you trust implicitly?


  1. Beth Waits
    August 12, 2013

    I’m on Goodreads! I just sent you a friend request. My username is, “Don’t Panic!” I’ve been on Goodreads for several years, and I’ve just started to update it more regularly. I’m with you, it is a bit confusing at first. It’s actually really growing on me, though. I like to look at the various “lists” of books to get new ideas. It’s definitely reduced all of the random notebooks and scrap paper where I write down recommendations or books I’ve read.

    I’m not much of a reviewer at this point, but I think I may start writing quotes that I like in the review section, that way I can actually keep track of them. I have the hardest time keeping up with quotes. I have mini-collections of random quotes all over the place! I write down page numbers and abbreviations for titles (thinking I’ll just write out the whole quote somewhere later); then, of course, I forget about it. Months, or even years, later, I find it and can’t remember what my abbreviation meant. Ugh! So many lost quotes!

    It’s really great to have a way to organize what you’re reading. Thanks for posting this! I’m looking forward to more helpful reading tools in the future. You should post about e-book recommendations, if you haven’t already. I’m thinking about buying one in a few months.

    • lectorsbooks
      August 12, 2013

      Just accepted your friend request! I don’ feel so lonely on there anymore. 🙂 Don’t Panic! is a wonderful username!

      Goodreads is a fabulous tool, and certainly one that I under-use. However, I’m also loving no longer having sticky notes and scribbles on receipts and things like that to keep track of my recommendations. I have to say though, that my worst offender is using random pieces of paper as bookmarks. I’ve used airline tickets (before getting on a plane), important bills (not paid), and cash. My best find was a $20 bill in a book!

      I don’t actually post many reviews on there, either. I keep meaning to do so, but with all the places I *should* be posting reviews (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads) I generally just forget. You’d think it would be easy since I’ve already written it, but there it is.

      I’ll think about doing an e-reader post – I’m not much of a gadgets person and I have the absolutely most basic Kindle money can buy (I’m not even sure they make it anymore), but we shall see!

      • lectorsbooks
        August 12, 2013

        P.S. I love your keeping track of quotes idea!

  2. Beth Hennings
    August 12, 2013

    Not sure I can tackle another big learning curve with “Goodreads” while trying to learn a new language! However, the idea of new book ideas in ONE place (as opposed to the random 3×5 notecards I leave lying around) is rather enticing. Here’s a really awkward experience that put me off book fairs, which I used to consider a fun way to explore new authors. At the last fair I attended, I noticed a woman from my church selling her books. She recognized me, so there was no escape from buying one of her novels. IT WAS AWFUL. Lame plot in a genre I don’t even like, uninteresting dialogue, poor editing. I bumped into this lady later, and I knew she was hoping I would tell her how much I liked her book, but I couldn’t bring myself to lie. (I’m a bit like Harriet Vane in that way.) So I just smiled and left before we got to that point. About a year later, a friend gifted me with a book by this same author! Oh No! I felt I had to read it, but at least this time I could give my friend, whose reading sense I trust, an honest evaluation of the book. There are very few people whose book recommendations I take at face value. I’m not a voracious reader, and quite frankly, don’t have time to waste on books that don’t interest me. I’ve finally learned that I don’t have to read every book given to me, I don’t have to finish every book I start, and I don’t have to say I liked a book that I really didn’t. Check out grumpy Joe Queenan’s ONE FOR THE BOOKS, a book about books and his obsession for reading. And maybe you can give me a tutorial on “Goodreads.”

    • lectorsbooks
      August 12, 2013

      Oh no! That sounds terrible! One of the reasons I stopped accepting book review requests on my blog was that often I just didn’t like them, or they were poorly edited/written or some horrible combination. Because I felt like I “knew” the authors through email, I felt really awful about it, so I just stopped taking them. Problem solved!

      I have only recently (within the last three months or so) started not finishing books I didn’t like. Life is too short, and my time too valuable to waste reading things I’m not enjoying, or that are objectively bad.

      I’d be happy to give you a goodreads tutorial! And I’m off there right now to add ONE FOR THE BOOKS to my “want to read” on Goodreads. 🙂