Recently, John Green posted on a response on his Tumblr to an advertising campaign for his new book, The Fault in Our Stars, on the social reading site Goodreads. While he was, obviously, thankful to his publishers for the publicity bump, he also used the opportunity to reflect on what Goodreads means to him as an author. Essentially, he is glad that there’s finally a way for readers to talk about books in a social and (this is the important part) pretty much public way. Buying books (or checking them out from the library!) shows that you’re interested in reading the book, but, up until now, there hasn’t been an easy way to tell what people think after they’ve read the book.
I love Goodreads for a lot of the same reasons John Green does. It’s useful to be able to see which of my friends have read a book when I’m checking out a book from the library. It’s also a great place to talk about books with my friends who live far away–it’s much easier to just comment on a review than to constantly send emails that say”â€œDid you read this? What about this one? How about this trilogy?!” I also like being able to write reviews so that I myself remember what I like about books. In other words, I love Goodreads because it’s a well-made social network for readers.
There is one thing about Goodreads that makes me feel a little … weird, and it’s pretty much the exact same thing that makes me love it: it’s a little strange to declare your opinions about books so publicly. If I write an honest, but somewhat harsh, review of a debut novel, will the author read it and be crushed? If I mark a book that I had to make myself read as a two-star read, will it keep other people who might enjoy the book far more from reading it? If my best friend recommends her favorite book of all time to me, is she going to be annoyed that I banished it to my “abandoned” shelf after just fifty pages? Is my generally well-read social circle going to judge the heck out of me for reading (and loving!) the Pretty Little Liars series?
Goodreads is, for me, the epitome of a double-edged sword. While the increased connection to my friends and colleagues has led me to pick up books I wouldn’t otherwise consider, and the flexible shelf system has allowed me to keep better track of the books I do read, it’s also made me more carefully consider what I put out in the world. Would I be okay with an author reading my review? Have I considered my opinion of a book enough to defend it to a friend with a completely different view?
What about you? Has Goodreads changed the way you read? Does knowing if someone is a Goodreads author or not change how you write a review?
— Ariel Cummins, currently reading The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo for YALSA’s Best of the Best Reading Challenge