Skip to content

Goodreads: A Reader’s Perspective

2012 May 1
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • RSS

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”“Did 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

Share and enjoy

  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • RSS
4 Responses
  1. Library.Lil permalink
    May 1, 2012

    I’ve heard other people say they feel bad or guilty for writing negative opinions or reviews on goodreads. I understand it, but it’s not something that bothers me. When I write a goodreads review, it’s completely about my opinion of and reactions to a book. I try very hard not to be mean or harsh, but I am honest. If something didn’t work for me, I’m honest about what it was. If I loved the book but the cover was a head-scratcher, I mention it. If a historical fiction would have been stronger had it contained an author’s note about the real events, I say so.

    Goodreads is a forum to share opinions on books, and I use it as such, but it’s also my method of remembering books. I think it’s a great reader’s advisory tool, and I sort my shelves with that in mind and I write my reviews with that in mind–so I will remember why a book is great if you like historical fiction, but maybe not the best choice if you have an assignment on historical fiction and will need supporting documentation of the accuracy. Or that this book has only a kiss while that one had a more explicit scene.

    I do not look to see if an author is a “goodreads author” and knowing an author could potentially read my reviews does not change what I write. First of all, authors by nature will hear both positives and negatives about their work. I assume it’s expected. Secondly, it’s just my opinion, and I am just one person. And thirdly, perhaps authors actually want to hear what doesn’t work for their readers.

    I found it interesting that John Green mentions the research/marketing opportunities that could come from goodreads. By that same token, an author (or their publisher) could learn, say, that while readers love a book, the cover is universally disliked. Or that many readers are getting tired of the love triangle. Or other pieces of useful information.

    I love goodreads. I take time to write a review of every book I read, and I have developed a format that I use for most reviews based mostly on the information I want when I am trying to remember a book later.

  2. May 1, 2012

    Oh, I’m with you all the way, though it pains me to admit that I would adjust what I might say based on thinking of the author’s feelings. I mean, why not be honest? But I do think of feelings, and temper my harshness, and perhaps rate things sliiiiightly higher because I don’t want others not to choose the book based on my individual feelings. I’ve also had the same experience of gushing over a book, and then one of my best friends will not like it or abandon it, and I’ll feel so snubbed. I guess the moral is to care less! :) I do love the sharing and categorizing that can happen on Goodreads. If I was an author, I don’t know if I’d love or hate all the extra info…

  3. May 3, 2012

    Ha. I just finished my final assignment for my cataloging class, and I did a wiki about goodreads and how it’s different from Library Thing in that it relies on social cataloging. I absolutely love that aspect of it precisely because it’s so different from the traditional library approach to cataloging, and I think both are awesome. I definitely see where you’re coming from, and I sometimes give scathing reviews that I feel pretty bad about for a few minutes, but if I really think that and would say it in person, why not? I’ll admit that I am a hypocrite when it comes to books from friends, but I’ll usually refrain from writing a review at all and just add them to my “read” list. I also stopped doing stars because I realized it was so subjective because I was always saying “well, in the grand scheme of literature it’s this, but in terms of other books like this, it’s this, and in the context of this, it’s this” and it just got too silly. Now I only write a review if the book really speaks to me, good or bad, and I don’t worry about it because my goodreads account is an extension of my online persona (and hopefully part of my klout score someday), and if you follow my reviews to my blog, you’ll see how I use sarcasm, exclamations, etc, so I think it puts anything especially negative or positive into perspective. I really don’t think having so many reviews so public is a bad thing, because like any other review or word of mouth, everyone is going to react differently to different types of promotion, so I don’t think you’re, like, changing the number of sales the author would have had or anything like that. Just like in real life, my friends’ opinions are worth more than those of strangers; people who never write complete or grammatical sentences are hurried or skipped over; reviews mean more when coming from people I know to be “experts” on a certain topic or genre; etc etc. I wouldn’t worry about goodreads as any different than any other way of getting word out, because it’s still about context and subjectivity.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Top Picks Thursday 05-03-2012 « The Author Chronicles

Comments are closed.

Email
Pinterest
WP Socializer Aakash Web