Those of you who are familiar with Shelfari will immediately catch the premise of GoodReads, which has essentially the same concept – recommend books to your friends and get recommendations back. But it’s not just about reading, it’s a whole social network.
You start your GoodReads experience by creating an account. You can upload a picture or an avatar (or leave that field blank, but how boring is that?) add personal information or not, and create your profile to suit you. Then you start adding books to your list. You can search for authors’ names or titles, or you can do what I did – go see what everyone else is reading, and click on their titles to add them to my list. When my friend Donna invited me to join, I checked out everything she’d read and looked at what all her friends had read, and within just a few minutes, I had a hundred books on my list, just from comparing to others.
When you click on a book, you can give it stars from one to five, and you have the option to leave a review. That review will be visible to others who come see your shelf, and you can explain why a certain book changed your life or why you really hated it. They can then share their thoughts on that book, and it’s very thought-provoking to hear why someone else loved the book you hated.
You can create a couple of different kinds of lists – books you’ve read, books you’re planning to read, and for authors, books you’ve written. This is a fun way to organize your reading plans and to make sure you don’t miss out on a title you think sounds great.
I’m not sure I can adequately explain the allure of the site. You know I’m opinionated, so of course sharing my opinions on books I’ve read is a natural. You also know I love to read, so, ditto. But it goes a little deeper than that, almost to an obsession. Is it the race to get more books listed than Donna? The intense need I have to speak and to be heard? The fact that I like pushing little buttons on my computer? Who knows – but I do know that I’m getting some awesome book recommendations and I love knowing a little bit about a book before picking it up and just blindly reading it, and that’s what GoodReads does for me.