Reading More Without Living Less

Reading More Without Living Less: Using Goodreads

October 22, 2012

I’ve mentioned Goodreads multiple time during this series, but in this post I’ll share some of the features I love about Goodreads and how it has helped enhance my reading experience.

1. You can track your reading progress. 

If you’re not into bookmarks, or (gasp!) laying a book open facedown, you might benefit from tracking your progress electronically. Having a visual reminder to me of my progress in all my current reading is also helpful in reminding me to catch up in certain books if I need to do so. This has also been especially helpful for me as I read books in a variety of formats, and often multiple books in each format.

2. You can “shelve” your books into organized categories.

Not only can you shelve books into categories like historical fiction, sci-fi, and young adult, but you can also shelve in categories like “read, to read, and currently reading,” and Goodread automatically tallies and aggregates these books. Goodreads automatically gives you the option of those three aforementioned categories, and you are able to add an endless variety of shelf labels.

One feature while using shelves is that you can create as many as you want, and add a single book to multiple shelves. Then, when you wish to see all the books you’ve read on parenting in the past couple of years, you can simply click on that shelf and see them. I also make a shelf each year, and then make sure to choose that shelf for each book I read in that year (e.g., “2011 reading,” “2012 reading”). Some of those books may have also been shelved on “family relationships” or “theology” or “anthropology,” but when I’m looking specifically for what I’ve read on a certain subject, I can quickly find it.

3. You can set a yearly reading goal. 

Many Goodreads users set up a reading goal at the beginning of the year. Goodreads automatically tracks your progress toward your goal and tells you if you’re ahead or behind. For example, my reading goal section may tell me, “You’ve read 18 books toward your goal of 50 books. You’re six books ahead!”

You can also view challenges set by friends and others in the Goodreads reading community. Sometimes seeing your progress or the progress of others can serve as a helpful stimulus to keep working toward a goal.

When you use the reading goals, you can also view your reading stats from past years, look at details of your reading habits (e.g., what percentage of genres you read in, what book ratings you’ve give, etc…).

4. You can see book reviews, and there are usually more per book even more than sites like Amazon.

Since Goodreads is a social network for readers, you’re likely to get a lot more (and better) interaction about reading and books. For every book that you add, you can see who else is reading it (unless that user has adjusted their account’s privacy settings) and what they have to say about it.

5. You can use it as a social networking site for books.

If you’re at a loss for what to read next or for some great book recommendations, this one great way to add a lot of books to your “to-read” list. I have Goodreads friends who are good friends in real life (some who I see regularly and others I haven’t seen for years), other friends who I’ve only met online (but we follow one another in various online forms), and other friends I’ve only met on Goodreads. Because of this diversity of friends, I can actually learn about a lot of great books in a wide range of interests.

  • You can find other great books to read. When I see an intriguing title, or an interesting book that a friend is reading, all I have to do is click it to add it to my “to read” shelf. This is one great way to make sure you never run out of interesting books to read.
  • You can recommend books to others. Goodreads has a feature that allows you to make a specific recommendation to a friend.
  • You can get books recommended automatically. Goodreads also automatically recommends books to you once you’ve rated a few of your own. If you’re an eclectic reader — like I am — Goodreads may be a bit confused about what to recommend next, but at least you’ll get a few interesting suggestions auto-generated for you.
  • You can keep up with what your friends are reading. The social aspect of Goodreads is one of the most enjoyable. Since I don’t get to talk to (or see) some of my friends in person, I like to dialogue with them on Goodreads about books that they’re reading.

(Now if only they’d make a social networking site for politics; but then, there’d be nothing to post on Facebook until after November. ;))

 6. You can more readily remember what you read.

If you like to keep records of what you read, when you read it, and what you thought about it, Goodreads is perfect for you. You can input information on when you started a book, when you finished it, where you got it, whether or not you own it, how how many times you’ve read it, and all kinds of other information. And, if you so desire, you can even export all this information in an Excel spreadsheet!

If you’ve kept your reading recorded elsewhere, you can batch import those books to Goodreads. I did this last year, and imported some of my reading from my blog, by using the link to posts that included links to the books in Amazon. You can import from an Excel file, which makes it a great use for those who have been tracking for years, but want to transfer to Goodreads.

7. Goodreads is user friendly.

Perhaps what I like best about Goodreads is that it offers these benefits, but it is also easy to use. Much of that is filled in in the details above.

I like that I can access Goodreads from personal computer, but also be able to update it via iPhone when I’m on the go.

The one aspect on Goodreads that I wish were slightly different would be the rating system. It is only a 5-star rating scale, and you can rate a book from 1 to 5. However, when you hover over the stars, you see that 3 -stars means “liked it,” and 4-stars, “really liked it.” And 2-stars even means, “it was ok.” When I see a 2-star rating on a 5-star scale, I interpret that to mean 40%, which in my mind does not mean “it was ok.”

So, using the star ratings can mean different things to different people, and if a review isn’t included, it can be hard to interpret what the person really thought about the book. (Or even what thought about the book when I go back and skim over my reading from the past.)

Do you use Goodreads to keep track of your reading? What are your favorite features? If you keep track with something other than Goodreads, what do you use?


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  • Chelo October 22, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Yes. What I love most is getting book recommendations (when friends give 4-5 stars). There’s been times when I’ve had an interest in a book and it gets below 3 rating from friends, the book usually goes down to the bottom of my to-read piles.

    And for all the reasons you’ve already mentioned above, Goodreads is a great tool for book readers, my favorite! 🙂

  • Jonathan October 22, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    I didn’t know about that stats function! I was afraid I was going to have to count up all the pages I read this year lol

    • Keren October 24, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      Now you can save all that time and squeeze in another book! 😉

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  • Johanna Hanson October 23, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Love Goodreads, but I have definitely not used it to its full capacity. Thanks for letting me know about some of its features. I, too, don’t like the rating system. And I have found that I am very neutral, I tend to rate most things at 3, I’m not sure why. So I have tried to go back and rate them differently, but I wish there were more options.

    • Keren October 24, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      When I first started using Goodreads, I didn’t even know that each star had a “definition.”

      Once I discovered that, I try to rate books accordingly; but even still, I catch myself wondering why I rated such-and-such book a certain rating. 🙂 I see people rate books 2 and 3 stars, and then say “everyone should read this book,” or someone rate a book a 4 or 5-star, and say “didn’t really care for this book, but it was okay.” So, it’s hard to know, though I generally assume if no review is written that I go with the percentage scale.

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