How you judge a book

Probably my favourite non-Twitter social media right now is Goodreads. In case you’re unfamiliar, it’s a website where you create an account then, when you log in, you can track the books you’ve read, are reading or would like to read in the future. I’ve had an account there for years and I’ve gone back and forth with my usage. I’ve been on a streak for the last several years with pretty consistent updates. In the past, I’ve used it in the same way I’ve used Facebook – build it up, forget about it, come back, tear it down, build it up again. I feel like I’ve been on a pretty decent roll since 2016 so it might just stick. It also helps that one of my favourite (and commitment oriented) friends, Sarah, is using it and I compare notes with hers on the regular. Her consistency contributes to my consistency.

So, after you create your Goodreads account, there are a few pieces that make up the puzzle.

Books. You get three standard shelves to start: Currently Reading, Read and Want To Read. You add a book then shelve it appropriately. As you work through your currently reading titles, you can update your progress by page and Goodreads will calculate your percentage.

Friends. For some people the social aspect is a big part of their Goodreads experience. It is for me, but I actually don’t have a lot of connections on there. Instead, I just like to connect with the friends I do have, perusing their books and checking out their reviews.

Reviews. When you finish a book or add one as Read, you have the opportunity to rate it using a five star system and/or write a short review including your thoughts. More often than not, I check to see if someone I know has read a book when I’m getting started on it. A bad rating would never deter me, but it helps me manage my expectations.

I’ve started to realize that I’m actually creating an algorithm in my head for every person who makes recommendations to me – for everything, but especially books. There are, of course, those people who think just because they liked something, that means everyone will like it. I keep a mental tally of whose recommendations I should prioritize and whose I can let go by the wayside. I know who likes the same kinds of books/movies/tv shows as I do and who doesn’t.

Sarah and I don’t always agree on a book. In fact, in some ways we are opposites. I have more of a penchant for quirky writing and stories than she does and she has no time for ghosts (which I discovered this week with my most recent read.) We’ve tested enough titles that I can text her to ask, “yeah, but would I like it?” and I can trust what she says. (Like when she wasn’t convinced I should spend any more time that I already had when I was unable to into Crazy Rich Asians recently. She made me feel good about my decision to return it to the library and the 15+ person waitlist instead of pushing through it.)

On the other hand, I have a friend who hates every book I love and I feel the same about her preferred reads. I don’t know that she’s quite caught onto it yet, but I take her recommendations as warnings and her pans as books worth checking out. And I still haven’t quite forgiven her for encouraging me to finish the least enjoyable book I’ve read in a long time. (The algorithm only works if I follow it. I should have known better.)

As I’ve spent more and more time on Goodreads, I’ve also started to learn how my friends rate their reads. Sarah is more critical than I am. If she hands out a five star rating, she REALLY thought that book was something special. She’ll often give a two or three star rating.

Me, on the other hand, I’m a little more generous. I basically start my ratings at three stars because, hey, YOU WROTE A BOOK! And that, to me, is, in most cases, worth something. Four is pretty good. Five is excellent. But sometimes even fives don’t make my favourites shelves.

Are you on Goodreads? How do you rate your books? Do you have friends whose opinions you can trust? Or some whose you know not to?

2 Comments

  1. Sarah

    Your commitment minded description rings true. I don’t add books to my GR “Want to Read” list until I am committed – I actually have them in my possession, whether library or Kindle. I use my library holds to track what I desire. 🤣

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