“You are what you read,” said somebody somewhere once.
I don’t know what I did or who I was before I started using Goodreads. When stumbling around a book store, I whip out my phone, click on the Goodreads app, choose the ‘scan’ function, and begin assaulting every bar code on any book that looks remotely worthwhile for the thrill of an instant rating aggregated from hundreds or thousands of readers around the world. Why put my phone on silent, you might ask. Well, when you use the scan feature, it makes an inordinately loud sound that penetrates the ears most unpleasantly. And some book stores ban scanning with a phone.
You see, the Amazon app has a similar scan feature, and book store owners assume you are looking that book up on Amazon so that you can order it at a cheaper price and avoid supporting that book store instead. Little do these people know that I spend more money on books than I do anything else except perhaps my rent and manicures. I’m an easy mark and guaranteed customer.
People often tease me and insinuate I am a slave to others’ opinions by putting so much stock in a Goodreads rating. Or rather, I no longer have a mind of my own and can’t decide for myself what I should choose to read. To them I want to say many things, but instead I comfort myself with the knowledge that I know no one who reads in the volumes that I do, and it pays to be discerning in what I will spend my time on.
I will read anything that comes with 1) a sincere recommendation from someone I like (often, “I read it in one sitting,” “I couldn’t put it down,” or “I still think about it today”) and 2) a rating above a 4.0 on Goodreads. My book twin friend mentioned that to me once as a make-or-break factor in book shopping, and it’s something I subscribe to today.
I have spent more time than I care to admit clicking down the rabbit hole on Goodreads. If a book is on a shelf, and you loved that book, the shelf it is on will often contain things you’ll also enjoy. Plus there is a “Readers also enjoyed” section that is uncannily accurate with its suggestions.
I love reading books of all kinds – romance, mystery, non-fiction, young adult, children’s, philosophy, poetry, science fiction, historical fiction… well, you get it. And Goodreads has inspired me to Try New Things (one of my commandments of reading – another post, for another time) much more than I ever have before in my life.
Another function I enjoy is that if I’m interested in a book, I can see what others who I am friends with thought about it. I can see their star rating and any review they wrote. This has been hugely important due to the fact that I have some pretty smart friends who are much different from me and some who are very similar to me. Some of them have even more exposure to new books and suggestions than I do, and it informs my decision-making a great deal.
Lastly, I am able to set a yearly reading goal and track it. People who are acquainted with me are 100% sick of hearing me update them about this and/or priding myself on my progress. It has much less to do with achieving a number and is much more about reflecting on what a year brought me and how I can divide up my reading by time in life, what else it inspired me to pick up, and the sheer joy of exploring different worlds, people, and stories in a given time period. I’m going to read that much anyway, to be completely and utterly honest, and I might as well track it.
I will continue my campaign to spread Goodreads to anyone who will listen. I will continue to track – and reach – the goals I set for myself. And I will continue to surreptitiously scan like a ninja in the book stores I wander into in pursuit of the Next Great Read.