I read more than I write, which is where Goodreads comes in handy. I can click over to the social media site for readers and add to my shelf of “read” books, rate the new addition according to a five-star system, and then have the option of writing a review. Sometimes I excerpt posts from this blog for the review; other times, I write a few pithy words, a couple of sentences. Or sometimes I leave the review space blank. I may or may not write something later. I also can check to see if any of my Goodreads friends have read/reviewed a book and perhaps comment, and browse the hundreds of community reviews for thousands of titles. Lists abound — recommended titles, trivia, quotes, etc. Members can register for giveaways, usually sponsored by a publisher or author. I’ve won twice out of about 50 contests I entered in the last two years, but I’m still not sure what algorithm led to me receiving Ron Carlson’s Return to Oakpine and Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia. I rated both four stars and wrote brief reviews, although there’s no contractual obligation to do so. Still, it’s the done thing and presumably helps me next time around. Goodreads also offers monthly e-mails on various topics and Author Q&As and online discussions.
So, with all this manna for booklovers, what’s not to like? A few things. I don’t like the name Goodreads because I’ve always resisted using “read” as a noun, but that’s me. I also don’t like that corporate bully Amazon bought Goodreads last year and I suspect it is data-mining like crazy, not that that is going to make me buy books from Amazon. But mostly I don’t like the rating system, or rather the perception that “three stars” is the equivalent of a C and not a good rating. Three stars translates to “I liked it,” as opposed to two stars “didn’t like” or four stars “really liked.” I rarely give a book one star (hate) or five stars (love, love, love) because I usually don’t finish or even bother with books I don’t like, and I reserve five stars for those truly wonderful books I’ll read and reread. Looking back at the 636 books currently on my Goodreads shelf, I see mostly three and four stars.
I recently added 20 books that I’ve read in the last several months to my Goodreads account. All are three stars — I liked them, but I haven’t gotten around to blogging them, mostly because I ran out of time. I still may get to Ruth Reichl’s Delicious! (Random House, digital galley) or Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s Bittersweet (Crown, paperback ARC), both May novels good for summer reading, and E. Lockhart’s YA novel We Were Liars (Random House Children, library hardcover), which has a killer ending. Others, including Anthony Doerr’s historical novel All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner, digital galley) and Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music (Little, Brown, digital galley) have been widely praised and discussed, and while I liked them, I’m happy to leave it at that.
Three stars. It’s a good thing.