Goodreads: Friend or Foe?

When I first stumbled on Goodreads in November 2010, I thought I’d found the online book mecca. Bookish status updates, virtual TBR lists, reading challenges, literary quizzes, author chats! I signed up immediately and have since updated my currently reading status faithfully.


But recently I’ve started thinking that maybe Goodreads isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

For one thing, constantly updating the currently reading status makes one acutely aware of how long it’s taking to read something and how many books deep one is towards one’s reading goal. Sometimes this adds unnecessary stresses to a thing I do for fun. I noticed that I started choosing books based on what would aid me in my reading goal, a series of short books to pad the stats became a reading norm. I started to shy away from tackling mammoth books like War and Peace, Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo.

My re-reading levels started going down as well (something I have definitely remedied this year with The Great Harry Potter Re-read). Oh, I still make sure I re-read at least one Austen a year but while I used to think about re-reading old favourites the way one looks forward to getting into comfy clothes, now I think about what a pain in the butt it is to add books to my reading goal that Goodreads has decided I’ve already read. Apparently re-reads don’t count on Goodreads. You can choose a different version but I’m kind of OCD when it comes to these things and I like to choose the cover that matches the one that I’m actually reading.

But the biggest issue I think I’ve started to have with Goodreads are the reviews. Have you ever scrolled through some of the reviews on Goodreads? People can be nasty! I mean, I don’t love all the books I read either and sometimes, I post about that here but I try never to be a complete a-hole about it.

The other thing is that sometimes these reviews colour my selection process. I casually look up a book on Goodreads to add to my TBR list and glance at the reviews. Suddenly I’m rethinking if I want to read some of the books I thought I wanted to read, which is when I have to remind myself that I don’t actually know any of the people posting those reviews. Maybe those people think the classics are boring; perhaps they hate any books with magic; possibly they hate crime fiction.  I find that I scroll through the reviews of a new book by a beloved author and start to take the reviews personally: How can you not think that The Casual Vacancy is fantastic?!

I’m probably still going to hang out on Goodreads because I like to see what other people in my life are reading but it’s definitely a different experience to what it was when I first started.


26 thoughts on “Goodreads: Friend or Foe?

  1. I always take Goodreads reviews with a grain of salt, knowing that not everyone has the same tastes. I trust my blogging friends for reviews instead. But I do like to use Goodreads to keep track of books I want to read, and books I have read. I’ve never really used it for anything else, so I feel no pressure. And, I agree that people are unnecessarily nasty- I just skip those ones.

  2. I had that feeling as well with all of these reading challenges. That’s why I decided not to pledge that I would read 50 books in the beginning of the year this year because I didn’t want the added pressure. I ended up making my 25 book goal so I upped the challenge once I got there, but I totally get where you’re coming from. That being said, I feel like having a book blog actually makes me want to read quicker/smaller books/re-read less because I always want to have new review content for my blog and I’m not the fastest reader. So personally, it’s not Goodreads that makes me read this way but the need to review books that I haven’t reviewed before.

    I very rarely read the reviews on Goodreads until I after finish reading a book because, like you, I find that they colour my reading as well. If I haven’t read the book yet I only use Goodreads to read the synopsis. Maybe you could try that instead?

    I would say that Goodreads is still a friend rather than foe, but I can definitely see both sides! I’m curious to see how others feel about it though – great topic!

    • You’re so right- blog content is for sure an added pressure. I try to go for a reading goal that I’m fairly confident I can reach (75 this year) but even so I feel it! I seriously doubt I’m in any danger of leaving Goodreads but the reviews leave something to be desired. I read so fast that I basically glance at it and it’s read so it’s hard for me not to read some reviews accidentally when I look up a book.

  3. I love Goodreads for the bookshelf it creates for me. I have recall troubles and being able to look up a title or author and seeing what I wrote about a particular title is really helpful to me.
    It’s also my number one place to store my to-read list. Since I can access it on my phone it’s very convenient when I’m at the library or a bookstore.
    I am not overly dependent on community reviews. I have a few GR friends, much as the same as the blogging world, whose opinions I value, but in the same way I don’t read book blurbs once I have the book, I don’t read reviews.
    More than anything I like the book loving friends I’ve made on GR. It’s been a very rewarding place to connect with people who love books as much as I do.

  4. I like Goodreads for the bookshelf it keeps track for me. And you can mark a reread toward your goal. You just change the date you read it on. And it puts my currently reading shelf on my blog, which is a cool addition. I do watch out for the crazy negative reviews, even after I’ve read the book!

  5. I was literally thinking the same thing today! I feel like even having this blog is added pressure to read slimmer books and at a much faster rate for the sake of posting a review. Thankfully, I became aware of it and now am taking deep breaths and slowing myself down. I see some bloggers posting a review every day or two and in a way that makes me question the quality of their review and thoroughness of their read.

  6. For me, while the “you are one book behind” does stress me out a little, goodreads itself isn’t really the pressure, but me joining too many challenges certainly is. I’m trying to limit it a bit so that I can choose at least a few of my books by the seat of my pants and not have them all scheduled out for me.
    I agree that the “comments” can be a problem, but that is sadly the problem with absolutely everything on the internet. You can’t go anywhere online without someone thinking that they should be posting mean or inane things. At least goodreads hasn’t gotten to youtube level insanity.
    Sorry the reading is becoming a bit stressful, hope you can find that joyful balance again soon 🙂 -Tania

  7. I used to love GoodReads, but since it was bought by Amazon I’ve stopped using it and haven’t missed it in the least. But overall, I think it is a good way for readers to connect. I’ve always been fairly up on the book biz so it didn’t help me find new reads, but i think it does help a lot of people.

  8. I really like Goodreads to keep track of what I’m reading and especially for my To Read list. But it does add to the pressure I’ve felt since I began book-blogging. My To Read list is a constant source of stress for me because I know I’ll never get through all those books, and yet it is so easy to just keep adding more. I agree that people can be nasty, but usually I just look at my friends’ reviews.

    • It’s a book truth: we will never finish our TBR list. It’s fun to kill some time on Goodreads every once in a while but in general I’ve found that it’s become less and less of a source of enjoyment. Which is a shame because the idea is so great.

  9. You make a lot of good points here. I do use Goodreads, but I think of it mostly for me. I like to keep track of how many books I read and what I read when.

    I tend to skip the review, though. I’m more likely to read reviews from other book bloggers who have similar taste than I am to scroll through all of the (sometimes terribly written) reviews on Goodreads.

    • I find that I accidentally glance at the reviews and before you know if I’ve spent a whole bunch of time scrolling through those heinous reviews. I like the stats ability on Goodreads – when most of the books I’m reading we’re published, page numbers etc. I need to start thinking about it more for just me.

  10. Well this cemented adding your blog to my daily reader. Thank you for saying this. My friends on GoodReads usually post polite reviews. But I recently read a book and wanted to see what others thought of it. And the reviews were so cruel. I mean, yes, I didn’t like the book, but I didn’t think it needed to be torn to shreds (nor did the reader need to be torn to shreds). I ended up just not logging the book. Yes, I may only post positive or neutral reviews, but it quietly also says something to not post a review at all.

    • Well thank you!
      I agree – I don’t think there’s any need to be cruel about books that you didn’t love. I can’t imagine being a writer and putting myself out there like that and then reading terribly hurtful reviews – it doesn’t seem right somehow. A book may not be your cup of tea and that’s ok but you don’t need to rip it to shreds.

  11. Pingback: A Perfect Biography – Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte | The Paperback Princess

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