Don Levy

The Next Chapter – My Beef With Goodreads

Goodreads is an app I use almost every day. It’s helped me research books for this blog. It helps me track my reading progress through the year, which is helpful when I write about the top ten books I read that year. It helps me also evaluate my reading progress through the year and how I’m doing on my reading challenge for the year (this year I’ve only read 11 books out of my modest goal of 20 books). At the same time, there are things I don’t like about the app. This is about my love/hate relationship with Goodreads.

As I said, it’s great for tracking what I’ve read. I’m obsessive over updating books that I’ve read and giving them a rating. I might even write a one or two sentence review. I have trouble sometimes with picking out a new book to read, and I usually wait until I’m certain I’ve picked a book. I probably should make a TBR (To Be Read) list, but I am never that organized. Plus, if you see my Goodreads profile, you would notice I have more books in my to read pile than I’ve actually read. Let’s face it, I will read almost anything once.

I wish though that the app was more interactive. Sometimes I leave a comment and no one comments on it. I’m not sure if it the fault of their notifications or not. And people rarely leave a comment on my reviews. I don’t know if no one wants to talk about the book, or again, if I’m not getting notifications. In a way, I started this blog because I wanted another way for me to have a conversation about books.
However, there is one of my friends who I made a mistake with and now I don’t bother leaving him a comment because he seems not to answer me.

I’ll call him M. I saw his profile and was interested in him because he had a mix of classic literature that I say I’m going to read like Pamela by Samuel Richardson or Tom Jones by Henry Fielding with LGBTQ literature that again, I want to read more of, especially Lesbian fiction. I had been friends with him on Goodreads for awhile when I think I freaked him out when I found his Facebook page and sent him a friend request, which he turned down. All I wanted to do was talking books, but I should have sent him a message first. Now he refuses to reply to my comments and that saddens me.

Sometimes the rating system for some people are off. One person makes a point of only giving a max of 3 out of 5 stars for any book. I guess that means even if he likes it, it only is a 3. I might have a tendency to over rate some books, but if I like a book, I want others to read it.

The other problem with rating system is that I have a friend that I highly respect. He turned me on to reading Something Happened by Joseph Heller and Reuben, Reuben by Peter De Vries, both which I loved very much. However, whenever he has a new book published, he always rates it 5 stars. This always makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m sure he’s a good writer but I wish he would let me find out for myself, instead of telling me that it’s a five star book. Does that mean that he thinks his books are all brilliant? And what does that say about other books he’s rated? I noticed he only gave Go Tell It to the Mountain by James Baldwin 4 stars. Does that mean he’s a better writer than Baldwin?

Listen, I understand in this day and age you have to promote yourself and the Internet is a great way to do that. I also know that people write all sort of self serving reviews on Amazon. Maybe I’m naive and am taking it too seriously. This is the way of the world. If I listened to everyone on the Internet, I’d go see the new remake of Ben Hur. Maybe I am making more of this than I should. I guess this is the way of the World now. Am I being too sensitive?

So tell you what your experience with Goodreads has been. Do you agree or disagree with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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5 thoughts on “The Next Chapter – My Beef With Goodreads”

  1. I don’t use Goodreads, Don, but I do think it’s standard practice to rate your own work pretty highly on social media. If you don’t, who will?

    Which is why I take all ratings with a grain of salt. When I look for a book on Amazon, I look for the highest and lowest ratings for it, and see what those people have to say. Then I look at the publisher’s (usually) sugar-coated description, and decide after all that whether I want to buy it.

    That being said, I have no problem with putting a book down after a few pages if it’s not grabbing me. Life is too short not to be thrilled or engaged every minute when reading, especially with the limited time I have to do so.


    1. I think that is the common sense approach. I know people rig the system when it comes to ratings. The only thing is that for a week or so the only review might by an author’s, so you don’t have anything else to go by. Still, I guess you have to take all the reviews with a grain of salt.

  2. I’m a big fan of Goodreads for many of the reasons you mentioned. The five-star system is limiting and of course, open to interpretation as to how one wishes to use it. Goodreads suggests the use of their star system be based on how much you enjoyed a given work, not how great the book is.

    I rate the majority of books at 4-stars. I’m at the point in my life where I read for enjoyment, escape or to learn something, so I don’t suffer works that bore or aggrevate me in a bad (non-artistic) way. I save 5s for something that is exquisite, sublime, painfully moving. 3 means its just OK. I rarely use 2s or 1s because I don’t finish those.

    1. I usually rate on how I enjoyed the book. There are some classics like Moby Dick or Mill on the Floss that I didn’t care for personally, so I’m sure I did not give them a high rating. It’s all subjective.

  3. Hi Don! I finally got around to reading your blog, thanks to whoever at Albany Poets just sent all of December’s g+ posts at once. (I decided to check out the site.) I joined Good Reads July 2015. Maybe a writer suggested it. I can’t remember. I haven’t been there is 5 months, until today. I’m old school. I log into the website. No apps for me.

    I think you get more out of it than I do. I appreciate that it’s a place I can learn about books. I love collecting and categorizing imaginary books. You don’t have to carry or move them. I also found Therese on there, and have been looking for other local writers.

    I don’t remember anyone commenting on any of my reviews, so maybe it’s just not very popular to do. I haven’t tried to make real connections on the site. I leave that for face-to-face time. I don’t like friend requests from strangers. The friendships often turn out poorly. Maybe your friend request-ee thinks like me. Unfortunately fb doesn’t make messaging accessible if you aren’t friends. A nice message explaining that you wanted to talk about books might have broken the ice.

    I’m in favor of reviewing your own book as awesome – as long as you believe it. A lot of my movie and book reviews aren’t based solely on the quality, but on the catharsis or introspection I gain from it. I think, in the end, people need to make their own decisions about what is good and bad.

    P.S. I just friended you on Good Reads. I might cry if you don’t accept. 😉

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