The Reader—Renoir

Reading Update: Goodreads

The Reader—Renoir
The Reader by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I’m giving Neil Gaiman’s American Gods a longer chance than normal on Jenny’s advice. It is beginning to pick up, but I was preparing to put it aside. I am going to take Finn out of the rotation for the time being. Maybe I’ll pick it up soon, but I keep seeing all these other books I would rather read. I just purchased Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran and One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde, a favorite writer of mine. Today in the mail, I received my first “win” from Goodreads:

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke

Isn’t it pretty? The paperback comes out April 26, and I want to try to read it by then so I can share my review. I didn’t realize until very recently that Goodreads sponsored giveaways. What a great way for publishers to connect with regular readers! This book was the first one I requested, so I was excited to have success right off the bat.

If you are a reader and not a member of Goodreads, you should check it out. It’s easily my favorite reading social network. Shelfari is very pretty, but it doesn’t allow users to easily integrate their blogs like Goodreads does. I have my Goodreads profile set up to publish the feed to this blog. I don’t know whether any readers have signed on here because of my Goodreads profile, but it can’t hurt. Shelfari also doesn’t allow HTML in their reviews. LibraryThing limits users to 200 books unless they opt for a paid account. I don’t see the draw unless I’m missing something—Goodreads is free. I trust Goodreads reviews over other sites, too, as the readers can be more conservative in their stars and praise than, say, Amazon. If I’m on the fence, I read a few reviews on Goodreads, and I can often make up my mind. And now with giveaways, there’s no reason not to try them out.

I’m going to pick up The Rebellion of Jane Clarke tonight and go back to Massachusetts. I loved our visit there this past summer. But first I need to put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

Goodreads and Shelfari

Goodreads and Shelfari

Goodreads and ShelfariDo you use Goodreads or Shelfari? Or both? I use both services. Each has features I like, but neither one does everything I want a reading social network to do.

Sharing Progress

Goodreads gives readers the option to share their progress through status updates either with page numbers or percentage read, which is great if you’re reading on an e-reader. I really like this feature. I think Shelfari should add it. Both sites do a great job cataloging multiple versions of books so that you can add the version you are reading to ensure the descriptions, page counts, etc. all match your particular copy.

Linked to Social Networks

Goodreads also allows users to share updates via Twitter and Facebook, which is a nice feature. Facebook can be integrated nicely with Goodreads. One of my Facebook friends told me he joined Goodreads because of seeing my updates on Facebook. My status updates show up on Twitter, and occasionally, people who follow me on Twitter ask me about what I’m reading, so the integration is a nice feature. Shelfari isn’t linked up with social networks. I think it would be a good feature for Shelfari to add.

Look and Feel

Shelfari’s site and bookshelves are beautiful. Shelfari allows users to select a material out of which to construct their shelves (wood or metal, etc.). Book covers are displayed on the shelves in a way Apple’s iBooks emulated for their app. Shelfari also makes beautiful shelf widgets for users to put on their blogs. In terms of look and feel, Shelfari scores big marks over Goodreads. I’d like to see Goodreads beautify their look and feel, too, but I suspect it would involve a major overhaul, and the site is perfectly functional as it is.

Re-Reading Books

Shelfari has much better support for re-readers than Goodreads. On Goodreads, you can mark a book as “Read” or “Currently Reading,” but not both. Shelfari allows for those users who re-read to mark a book as both. It would be a simple feature for Goodreads to implement, I should think, as it would mean changing the radio buttons they currently use to check boxes that allow for multiple selections. In addition, Shelfari allows users to add new “finished” dates each time a reader finishes a book. If a user has read a book three times, he or she can add three different finished dates. Goodreads allows only one, and you need to either keep the first finished date, or change it to a new one. Again, I think this is a feature that Goodreads could easily add.


I like the community at Goodreads. They are serious readers. If you want the true skinny on a book, their reviews are often more helpful than Amazon’s. Users can also add trivia questions and join groups. I am a member of several groups on both Shelfari and Goodreads, but not too active. I think Shelfari could add some features to foster a livelier community. I think starting with social network integration would be a good idea, but further than that, I like the idea that users can add quotes and trivia to Goodreads. If Shelfari added these features, they might keep users on the site longer. Both Goodreads and Shelfari allow users to add content to book descriptions and change book information. On Goodreads, you need to apply to become a librarian. I haven’t noticed any egregious vandalism of books on the more open Shelfari, but perhaps it’s not a terrible idea to set some kind of bar. Goodreads just asks that users who want to become librarians have 50 books on their profile. It’s a good way of keeping occasional users or non-committed users from making random changes they shouldn’t.

Book Tallies

Goodreads and Shelfari both tally your total number of books, but Shelfari has a nice feature that you see on your home page when you’re logged in: the total number of books you’ve read this year. I love this feature. I try to read more books each year, and Shelfari totals the number you’ve read and compares to your reading during the previous year. If you have not read as many, it will tell you you’re behind your pace. If you’ve read more, it tells you you’re ahead of your pace. It’s a nice little pat on the back to log in and see I’ve nearly reached the total number of books I read last year, and it’s only August. I think Goodreads could add this feature, too.


Both sites allow users to post reviews, but I like that Goodreads allows HTML in their reviews because I simply link back to my reviews here on this blog. As an English teacher, I appreciate being able to italicize titles using HTML, too. I think Shelfari should add the ability to use HTML in reviews. I don’t like leaving a blank review on Shelfari, so I usually copy and paste my reviews into their review space. But I often have links and other HTML in my posts that does not transfer. Both sites also allow you to assign starred ratings to books, but neither has 1/2 stars. The plugin I use to rate books here on this site allows for 1/2 stars, and I like that. Sometimes a book is not a 3 or 4. It’s a 3.5. It would be nice for Goodreads and Shelfari to give wishy-washy reviewers like me who can’t come down on a 3 or 4 the option of a 3.5.

The Bottom Line

Both sites have some great features, but each of them could be much better with a few simple changes. I have an account with LibraryThing, but I don’t use it. I don’t agree with their restriction of 200 books for free accounts. When Shelfari and Goodreads have excellent features for free, it seems silly to pay for LibraryThing. I don’t really understand Shelfari’s “Should I Read X?” feature. I should think users should be able to read reviews and figure out for themselves if they should read a book. It seems superfluous to me. Goodreads has a lot of authors on board, and it can be fun to interact with them. I’ve even seen Lev Grossman reply to reviews of his work.

What do you think? Do you use Goodreads, Shelfari, or even LibraryThing? If so, what features do you wish they had? Oh, and feel free to “friend” me on Goodreads or Shelfari.

Shelfari and Reading Updates

Before I curl up with my books, I wanted to mention two things. First, I joined Shelfari today. I resisted joining another network because I am very happy at Goodreads. I am a member of LibraryThing, but unless you agree to pay for a membership, you are limited to only 200 books, so I am not at all active at LibraryThing. You might not remember this, but back in 2007 a controversy erupted over the fact that Shelfari did not used to allow users to easily uncheck the names of contacts they did not want to invite to use Shelfari. Tim Spalding, CEO of LibraryThing, also caught Shelfari astroturfing. However, I’ve not heard any criticism of Shelfari for two years, now, so I joined up. The interface is beautiful, and the community is more in charge. At Goodreads, you can apply to become a “Librarian” and edit book information, but Shelfari allows all community members to do so, which is both more risky and more open. Goodreads easily allows users to connect their accounts to Twitter, and it also allows me to share blog posts, but that may be because I’m a Goodreads author. As far as I can tell, Shelfari doesn’t allow you to do either of those things. So anyway, I’ve joined up, and we’ll see how it works out. Considering the time investment today, I hope it will be worthwhile. You can see my bookshelf in the sidebar to the right, and feel free to be my friend on Shelfari (and Goodreads, for that matter, but don’t expect too much if you become my friend on LibraryThing).

Second, I have begun two reading challenges: the Bibliophilic Books Challenge and the All About the Brontës Challenge. with my first selection, Syrie James’s The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë. It should be obvious how the book meets the Brontë challenge, but in case you were wondering how it meets the Bibliophilic Challenge, it is the fictionalized diary of Charlotte Brontë, and at only about 50 pages in, James has already mentioned Rochester and Jane and discussed the juvenile writing of the Brontës, as well as Branwell Brontë’s poetry, so I decided it met the criteria for the challenge.

I’m also in the midst of re-reading the Outlander series. I have not read the last three books, and it has been so long that I think I had better re-read the first four before I try to pick up the most recent books. I am currently working on the second (and my favorite) book in the series, Dragonfly in Amber. I am continuing to read Crime and Punishment through DailyLit, and when I have to turn out the lights, I’m reading Mansfield Park on the iPhone with Stanza.