If you’re like me, you love finding and pouring all your time on good reads. Be it classics such as George Orwell’s 1984 or modern works like Dan Brown’s (in)famous The Da Vinci Code, I simply love immersing myself in the alternate worlds authors create within the pages of their work.
The thing is, once you’ve finished a good read, you’re always itching to get to the bookstore nearest you to snag yourself a copy of another book. However, once you’re in the store, you’re surrounded by endless shelves of novels all looking worthy of your purchase. How do you choose which one to buy? The first thing I do is look for a copy without a plastic cellophane cover and leaf through its contents. If I can’t find such a copy, I’ll obviously check out the blurb on the back of the book. Blurbs, of course, are written in such a way that will make the plot sound interesting and thrilling.
But plots aren’t always interesting and thrilling, now are they? To properly and wholly assess the actual quality of a novel (or any other book for that matter), the most logical thing to do is purchase the book. But you don’t want to purchase a book just to find out that it’s crappy after you’ve read it, right? So, how do you know whether or not a book you’re thinking of buying is worthy of your time?
I found a solution in GoodReads, featured as one of Time Magazine’s 2007 Best Websites (which was how I found about it in the first place). GoodReads is a sizeable online community of book lovers, with myriad books in its database and more books being added constantly by a community of user “librarians” to keep quality in the content.
All it really takes is a quick sign-up and the customary account confirmation, and you’re good to go. A nifty search feature allows you to search for books by title, author and even its International Standard Book Number or ISBN. Have you been thinking of buying Orwell’s Animal Farm but are unsure if it’s good enough? Type “George Orwell Animal Farm” or even its ISBN, “9780452284241”, and voila!
Once you click on the link to the book’s Goodreads page, you’ll find different information about it: the date it was published, its binding (paperback, hardcover), its ISBN, a description written by one of Goodreads’s user-librarians (not necessarily real-life librarians, lol), and the date it was added to Goodreads. You can also find links to different online stores (e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) you can purchase a copy from.
Below that, you’ll see topic threads about the book that have been started. Every book page has its own discussion section (see the “discuss this book” text on the bottom of the screenshot), some Goodreads user groups (yes, there are user groups) that have added the book to their collection, and reviews written by other users.
How does Goodreads help me decide?
This one’s pretty obvious, don’t you think? You can read the witty description written by a Goodreads librarian. These descriptions are short but detailed, and offer a good idea of what the book is about. Of course, librarians supposedly have a need to write in an objective, impartial manner, so for a second opinion, have a look at the numerous reviews submitted by Goodreads users. They normally add a rating (1-5 stars) as well as a review when they’ve read a book and added it to their library.
A word of caution, though: some reviews contain spoilers that (duh) can spoil your reading experience. Goodreads developers were smart enough to add this feature:
User Meridyforgot checked this box when she wrote her review for Animal Farm (I’ve highlighted the text):
How can I help others decide?
If you’ve already read Animal Farm and want to write a review about it to help others decide whether or not to purchase it, just mosey on over to the search area, type the book title (or ISBN, for the numerically inclined), click on the appropriate book, and then hit “Add to My Books”. If you want, you can rate it, too. See below:
Generally, it is better to write a review that doesn’t contain spoilers, and perhaps even an objective one. But, it’s all up to you.
Should I join Goodreads?
Goodreads is for booklovers who suffer from what I call the IDKWBTB Syndrome (I Don’t Know Which Book To Buy). If you know how to discern a good book from a bad one simply by reading its blurb, then Goodreads won’t really serve you much. The service, in my opinion, has a lot of untapped potential, and while it has come a long way since its first inception, there’s always room for improvement. With services like this, I usually don’t have a lot of bugs to rant about, and the same is true for Goodreads.
So, ready to join in? Mosey on over to the Goodreads website at http://www.goodreads.com/ now.