Some Lesser-Known Features of GoodReads, a Great Book-Minding Tool

In January, I wrote about Library Extension, a tool that can inspire some powerful literacy moments. Another great digital resource for sparking powerful literacy moments is GoodReads, which offers some fancy features that aren’t always well-known. Let’s dive in!

GoodReads Logo

GoodReads: What Is It?

I would be very surprised if there’s anyone out there involved with literacy who isn’t aware of GoodReads.com. This free service, owned by Amazon, is a social media site for book lovers. Users can browse it to find information about books. They can also create free profiles to access more features.

What Does GoodReads Do?

GoodReads lets users find information about books.

GoodReads book info for A Wrinkle in Time

GoodReads book info for A Wrinkle in Time

It also lets them keep track of what they have read, what they are reading, and what they want to read.

I have my students using GoodReads to keep track of their independent reading. They rate and review the books they choose. Ever so often, we use the GoodReads reviews they’ve written to do some book talks. This is a great way for students to get ideas about what their peers are reading.

GoodReads also offers users recommendations. Once they have rated some titles, they will see a “Recommendation” box on their home page. This changes as more titles are rated.

GoodReads "Recommendations" box

GoodReads “Recommendations” box

Users also get a “Readers also enjoyed” box when viewing a particular title. It appears to the upper right of the display page.

GoodReads "Readers Also Enjoyed" suggestions

GoodReads “Readers Also Enjoyed” suggestions

These recommendation features alone are worth the price of admission! (After all, that price is “free”!) They could provide some suggestions for collection development. They are also great for readers seeking that next title.

But Wait, There’s More!

In addition to the above features, GoodReads provides some other neat tools, too.

Cross-Referencing Shelves

When users review a book on GoodReads, they are given the chance to put the book on a digital “shelf.” These are essentially tags, and users can add as many “shelves” as they’d like to their account. This makes it very easy for users to later find books in a particular category.

GoodReads lets you add "shelves" to tag books

GoodReads lets you add “shelves” to tag books

This is great for reader’s advisory situations. If a student asks me about some good romance stories, I can click into my romance shelf to see my rated titles and make informed suggestions.

But then I noticed that when I clicked on a shelf, at the bottom of my self list, I had the option to “select multiple.” Once I had a chance to think about it, I realized what a powerful tool this is. It allows users to find books that they have tagged as fitting on multiple shelves. What a great way to really hone in on a particular type of story!

Users can sort their rated books using more than one shelf (tag) at a time

Users can sort their rated books using more than one shelf (tag) at a time

As an example, I can click to my graphic novel shelf, then choose other qualities I might want in a story. I can add in “female protagonist” and “memoir” to narrow a list of over a hundred graphic novels that I’ve rated down to Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson — all with a few clicks!

As a teacher and a school librarian, I see this becoming an incredibly powerful tool for readers advisory. Plus, it’s interesting to see what different shelf combinations return. Clearly, I need to expand my reading of graphic novels about women!

Year in Books

A feature I use frequently in GoodReads is the Year in Books. GoodReads sends users a link to their Year in Books at the end of each year. Following the link brings users to a page that begins with a summary of their reading statistics for the year. This is followed by a cover gallery of everything they’ve shelved as “read” over the course of that year.

Steve's 2019 "Year In Books" (a work in progress)

Steve’s 2019 “Year In Books” (a work in progress)

This is pretty neat all by itself. But what I particularly like about it is that it’s really easy to change from the previous year to ANY year. The URL for the page includes the year. Changing the year in the URL and hitting Enter brings users to their reading stats for the year of their choosing.

I enjoy being able to time-hop through my reading record. It gives me a sense of how consistent — or inconsistent — my reading habits are from year to year. My students seem to get a kick out of it as well!

Annual Reading Challenge

This is a chance for readers to set reading goals. GoodReads allows users to set a certain numbers of books as a reading challenge for themselves. As users add books to their shelves, GoodReads keeps track of the total number of books read. It also provides a metric directly on users’ home pages that shows how well they’re doing keep up with their self-selected challenge.

Steve's 2019 Reading Challenge goal and progress

Steve’s 2019 Reading Challenge goal and progress

And the challenge can be started — or changed — at any time. There’s no pressure or penalty if users have trouble reaching their goals. The only reward is the sense of achievement.

I took on my first challenge after a library school class on young adult literature required me to read several dozen YA books in a few months. I found I could read, and enjoy, more books than I thought I could. I’ve continued setting goals for my challenge to encourage myself to expand my reading beyond my comfort zone.

It’s also possible to view the reading challenge goals of one’s GoodReads friends as well. This allows for a friendly comparison, and maybe a bit of competition. A reading competition is something middle-school me would have jumped all over!

Compare Books

Speaking of GoodReads friends, another nifty tool GoodReads offers is the ability to compare your books to a friend’s. You can also compare your books to any user with a public, rather than private, account.

Click into a friend’s profile. Above their personal stats is a “More” drop-down menu. Clicking this reveals the ability to “Compre books”.

First step in comparing your books to your GoodReads' friend

First step in comparing your books to your GoodReads’ friend

When you choose this option, GoodReads provides a page of statistics. It starts with a Venn diagram showing the amount of overlap in the two sets of books. It then shows how you each rated the same books.

Steve's book comparison with a friend

Steve’s book comparison with a friend

There are two different ways to sort the Compare Books lists. GoodReads explains the two sorting options thusly:

Two ways to sort the book comparison list

Two ways to sort the book comparison list

I love the conversations this can spark between readers! Getting to bond over shared titles is always wonderful. GoodReads takes this to a new level with this comparison tool.

Book Compatibility Test

In addition to comparing books with a GoodReads friend, you are also offered a “Book compatibility test.” This provides a compatibility percentage based on the similarity of your ratings for books you have in common.

To access this feature, go to the “Compare books” screen as above. The “compare” page provides a general “taste similarity” percentage. But in the upper right corner of the screen is the “book compatibility test” link.

Accessing the "book compatibility test"

Accessing the “book compatibility test”

Clicking this link brings you to a new page. This provides a set of scores for each of a set of genres. My wife and I are very compatible in our tastes in classics and science fiction, but much less so in romance books.

Steve's book compatibility with his amazing wife

Steve’s book compatibility with his amazing wife

This is pretty subjective, and relies heavily on the overlap of titles in your collections. But it could be another fun conversation starter!

Another Tool in the Bag ‘o Tricks

These are just a few of the neat features offered by GoodReads. Hopefully, you found something new and interesting! It can be a great tool for both personal and professional book-minding.

What’s a great feature I missed? Please be sure to leave a comment and let me know!

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Author: Steve Tetreault

Steve has been teaching middle school English for 20 years, has several degrees in education, and recently finished his last semester as a school library media specialist student. He certified as a teacher, school library media specialist, supervisor, and administrator. He is an old dog constantly learning new tricks!



Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

Tags: , ,

4 replies

  1. Thanks for the great post! You shared some features I had no clue about — can’t wait to share these with teachers and book clubs!

  2. I use Goodreads every day for readers’ advisory in my library. I knew about some of these features but had no idea about some of the others–thank you!!

  3. Oh boy, I just went down the rabbit hole of comparing my books to my friends. (It was nice to see my daughter loved many of the books I recommended to her!)

    Great post, Steve!

  4. Dear Iris, Karin, and Mary – I’m glad I was able to point out a few additional features!

    Iris – That’s always my hope – to find something that others think is worth sharing.

    Karin – I used GoodReads with my students so much this year for both keeping track of their reading and for readers’ advisory. It’s been a very handy book tool.

    Mary – I know what you mean about the book-comparing rabbit hole! (And it’s wonderful that your daughter seems to like your recommendations!)

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