Confession: I’m No Good at Goodreads


I have a confession to make, and it could shock you. (Well, probably not if you’ve already read the title of this post.) I love to read, and I’m pretty good with social media (or, at least, I know what a Twitter is)…but I’m bad at Goodreads.

I don’t mean that I can’t use Goodreads, like I don’t understand the basics of how it works. I can add books I’ve read, rate them, and even set challenges for myself regarding books to read in the coming year. Sometimes I even do the silly things, like enter giveaways or silently judge the bookshelves of successful authors. The problem is simply that I’m not using Goodreads the way it’s meant to be used. I’m not posting reviews, which is egregious considering I actually have reviews already written for this website. And my star ratings? I give them, but I have no idea what the hell I mean by any of it. Oh yeah, and I have only three friends.

Lest you think I’m simply not that interested in Goodreads, let me add that I actually find it very worthwhile. I use it every day. It’s a great way to keep track of page numbers, and I especially like that users can track past updates on books to see how quickly they are reading, what their initial impressions were, and so forth. It’s important for me to realize when I’m advancing only five percent on To the Lighthouse in a given day, so that I know when I am completely failing as a human being. Goodreads keeps me honest. Bitter, depressed, and honest.

But I give nothing back. I rate books simply because I can’t stand to see the empty stars staring back at me. I rate books even when I read them nearly a decade ago, even when I think I may have loved them…or was it that I hated them? I rate for the vanity of it, for the semblance of having strong opinions. And my ratings are based on no consistent criteria, just mad whims and occasionally guilt. (I know I’m supposed to like you, Persuasion, dammit!) If you are one of my (three) friends, please disregard my opinions. I don’t know what they mean either.

My problem with Goodreads is that I sometimes find it too great a leap from my private tallies and tentative notes. I’ve made lists of the books I’ve read in a given year since I was 16, but usually these lists were nothing special, just a record of the date each book was completed, and later personal star ratings that I didn’t have to worry about sharing with anyone else. (I also used half-stars. Half-stars make everything better when you are indecisive.) I just haven’t caught up with the social aspect of it yet; for too long, reading has been a deeply personal experience that I’ve only shared incrementally. It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I’m reading (even when I should be), or that I think anyone gives more than a passing glance at my updates. It’s just this: I don’t relate to books in this way.

Still, I’m learning. I’m learning both what it’s like to be the kind of person who shares random personal information with her (three) friends and occasionally bored strangers, as well as what it means to enjoy books in an age in which you never have to enjoy them alone. I assume that someday I will add a fourth friend, I will post a review of a book I felt strongly about, and I will even participate in one of those author events that I get so many notifications for.

…That day is just not today.

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