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.


Kathleen Recommends…Internet Time-Wasters (Pt. 2)

J! Archive

For those of us who are regularly home in the early evening, and looking to scratch our useless trivia itch, “Jeopardy!” is just the show to make us feel smart, important, and not lonely at all. (And our cats like it too!) It’s got the kind of effortless formula that makes its viewers feel as though they could actually be on it…at least, until they hit a random category like “Volcanoes” or “Raccoons.” (And never mind that on the actual show, shouting out a series of wrong answers before touching upon the right one is discouraged.) Still, maybe the secret to becoming a “Jeopardy” champion is not a high IQ, quick buzzer fingers, or fearless wagering skills, but rather a matter of training. Maybe all it takes is a reliable database and hours to kill. If that’s the case, then there could be no better resource than the incredible J! Archive.

J! Archive, purportedly a go-to site for preparing “Jeopardy!” contestants, is a fan-maintained archive full of transcribed episodes dating as far back as season one. The questions are presented on a grid much like the one featured on the show, and each episode transcript is divided into the same rounds, with even a record of which players answered which questions (whether correctly or incorrectly), and who earned points on them. It’s truly a remarkable site, which no doubt takes a lot of effort to maintain—especially considering it’s managed by someone in no way affiliated with the show. For anyone lagging behind on recent episodes, or who just needs a quick fix, the site is a great chance to play the game without committing a full half hour to it. It’s straightforward and user-friendly, but, what’s more, it actually aspires to mimic the experience of “Jeopardy!” So, if you have some time to kill, and you won’t miss the awkward banter between Alex Trebek and the contestants, give J! Archive a try. …It’s the smart thing to do.

Kathleen Recommends…Internet Time-Wasters (Pt. 1)

The Great Gatsby Video Game

As one of my former English professors explained it, The Great Gatsby is everybody’s favorite. Almost any other book in the canon is completely polarizing, but when it comes to Gatsby, you find practically universal appreciation. It’s got glamor, drama, pathos…and, as it turns out, the makings of a stellar video game. The Great Gatsby Game is the novel reimagined as an old school Nintendo game. You play as Nick Carraway, and your first task is to dodge the waiters, drunken party guests, and Charleston-dancing fools that separate you from Gatsby. Admittedly, I’ve only gotten to the second level (can’t beat those damn eyes!), so I’m not sure what (if anything) the rest of the game offers. Still, I’m completely charmed by it. It’s definitely a fun diversion (perhaps from writing a paper on the actual novel), and it’s so contrived that it’s not even remotely insulting to the English major in me. Of course, the novelty of it is what makes it so exciting, so I’m hoping it’s not the first in a series of literary classics video games (if we see adaptations of Thomas Hardy novels, I give up!). Nonetheless, I don’t think this is quite as trying as the literary mashup trend (e.g., Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Emma Meets the Chupacabra) of recent years. This won’t serve as anyone’s replacement for the novel—if anything, it will inspire 10th graders to actually read it!

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