(Too-) Good Reads

good-readsI’ve taken what I guess is a quintessentially New-Year’s step and added the “Goodreads” widget to the sidebar of this blog’s home page. (It’s down there at the bottom of the right column of blog stuff.) By clicking on it, you can see what I’m currently reading, and what I’ve been reading and what I’m planning to read. (Although the widget doesn’t seem to be accurately updating page numbers, but perhaps that will work itself out.)

I know you probably don’t care about any of that, but it’s now right there for you in case you’re ever excruciatingly bored.

Goodreads is a sort of social network for book readers. Besides sharing all of the information above, you can get book recommendations, review books, read others’ reviews, etc. All great stuff if you’re a reader: kind of like the comments section of an Amazon listing, but without the stray “I’m only giving one star because I ordered this but never received it!!!” comments.

I first joined Goodreads about three years ago, and promptly lost interest. I have a couple of problems with Goodreads. One  is that my tastes, at least in fiction, tend toward what I guess would be called “literary” books, while it seems most of the community there likes “genre” fiction—romance, crime, etc.

Also, to be a productive Goodreads member, you need to write reviews of books and rate them on a 1–5 scale. OK, I can force myself to write capsule reviews (although I hate the idea of summarizing a 100,000-word book in 100 words), and I guess I sort of do so on my blog in my five-books lists.

But to rate a book on five-star scale? That’s a tough one. And here’s the reason. I’m a pretty slow reader, and a book requires of me a pretty substantial commitment, often a multi-week commitment. I’m not going to take that kind of commitment lightly. This means I’m not going to casually jump into a book I won’t like, but I’m more apt to like every book I jump into, if that makes sense. If a book’s just not right for me, I’ll bail out and not finish it, but that’s actually a surprisingly rare occurrence. I have enough respect for authors and the amount of work I know they put into a book to not give up if it doesn’t sing to me in the first half of the story. I’ll make myself like it, if necessary.

So if I’ve made that kind of commitment to a book, and I stick with it to the end, it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to give it anything but a four- or five-star rating. If I’ve finished a book, you can pretty well infer that I liked it. So the rating system doesn’t make much sense for me.

With the new year, I’m giving Goodreads another try. If nothing else, it will spur me a little to keep reading, and maybe I’ll pick up a good recommendation or two along the way.

So ignore the stars, but you’re welcome to look over my shoulder and see what I’m reading. And if you’re so inclined, consider joining Goodreads and “friending” me and posting your own book lists.


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