Goodreads Blog
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May Newsletter!
Posted by Elizabeth on May 05, 2010

May Newsletter

What do you do when Charlaine Harris, Chuck Palahniuk and Isabel Allende all say that they will do interviews with Goodreads?

Well, apart from the spontaneous throwing of popcorn and resounding cheer that erupted at our office, you get down to work. With three interviews instead of our usual two we realized that this month, more than ever, highlighted the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny problem that our newsletter is simply too long.

The newsletter is a little bit different this month. We spent a great deal of time working out a new format that would give you more information in a compact form. It is our first pass at it, so expect some refinements in the months to come.

With the format changes, we also realized that we needed a place for the newsletter content to live outside of the newsletter—a place that we’ve given the working title of Book Lounge. We like the idea of being able to hang out in this area for as long as you like, nosing through bookish interviews, learning about authors, finding out about new Q&A’s and Movers & Shakers—all on one page. This is in early-stage development, so expect it to evolve. Hopefully we’ll be able to add lots of content from all of you in the future.

And let’s not forget the meat of the newsletter. Along with Harris, Palahniuk and Allende, Jen Lancaster sent us her list of top 5 favorite pop-culture books and Sebastian Junger sent us a more sobering selection, his list of the most powerful books about war. We also featured debut author Jean Kwok, who sounds like she survived a harrowing childhood, and traveled to Brazil, for an interesting take on the culture of celebrity. Alexander McCall Smith volunteered a week of his time to questions from Goodreads members, and don’t forget to check out OneKid OneWorld, (a charity that shares our penchant for combining words). It’s a foundation that helps education in Kenya and El Salvador. Finally, the winning poem of the month is Big Time by Paul Siegell.

We hope you enjoy the newsletter!

Goodreads nominated for Best Social Networking Site in the 14th Annual Webby Awards
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on April 14, 2010

We are pleased to announce that we have been nominated for a Webby Award, what The New York Times calls the "Internet's highest honor." This year the Webby Awards received nearly 10,000 entries from over 60 countries around the globe, so we're proud to say we made it to the final round in good company. The Social Networking category pits us against four formidable foes: Twitter, Digg, Cute as Hell, and Bakespace. However, last year Twitter won the "Breakout of the Year" Webby Award and Digg won for Social Networking, so it is time for a changing of the guard in 2010.

As a nominee, Goodreads is also eligible to win a Webby People's Voice Award. From now until April 29th, you can cast your vote, Tweet, and share your love of Goodreads with all fans of reading.

Both Webby Award and People's Voice Award winners will be announced on May 4th, 2010. If we win, we will be limited to a five-word acceptance speech. Winner Al Gore pleaded, "Please don't recount this vote." and Stephen Colbert predictably said, "Me. Me. Me. Me. Me." What should our five-word speech say? Tell us in comments below!

Thanks to the Webby Awards and to all Goodreads members, who we truly believe are what makes Goodreads great. Everyone please vote and spread the word!
April Newsletter!
Posted by Elizabeth on April 08, 2010

April Newsletter!

Spring is finally here. At Goodreads, that hopefully means a tempering of El Nino, which has drenched our offices in San Francisco and Santa Monica.

After a nine-year hiatus, Yann Martel’s new book, Beatrice and Virgil, is finally in stores. Much like Life of Pi, it’s another book that makes your think long after you’ve read the last page. And Martel doesn’t shy away from taking on complicated subjects either. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own…

Author Anna Quindlen is an inspiration as well. Over the years, she’s been given a platform via the NYT and Newsweek to provide a distinctly female perspective to world events; I’ve always found her point of view refreshing. Her newest book Every Last One explores the volatile nature of parenting.

For In-Bed this month former Poet Laureate Robert Hass provided his favorite poetry recommendations, and Literature at Every Latitude took us to Haiti. I’m certainly curious about a book that caused an author to be so afraid of the Haitian Military that she destroyed every copy she and her family could get their hands on. Writer’s remorse?

We highlighted Pratham for Do Good With Goodreads this April. Pratham is an organization based in India with a great reputation for impacting change. We also ran the stats on the site to find Movers & Shakers for the month and blackout poet Austin Kleon brings visual pizzazz to newsprint in Author Snapshot. We wish him lots of luck with his creations.

As usual we are working hard to invent new features that make the booklover experience even better. Now you can read public domain books in your browser via Goodreads. You can change font size, search for words, and view illustrations. We’ve also created a version for the Goodreads iPhone app and a page on Goodreads to compare e-readers and set e-reader preferences
for all of your trying to figure out if you want a kindle, Sony Reader, Nook, etc.

Finally, don’t forget to check out our winning poem of the month! The poem is called Traveling North by Bobbi Lurie.

We hope you enjoy the Newsletter!

Read a book on Goodreads (literally!)
Posted by Louise on March 17, 2010

If you poke through our book pages, you might notice a new "read ebook" button next to the usual button to download available ebook formats of certain books. That button links to our brand spanking new ebook reader.

The ebook reader will allow you to read books directly in your browser. Most of the ebooks currently come from feedbooks and are in the public domain, but we're constantly adding more.

It's still in beta for now because there are issues to work through, but give it a try. If you're signed in, you can even save your place in the ebook and come back to it later (it's automagic).

For users of our mobile site, there's even an iPhone appropriate version when you navigate to the ebook reader on the iPhone browser.

Pro tip: tap the left and right of the screen to scroll the screen up or down.

A couple of ebooks to get you started:

Alice in Wonderland
Heart of Darkness
Little Women

If you find a bug, let me know in this thread in the feedback group.
What do you want to read when you grow up?
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on March 16, 2010

Adults are reading "young adult" (aka "teen") literature in droves, as recently reported by the Los Angeles Times. Is it nostalgia for our lost youth? Or maybe it is simply because YA lit today overflows with fresh voices, high-octane action, and fantasy.

On Goodreads the vast popularity of YA books cannot be denied. Whether it's fierce vampire bodyguards in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy, blood-thirsty gladiators in Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, or Greek gods wreaking havoc in Los Angeles in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, YA books generate astounding numbers on the site. New books by YA authors are always among the month's most popular. But how old are these readers? We decided to analyze some data to find out. [Click the images to enlarge.]

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer was the most-read YA book of 2008 on Goodreads. Despite being the fourth installment in the Twilight series, 26.59% of teens on Goodreads have read it. We also found that 14.98% of 20-somethings and 14.32% of 30-somethings on Goodreads have read the book. Certainly teenagers are most likely to have read the saga of Bella and Edward, but there is a secondary peak in popularity at the ripe old age of 32.

Dystopian novel Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins was the most-read YA book of 2009 on Goodreads. Its readership by age shares a similar curve: Wildly popular among teens, it falls around college-age readers (perhaps they are reading their assigned books instead), then peaks again slightly at age 31.

The Graveyard Book, by Goodreads Author Neil Gaiman, is not easily categorized. It has racked up literary awards in the adult, YA, and children's categories, including the Hugo Award for best fantasy novel, the Locus Award for best young adult novel, and the 2009 Newbery Award for children's books. On Goodreads it is commonly shelved as "young-adult" or "YA," but it is more widely read by adults than teens.

At left, we compared the most-read YA book of 2009, Catching Fire, and the most-read contemporary fiction book of 2009, The Help, by Goodreads Author Kathryn Stockett. The curves are quite different. At age 40, Goodreads members become more likely to read "adult" fiction, leaving YA fiction behind.

Finally, we wanted to see if the readership of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book mirrored that of any other book. It nicely parallels Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, a book that was widely read in business circles. Although Gladwell does not have a strong teen readership on Goodreads, when we interviewed him about Outliers, he addressed the need to write for all ages: "If you write in a way that is clear, transparent, and elegant, it will reach everyone. There's no idea that can't be explained to a thoughtful 14-year-old. If the thoughtful 14-year-old doesn't get it, it is your fault, not the 14-year-old's."

After we found popular books for the first and second third of life, we scouted for something for the final third and turned up The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown. Some thank Brown for saving the publishing industry, and it's probably because his books appeal to all ages. Unlike its YA competitors, note that The Lost Symbol stays strong into the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

The "young adult" moniker may be considered a marketing label, but Goodreads data shows that this genre of literature definitively straddles the chasm between teendom and adulthood. We've found that many readers intersperse the likes of Cormac McCarthy or Charlotte Brontë with Stephenie Meyer's alien-invasion adventure, The Host, or Cassandra Clare's demon-hunting fantasy, City of Glass. YA books excel at entertainment.

Or here's another theory. In today's culture, full adulthood is delayed until age 40.
Welcome Kale and Patrick!
Posted by Otis Chandler on March 15, 2010

Goodreads has two new very talented people as of two weeks ago: Patrick Brown and Kale McNaney. When you see them around the site please give them a big welcome!

Here is a little more about them:

Patrick is the Community Manager at Goodreads. He's responsible for all sorts of things, including being a head librarian, working with authors to grow the Author Program, answering member questions, and growing the Goodreads community. Before coming to Goodreads, Patrick was an independent bookseller, working at Book Soup and Vroman's Bookstore. He has a B.A. in Cinema & Media Studies from the University of Chicago and an MFA in film production from USC. Go figure. He likes books that challenge his own world view, as well as books that make him laugh.

Kale is a software engineer who loves to ride his bike and hang out in the LA sun. He graduated from MIT where he learned to assemble bits into interesting and useful tools. Kale likes to read nonfiction books about science, logic and philosophy by authors like Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett. His favorite book is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. When he's not writing a test case or implementing a new Goodreads feature, you can find Kale on his porch reading or riding down the Santa Monica bike path.
March Newsletter!
Posted by Elizabeth on March 11, 2010

March Newsletter

The newsletter continues to evolve each month as we strive to provide a balance of book suggestions for your tastes—no easy feat for the voracious community at Goodreads.

The interviews with Frances Mayes and Chang-rae Lee were a lot of fun to put together. Although both authors have a connection to academia, they couldn’t be more disparate. Mayes writes about Italy with the passion of a convert and takes pleasure in the little things, while Lee covers a different area of the world and is interested in the roles of race and identity.

Every month, one feature makes me particularly excited. Sometimes it’s a Lit at Lat or an author interview, but this month it’s “In Bed” with John Banville. After all, he is a legend. In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish author suggests five books by his fellow countrymen. One observation, why are all the authors male? Can anyone recommend some favorite female Irish writers?

We also chatted with Colorado librarian Kirk Farber, who has written a saucy little book called Postcards from a Dead Girl. The word around the office is that the book is awfully good.

Movers & Shakers, as always, brings up an interesting array of titles. The YA book The Body Finder, by Kimberly Derting, sounds a bit gruesome but it has huge buzz on the site; The Ask by Sam Lipsyte seems to have universal heat, online and off; and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Goodreads Author Helen Simonson, sounds like just the sort of feel-good book to pull anyone out of the blues (or the “mean reds”).

Last but not least, don’t forget to savor Venus at the Shell Station by Matt Jasper. He's the winner of our monthly poetry contest with the ¡POETRY! group. Click here to read the poem!

We hope you enjoy the newsletter.

P.S. Check out the new iPhone app!

The Official Goodreads iPhone App!
Posted by Otis Chandler on March 06, 2010

I'm very pleased to be able to officially announce that Goodreads now has an iPhone app, which is available in the Apple app store.

And, very excitingly, Apple was kind enough to notice and feature it, causing it to shoot to the top of the free books category (for the moment anyways)!

We built the app because many of our members have asked for an iPhone app, and because we think it will be very useful for Goodreads members on the go.

Also, mobile statistics on the growth of the iPhone in the US alone show it to be one of the fastest growing adoptions of a new device ever, so we think even more people will be able to take advantage of our app in the years to come.

Here is a full list of features the app offers:

* Browse your shelves! Next time you are in the library or bookstore, your to-read list will be handy.
* Add status updates and reviews of books you are reading.
* See book reviews and updates from your friends, and comment on them.
* Explore your friends shelves
* Explore some of popular book lists
* View literary events near you

I've been using the app for the last month and have to say I think it's pretty slick. There are still a few features I've had to go to our mobile site for (like groups), and we hope to add those in the coming months.

You may notice that on the app some books appear without cover images or descriptions or other pieces of data that appear on the site. This is because, as some of you may remember, Goodreads uses Amazon book meta-data, and Amazon's terms of service doesn't allow iPhone apps. Thus we have built this app with a completely separate source of book meta-data. We are working on filling in these holes, and have already made great progress there.

If you have an iPhone or an iPod touch, please give the app a go - and don't forget to give it an (appropriately) high rating!

If you have any feedback or thoughts on the app, please post them in the comments or in the Feedback Group thread.

Update: Just for clarity as people have asked in the comments, we do have a decent mobile site that should work on any phone with a browser. And we plan to build an Android app next. If anyone knows a good Android developer let us know!

The Inaugural Goodreads Literary Pub Crawl
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on February 25, 2010

On Saturday, Goodreads co-hosted its first (of hopefully many!) Literary Pub Crawls with Book Soup and PEN Center USA. Beginning with readings from three Southern California writers, Joseph Mattson, Martin Pousson, and Aimee Bender at Malo, the crawlers meandered down Sunset Boulevard mingling and sampling.

For those of you who could not join us, take a look at the Lit Crawl list of recommended drinks. For better or for worse, many influential writers have been...well...thirsty. What is your favorite writer's drink of choice? Or, what is your favorite elixir when you need to get the creative juices flowing? (Alcohol optional.)

We had a great turnout on Saturday. Thanks to everyone who made it a memorable night!

Rules for Writing Fiction
Posted by Ken-ichi on February 22, 2010

The Guardian has a wonderful little collection of advice from current authors. Here are some of my favorites:

Elmore Leonard: "if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

Anne Enright: "Try to be accurate about stuff."

Margaret Atwood: "Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can't sharpen it on the plane, because you can't take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils."

Roddy Doyle: "Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide."

Neil Gaiman: "Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."