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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."

February Wrap Up
Posted by Elizabeth on February 22, 2010

It’s been a wild month at Goodreads this February.

First of all, we hit a major milestone in the short history of Goodreads. Our community now numbers more than 3 million. It's a continually humbling experience to learn from our well-read users. We're honored to have so many talented minds on the site, interacting, discussing books, and providing recommendations!

On a more tempered note, Goodreads was also blocked in Iran this February. We're obviously proponents of free speech, something that we hope this site encourages, so our thoughts are with the Iranian people.

Besides all of that, we've put together another eclectic newsletter. Chris Bohjalian spoke with Goodreads about his latest novel, which deals with domestic violence; Elif Shafak presented her multicultural approach to writing her Rumi-inspired book; New Yorker writer Peter Hessler recommends his five favorite books about China; and breakout author Zachary Mason tells us who is his favorite “character” encountered by Odysseus.

Other tidbits include Movers & Shakers, Literature at every Latitude from Poland, and new features in Bookswap—now for every 10 books you send to other readers, you will get a complimentary shipping label in return—on the house.

We hope you enjoy the newsletter!

Goodreads now blocked in Iran
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on February 11, 2010

For several years, Goodreads has been flying under the radar of the Iranian government, which has a track record of blocking their citizens' access to information on the web. News broke yesterday that Iran will begin blocking Gmail. Among our 3 million members, we are happy to have 114,031 Iranian members who have added 714,626 books to their shelves. As reported by the Los Angeles Times in 2008, Goodreads has provided an online forum where Iranians participate not only in robust discussions of literature, but also, by natural extension, healthy debates about politics. We have been proud to provide this safe space for honest opinions.

Last Friday, February 5, 2010, we were saddened to see Goodreads traffic in Iran plummet (screenshot at left), which can only mean that Goodreads has joined the ranks of sites blocked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. One Iranian Goodreads member wrote to us and confirmed the news: "your site is recently been filtered by our horrible govrnmt. pls help us! spread it...books make no harm."

We couldn't agree more. Books make no harm. In an interview last year, Goodreads Author Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, commented presciently on the Iranian phenomenon on Goodreads: "People constantly find ways of connecting. If [Goodreads] is banned in Iran, we need support for those people who just want to connect to the world." Please spread the word that books should be enjoyed, discussed, and shared by everyone.
The legacy of J.D. Salinger
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on January 28, 2010

Today Goodreads mourns the loss of a literary icon and famous recluse, an author who encapsulated teenage angst in The Catcher in the Rye and inspired all of us to avoid the “phonies.” J.D. Salinger died yesterday at the age of 91. The author of one of the most-read books on Goodreads will be remembered for his notable influence on 20th century literature and for his disinterest in fame. In 1953 Salinger moved to New Hampshire and lived in seclusion until his death, shunning the press and avoiding public appearances. Although little is known about the man, his books will forever be read and re-read, and shared with each new generation of thinkers.

What Goodreads Members say about his books:

The Catcher in the Rye
Goodreads member Melanie says, "The author doesn't romanticize Holden's life, you don't read it thinking he has some special key to life that we all need. You simply feel his struggle to fit in and hope eventually he can learn to play the game and see the beauty that is there, hidden a little." Read more reviews »

Franny and Zooey
Lee says, "He's been called the voice of several generations, but Salinger's ability to maintain belly-laugh-worthy humor while touching on such dark themes might be the most notable (and most underappreciated) thing about him." Read more reviews »

Nine Stories
Rolls says, "Salinger's Nine Stories should be renamed How to Write Short Stories. While many hold up Catcher in the Rye as the zenith of his achievements for me it will always be this wistful and brave little book. I re-read it two or three times or year. I love it that much." Read more reviews »

"I love you to pieces, distraction, etc." (Franny and Zooey)

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." (The Catcher in the Rye)
Site problems - updated
Posted by Michael Economy on January 21, 2010

One of our power circuits died at the Goodreads datacenter. What this means is we're running on half power for the moment. We've got a man down there at the moment and are looking into it. If you're experiencing slowness or other problems, we're sorry about that. We're working to address this as quickly as possible. Thanks!

Update 1am pst:
some equipment was damaged as a result of the power fluctuations, some of our cache servers are still down.

Update 1:20 am pst:
i think all functionality should be restored. If you notice anything unusual, please report it in the comments.
January Newsletter!
Posted by Elizabeth on January 11, 2010

January Newsletter!

We decided to ring in the new year with one of our strongest newsletters yet! This month Goodreads talked about marriage with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the runaway success Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, and asked Jasper Fforde, author of Thursday Next series and Nursery Crime series, all about color. Gilbert was as nice as could be and Fforde’s dry wit had us in stitches.

We also asked Joshua Ferris for his favorite on-the-road book recommendations and spoke with debut authorAmy Greene about her home in the Smoky Mountains of Appalachia.

Movers & Shakers covered a variety of topics (time travel, Alice in Wonderland, Anne Boleyn, motivation, and the uber wealthy) and The Literature at Every Latitude book, The German Mujahid, is being heralded as the first novel to address the Holocaust from an Arab perspective.

Finally, please read the winning poem of the month. Birthday on Brokenback Mountain is by Jane Ellen Glasser.

We hope you enjoy the newsletter and best of luck for 2010!

P.S. We’re also proud to announce the winners of the first annual Goodreads Choice Awards. Congratulations everyone!

Announcing the Winners of the 2009 Goodreads Choice Awards
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on January 08, 2010

We are proud to announce the results of the inaugural Goodreads Choice Awards! We analyzed statistics from the 39 million books added, rated, and reviewed on the site in 2009 to create nomination lists in 13 categories. Books were categorized according to their popularity and how they were shelved (tagged). The candidates were announced in the December newsletter, and Goodreads members voted in droves until the polls closed on New Year's Eve.

See detailed polling results! »

All-time Favorite: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Also the winner of the Young Adult Series category, Collins's second book in The Hunger Games series was a huge favorite on Goodreads is 2009. Its average rating, 4.53 (out of a possible five stars), is remarkably high.

Fiction: The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Goodreads Author)
Stockett won handily with 17% of the vote. The Help is also one of the top-rated books of 2009 on Goodreads with a 4.51 average rating. Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol came in second with 10% of the vote.

Nonfiction: Columbine by Dave Cullen (Goodreads Author)
Also a strong favorite, garnering 18% of the vote. The runner-up was Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.

Mystery/Thriller: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Larsson dominated this category with nearly 30% of the vote. Dan Brown was a distant second with The Lost Symbol earning 16% of the vote.

Fantasy: Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
The zombies of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies put up a good fight, but were bitten back in the final days of voting by the vampires of Dead and Gone, which won by a whisper-thin margin of 13 votes.

Science Fiction: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Two very different authors vied for the top spot. Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood lost to Westerfeld's Leviathan.

Chick Lit: The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks
This category generated some healthy controversy, since many readers disagree about what constitutes "chick lit." As mentioned above, we used shelving statistics to determine a book's genre. Nicholas Sparks won the category with almost a quarter of the votes.

Romance: An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
Gabaldon is known for fiction that defies easy categorization. An Echo in the Bone is the seventh book in her popular Outlander series, which is shelved as romance, historical fiction, and time-travel fantasy.

Graphic Novel: Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman (Goodreads Author) and Andy Kubert (illustrator)
Gaiman’s capper to the epic Batman series won easily in this category, but Max Brooks’s The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks and Stitches were not far behind.

Young Adult Fiction: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (Goodreads Author)
This category pitted several Goodreads Authors against each other. Sarah Dessen edged out Laurie Halse Anderson (Wintergirls) for the win.

Young Adult Series: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Also the winner of the All-Time Favorite category, Collins led runner-up The Last Olympian by 20 percentage points.

Children's Book: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney.
Book 4 of Jeff Kinney's popular series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, won by a whopping margin.

Picture Book: Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (illustrator)
Goodreads Author Neil Gaiman picked up his second award. Gaiman is one of the most-followed authors on Goodreads with nearly 5,000 followers.

See detailed polling results! »