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Let the games begin! Books about soccer, South Africa, and the World Cup
Posted by Otis Chandler on June 11, 2010

The World Cup, the worlds most popular sporting event, kicked off today. The World Cup first took place in 1930, and has had 18 winners. It's a special event, bringing the world together and honoring the planets most popular sport: soccer - or as most of the world calls it, football.

In honor of that we took a look at what Goodreads has to help members that want to learn more about the World Cup, or soccer, or even the history of the host continent, Africa.

One place to start is with books that members have shelved as soccer books (130) or football books (367). There are definitely great titles in these lists.

By the way, did you know 42 of 45 English speaking countries that participate in FIFA call the sport Football? Australia even just changed from soccer to football in 2005. Even though the word "soccer" originated in England, Football is clearly the global name - I just wish there were a better name for that other sport we have here in the US - anyone got any good ideas?

There are at least two listopia lists that have some great books as well. The
first is a list of books about South Africa or Soccer. There are many good titles here, but the one that stuck out to me is The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt. This is a 992 page book that tells "the full story of soccer's rise from chaotic folk ritual to the world's most popular sport". One Goodreads reviewer said: "Like most Americans, I grew up with an indifference (some would say ignorance) to the passions of global football. For a variety of reasons, within the past two years I have found the sport to be one of the most fascinating expressions of athletic art and have, in my own way, become a devotee of the phenomenon."

The World Cup being in Africa is of course a great excuse to read some of the great books set in that continent. The Best African books is full of classics that shouldn't be missed, such as The Poisonwood Bible, Heart of Darkness, Out of Africa, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Power of One, and so many more!

Please let us know in the comments what your favorite soccer books or Africa books are!

Here is a montage of books from the list South Africa World Cup 2010:

Brilliant OrangeHow Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of GlobalizationThe Ball is Round: A Global History of SoccerSoccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in PowerSoccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey--and Even Iraq--Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular SportSpudCry, the Beloved CountryInverting the Pyramid: The History of Football TacticsFever PitchBloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English SoccerThe Glory Game: The New Edition of the British Football ClassicGarrincha: The Triumph & Tragedy of Brazil's Forgotten Footballing HeroThe Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of ItalyLong Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson MandelaWinning at All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian SoccerLife and Times of Michael KBrilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch FootballDisgraceAjax, the Dutch, the WarEl Diego: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest FootballerKhayelitshaFeet of the Chameleon: The Story of Football in AfricaHow to Score: Science and the Beautiful GameON PENALTIES.European Fields: The Landscape of Lower League Football
Goodreads takes Manhattan with its first New York Literary Pub Crawl
Posted by Patrick Brown on June 04, 2010

Last week, the Goodreads team traveled to New York for our first ever event outside Southern California. After the success of our first Literary Pub Crawl we figured a similar event would be the perfect way to say hello to our New York City members. And we were right!

The evening began at Housing Works, as folks poured in, grabbed a drink and started mingling. It was great to see so many people eager to meet and talk about what they were reading! Much of the Goodreads team had just spent three whirlwind days at Book Expo America (BEA), the book industry's annual conference. This year, many people wanted BEA to open its doors to the people who actually make the industry go -- the readers. As I stood in Housing Works, surrounded by books from floor to ceiling, listening to writers and publishers talking to actual readers about their favorite books and what they were reading, it occurred to me that this is what many people wish BEA could be.

After an hour or so of bookish conversation, it was time for the readings to begin. Emily St. John Mandel kicked things off with a few pages from her new literary thriller The Singer's Gun. Amy King followed with a few poems, including some that were thematically realted to the night's festivities.

Finally, Colson Whitehead took the stage. He announced that he was going to read from his latest novel, Sag Harbor, "which has an average rating of 1.25 stars on Goodreads," he said (He was joking; the actual average star rating is 3.41). The passage he read was beautiful and hilarious and the perfect thing to send us off into the night.

Following the readings, we all headed to the other bars on the crawl. Some of us met new friends, some of us connected with old friends, and many of us had to explain why we were wearing stickers that said what book we were currently reading.

The event was a huge success, and a few literary celebrities turned out to do a bit of crawling. The Wall Street Journal even wrote about the event. It was a great evening, and thank you so much to all who attended! We hope to see you out at the next crawl.
Two New Widgets: A Reader Widget, and a Custom Widget
Posted by Louise on May 28, 2010

We're on a widget streak here at Goodreads these days. The Goodreads Reader now has its own widget, which you can access by clicking the "embed" button on any Goodreads Reader page. Check out this one of Alice in Wonderland:

The Goodreads Reader widget comes in handy when you want to link to a readable version of an e-book directly on your site.

The second, slightly less new widget is the Custom Widget, which you can get to by clicking My Account and then the "widgets" tab. True to its name, it's a more customizable javascript widget with a handful of options you can tweak to match the look of your blog.

A Custom Widget on Goodreads

Unfortunately, because it is a javascript widget, it will only work on blogging systems that support javascript.

Take the two widgets for a spin and tell us what you think.
Goodreads no longer blocked in Iran
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on May 10, 2010

In February 2010, we reported that Goodreads had fallen prey to Iran's widespread and controversial Internet crackdown. Iranian traffic on Goodreads plummeted the same week that Iran's government blocked access to Gmail. With the help of our community, we spread the word about this censorship, and the story earned mentions in the international press, including the Guardian, the Telegraph, and The New Yorker.

Goodreads Traffic in Iran—February to May 2010:

Now we are pleased to report that Iranian traffic on Goodreads has resumed and is climbing to reach normal levels. We can only conclude that we are no longer blocked. Thank you to all book lovers on Goodreads and beyond who helped to raise awareness of this issue. Let's hope Iranian access to Goodreads stays steady!
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.