Posted by Patrick Brown on July 27, 2011
Next week marks the end of the inaugural Goodreads Book Club. Since we announced our book club on May 9, 25,000 people have added A Visit from the Goon Squad to their shelves. Almost 2,400 people have written a review of it, and hundreds have participated in discussion threads about the book. Fifteen brave and creative people submitted a slide show to our Slide Show Story contest, and the two that Jennifer Egan chooses will win fabulous ereaders. We're thrilled with the impressive turnout for this first book club; we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!
The Goodreads Book Club will conclude on Tuesday with a live video chat with author Jennifer Egan. The chat will begin at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST and last approximately one hour. We hope you'll stop by! If you've got a question you're dying to know the answer to, ask it during the chat, and the author of the book herself might just answer it! Jennifer will also announce the winner of the slide show story contest during the chat. Don't miss it!
Tuesday is also the last day to add A Visit from the Goon Squad to your shelves and have it count towards our First Book pledge. For every 10,000 people who add the book to their shelves, Goodreads will donate 1,000 books to children in need through First Book. If you haven't yet done so, please add A Visit from the Goon Squad to your shelves. You can add it to any shelf you choose -- including to-read -- and it will still count. As I write this, about 35,000 Goodreads members have added the book, meaning that we've already donated 3,000 books. That's great, but we want to donate more. Please spread the word and help us get to 40,000 books added by Tuesday. Help us spread the love of reading to thousands of kids in need; tell your friends to add A Visit from the Goon Squad to their Goodreads shelves today!
And don't forget to tune into the live video chat with author Jennifer Egan on Tuesday, August 2 at 8 p.m. PST/5 p.m. EST.
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 26, 2011
Join authors Edan Lepucki and Emma Straub as they discuss their new books in our brand new video chat feature! Edan and Emma will discuss their work, as well as what it's like to be a writer in the age of the internet, how the publishing world is changing, and much more. The chat will begin at 5 p.m. EST/2 p.m. PST and will last for approximately one hour. Check it out!
To watch the chat and join the discussion, click here!
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 26, 2011
At Goodreads, we've never focused on our competition, choosing instead to devote all of our energy to building a vibrant community and delivering a great experience to our 5.4 million members. That said, we were sad to see the popular Facebook App Visual Bookshelf, which was one of our largest rivals, close its doors over the weekend. We were honored, however, to be chosen as their preferred successor to their millions of users. In the past few days, a flood of new people have joined Goodreads and cataloged over 1 million books. This meant some extra work for us—it's no joke adding a million books to the database in two days!—but we're very happy to welcome these new readers to Goodreads.
Since this influx of new books was unexpected, our book importer has been running quite a bit behind (sometimes as much as 12 hours behind). We apologize for this inconvenience, but we assure you that the importer has now caught up and anyone who has imported books should now see them on their shelves (We are still importing books that lacked ISBN numbers. The process takes a bit longer, as we have to match them by title and author).
UPDATE: We now have a one-click solution for importing your books from Living Social's Visual Bookshelf. Simply click the Visual Bookshelf link that says "export your books to Goodreads." Alternatively, you can paste any of your export URLs into our importer (rather than all three), and let us do the rest.
Many of you were likely using Visual Bookshelf primarily as a Facebook app. Goodreads is a stand-alone social network and community, but we do offer deep integration with Facebook through Facebook Connect, which means posting your book reviews to Facebook is easy to do. If you are already connected, you'll see an option to post to Facebook as you write a review. If you aren't, a button to connect and post will be on the next page. Goodreads also makes it easy to post ratings, to-read books, trivia questions, and reading progress to Facebook: Simply navigate to the apps tab to edit your settings.
Goodreads is much more than a mere cataloging site. We feature over 40,000 book clubs organized along a variety of topics and genres. There are book clubs dedicated to specific parts of the world, young adult book clubs, fiction book clubs and much, much more. If you are looking to exchange ideas with other readers, you're in the right place.
You can also become a fan of your favorite author on Goodreads. There are more than 24,000 Goodreads Authors on the site, including bestselling authors like Neil Gaiman, Paulo Coelho, Cassandra Clare, Richelle Mead, Audrey Niffenegger, and more. Read their blogs, follow their reviews, and keep up with all their latest tour stops, all on one convenient author profile page. Each month, we feature discussion groups with authors and live video chats. Join us next week for a live video chat with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan.
If any Visual Bookshelf members want to request features they miss or report any bugs, please let us know in the Goodreads Feedback Group. In fact, we started a thread discussing the key differences between the two sites. Let us know what features you're missing!
Posted by Greg Mathews on July 22, 2011
Do you ever stop in the middle of a book and think "This character describes my friend Eric exactly! But how can I tell him?" Now Goodreads has a fun little tool to help you with this!
Cast your Friends is a cool new feature that allows you to cast your Facebook friends as characters in your favorite books.
All you have to do is choose a book, connect with Facebook and then start casting! If you’d like to share your cast list, you can even post it to the walls of the Facebook friends you chose.
Have fun casting your friends, but be careful casting anyone as Draco Malfoy, or Joffrey Baratheon!
Want to start casting? Click Here!
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 20, 2011
Yesterday, in the Guardian, John Self wrote a very entertaining post about why it seems that so many authors' best known works are not their best works. He writes, "If someone reads Kurt Vonnegut's most famous book, Slaughterhouse-Five, and doesn't like it, I'll want to shout to them, "But it's rubbish! Cat's Cradle is much better!"
This is the sort of argument that used to be unwinnable -- you'd say Slaughterhouse-Five is the best, I'd argue for Cat's Cradle, and in the end, after some fisticuffs, we'd agree to disagree and go have a beer. But not anymore! We have data to help us settle the argument, definitively. Looking at the statistics for Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle, one can see that while many times more people have read Slaughterhouse-Five (250,000 to 50,000), Cat's Cradle does have a higher average rating (4.16 to 3.87). Argument settled (Though you should really just read both books; they're both excellent). With this in mind, let's look at a few of the authors that Self argues are "famous for the wrong book."
To start with, Self suggests that Louis de Bernières should be remembered not for Captain Corelli's Mandolin (despite the Nicholas Cage movie adaptation) but for the superior Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord. A glance at the Goodreads statistics for the books supports Self's thesis -- while far more people have read Captain Corelli's Mandolin (8,000+), Senor Vivo is higher rated, with an average rating of 4.03 stars. It's worth noting that there are several lesser-known de Bernières works with average ratings higher than that of Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
How about the rest of Self's list. Unfortunately, the Goodreads data doesn't support Self's suggestion that Joseph Heller's Something Happened is superior to the more often-read Catch-22. Despite having been read by seventy times more people, Catch-22 has the higher average rating, by quite a bit (3.96 to 3.4).
And the Goodreads numbers again fail to support Self's position that Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled is a better book than his much more popular titles Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day; it has a lower average rating than either of them.
Still, it's fairly consistently true that an author's most read book will not be her most highly rated. For instance, Charles Dickens' highest rated book is not the more widely read A Tale of Two Cities, but rather his third-most widely read title, A Christmas Carol and the slightly more obscure Bleak House. The Brothers Karamazov, not the more popular Crime and Punishment, is Dostoevsky's highest-rated book. John Steinbeck's East of Eden has a whopping 4.31 average rating while his more well-read titles Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath fail to crack 4 stars.
This trend holds even for more contemporary authors. Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is by far her most widely read book, but it is not her highest rated; both The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures have nearly a full star higher ratings. The highest rated Lorrie Moore book isn't A Gate at the Stairs, which has more than 6,000 ratings, but Self-Help, which has a mere 2,000 ratings. (I must mention one caveat with regards these contemporary examples: Since Goodreads is only a few years old, it stands to reason that the newest books -- those released since Goodreads has been around -- are going to have more ratings than older books, which people may not even remember they'd read.)
For every example, though, there are counter-examples. For instance, Jane Austen's most often-read title, Pride and Prejudice, is also her most beloved, with an average rating of 4.21. Jennifer Egan's latest book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, is both her best and most popular title, according to the Goodreads community.
I have a theory for why it is so often the case that an author's most famous work is rarely their highest rated. In the case of the classics, most readers encounter them first in school. As such, the ratings for those books are dragged down by those who bitterly recall being forced to read them. The more obscure works, meanwhile, are largely read by readers who have already read the more famous work and enjoyed it enough to seek out more of the author's work, leaving it with a higher average rating. As for the contemporary authors, I think a different phenomenon is in play. Often, an author will slowly build a readership, stacking great work on top of great work for years until, finally, they have a "hit" that many people read. Inevitably, some of these new readers won't find the author's style to their liking and will rate the book poorly. Those same readers aren't going to bother exploring the author's oeuvre any further, leaving their earlier works with a shinier average rating.
Of course it's also possible that people just like to say they prefer obscure books. I'd run the numbers for my favorite author, but he's pretty obscure. You probably haven't heard of him.
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 18, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, in the journal n+1, Elizabeth Gumport published an impassioned critique of reviews, focusing specifically on book reviews. I doubt very much that I'll be able to summarize it, so please do click through and read it in its entirety. It is worth your time.
Gumport seems to have two critiques, one which applies to book reviews as publications (The New York Times Book Review, for instance) and the other to reviews themselves. While the first part of her argument rings true to me -- the role of the book review section has diminished and changed in recent years -- it's not the section I'd like to discuss. Rather, I'd like to focus on this line from near the end of Gumport's essay: "If we could read and write anything we wanted, what would we read and write? Probably not book reviews?"
Really? This doesn't fit with my experience here at Goodreads. At last count, we have over 8 million text reviews on the site (with at least 100 characters of text), and we add roughly 8 to 9,000 more each day. How do we reconcile this with Gumport's argument that we don't actually enjoy reading or writing book reviews? If this were true, why would so many people be flocking to a site to write book reviews?
The answer lies in the nature of our reviews. On Goodreads, a review is a personal opinion, and, more importantly, a jumping off point for a passionate discussion. While there are certainly some reviews on the site that fall into the trap of plot summary, most are emotional reactions -- what about the book was moving, which characters are likable and which aren't. This sets the stage for passionate debate of ideas among friends -- something that is fairly impossible in the traditional book review. Our members have commented on over 400,000 different reviews. That represents an astounding volume of literary dialog.
Furthermore, looking at our top reviews for the past week (those receiving the most "likes"), I'm struck by how creative and, in some cases, unconventional they are (Many of them use images, for instance). These are deeply personal creative pieces of writing, works that arguably share as much with the average blog post as they do with a book review. And they are clearly wildly popular. In fact, they appear to be gaining popularity, rather than losing it.
With that in mind, why do you read and write reviews? And what makes Goodreads reviews appealing while those of newspaper review sections appear to be waning in popularity?
Posted by Patrick Brown on July 12, 2011
That sound you might have heard last night at midnight was hundreds of thousands of people rushing to their local bookstores or turning on their Kindles and Nooks to begin reading one of the most highly anticipated books of the year. Yes, today is the day that the latest installment of George R.R. Martin's immensely popular series A Song of Fire and Ice, A Dance with Dragons, is released. And not surprisingly, Goodreads members have flocked to add it to their shelves:
That's a serious one-day spike for any book, but it's doubly impressive for such a heavy tome (Dragons weighs in at more than 1000 pages).
What's drawn people to this volume? Obviously, they're eager for the story to continue, it seems likely that the book has also experienced a spike in popularity after the HBO adaptation of the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones. Adaptations usually expand the audience for the adapted work, and this is likely no exception. Indeed, dozens of Goodreads members mention the HBO series in their reviews of the book. Interestingly, a New York Times article suggested that the show had been sexed up to appeal to female viewers who might not be fans of the book:
"The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half."
After the significant internet outcry over this story, we looked at the demographic breakdown of readership for A Game of Thrones and found that better than a third of the book's 30,000 readers were women.
So what is Martin's appeal? Some readers liken him to an American Tolkein. John Wiswell, in his Goodreads review of the book, says "This may be the best Fantasy I've read since J.R.R. Tolkien. I highly recommend it to any fans of the Lord of the Rings series who have been disappointed by the other supposed epics that have shown up since." And Goodreads staffer Louise says "A Game of Thrones is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read. This may sound like high praise especially after only reading the first book of the series, but A Song of Ice and Fire series may just well be the Lord of the Rings of my generation." And Ethan Miller suggests that the series deserves a place in the canon: "If Science Fiction and Fantasy weren't considered silly step children to those that define what is "Great" in the western literary cannon than the first three books of this series would surely rank amongst the greatest works of the last 25 years."
Whatever the appeal, it's clear that A Dance of Dragons is one of the hot books of the summer. Is it on your to-read shelf?
Posted by Otis Chandler on July 06, 2011
The right book can literally change a life. This founding philosophy has guided Goodreads from the start, and now we want to give back in a tangible way. We are proud to say that this summer the Goodreads Book Club has partnered with First Book to donate to children in need.
The stats on illiteracy in North America alone are staggering. Many kids can't get their hands on a book when they really want one, because many schools and families lack the means to purchase books. Our inaugural Goodreads Book Club is about bringing readers together: Now we've expanded that core goal to bring books to children that desperately need them.
Here is our pledge: We are donating 1,000 books to kids in need for every 10,000 Goodreads members who add A Visit from the Goon Squad to their shelves. As of today, there are already more than 25,000 who have read or plan to read Jennifer Egan's evocative Pulitzer-winning novel, so we have already promised 2,000 books! Help us reach the next campaign benchmark by adding the book and inviting your friends to join the Goodreads Book Club.
Our partner, First Book, is a stellar nonprofit organization that serves children with the greatest need by distributing books throughout the United States and Canada to schools and community programs in low-income communities. Their commitment to bringing children a steady supply of new books is very much aligned with the Goodreads mission to get people excited about reading. As First Book notes on its Web site, "Studies show that interest in reading more than triples among children who received new books from First Book."
Our initial goal is to donate 5,000 books—which means we need 50,000 people to add A Visit From The Goon Squad by August 2, when the Book Club concludes with a live video chat with author Jennifer Egan. If more than 50,000 people add the book before the end date, we will honor our pledge and donate up to 10,000 books!*
This is a fun, easy way for you to help us give the gift of the written word to thousands of kids who need it.
Help us spread the love!
To celebrate our partnership with First Book, we're giving away 10 paperback copies of A Visit from the Goon Squad, signed by the author Jennifer Egan! Enter to win »
* Books added by illegitimate accounts will not be included in the total number of adds. We reserve the right to disqualify accounts from unverified sources.
Posted by Kara on July 01, 2011
Looking for a new scrap of wisdom or humor to brighten your day? Or maybe just an intellectual turn-of-phrase to impress your next dinner date?
Introducing our new “Quote of the Day” feature to fulfill all of your quoting needs! We’ve searched high and low to bring you a collection of quotes we find intriguing, inspiring, sagacious, or just plain funny.
As some of you may have noticed, this feature has been displaying for a couple of weeks now on the lower right-hand corner of the home page. You can view it there or click on the header to be taken to the unique “Quote of The Day” page, where you can “like” the quote and even see an explanation for how it relates to today’s date.
Make sure you never miss a quote by subscribing to daily QOTD emails. Or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to join in the conversation about our picks. Happy quoting!
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on June 22, 2011
Goodreads members are strong supporters of public libraries, so we are especially excited to announce that thanks to a new agreement with EBSCO Publishing, reader ratings and book reviews from Goodreads will be incorporated into NoveList, a readers' advisory resource with widespread use in libraries. Goodreads's wealth of 11 million book reviews and 110 million ratings will now help librarians answer one of the most frequently asked questions—what do I read next?
The agreement brings together two companies that are dedicated to fostering a love of reading while sharing a belief that libraries have a key role to play in a community of readers. For readers searching the library catalog, content from Goodreads will serve as a powerful book discovery tool. NoveList founder Duncan Smith says librarians are always being asked for their recommendations. "With Goodreads we can point the user to thousands of readers who have read and commented on the books they are considering."
Independent market research indicated that NoveList is the most highly-rated readers' advisory resource in public libraries. NoveList Select allows libraries to add NoveList content into library catalogs allowing users to leverage the library catalog to discover new books and similar titles in the library's collection. The agreement now allows Goodreads' ratings and reviews to be incorporated into that same user experience.
Goodreads is home to both library patrons and librarians. In one poll, 30 percent of the nearly 17,000 respondents indicated that they went to the library for more of their books, eclipsing brick-and-mortar chain bookstores (22 percent) and online stores (18 percent). Are you a frequent library patron? Look for Goodreads the next time you are browsing a library catalog with NoveList!