Growing Up Into Goodreads

Posted by Elizabeth on September 5, 2017

Goodreads Turns Ten is sponsored by Audible. Enjoy a free book with your trial.

Earlier this year my oldest daughter started reading. As she brushed back her wispy strands of blond hair and dragged her teeth across her lips in concentration, it occurred to me that I had forgotten those early halting steps: chopping out the pieces of a word; stringing the phonics together like beads on a wire; and then…a sentence…suddenly…a story. How difficult it is to memorize all the permutations of letter sounds until you spit out full words!

I didn't expect to feel so strongly when I watched her face smooth out with comprehension. Emotions came rumbling forward, making me stop for a moment, abandoning my busy life. I just watched her. She had gained entrance into a magical club, and I was seeing the crossing over.

My mind started spinning toward the future. She could now propel her own acquisition of knowledge of the world, going where her passions led her and dropping down into a story that could change her life or give her comfort when the real world bruised. I sat there, sucked into the story, enthralled by my daughter's discovery of Tim and his pal, Al, helping each other when the other was sad.

I started thinking about all the books from childhood that have become hallmarks in my life: Heidi when I was a little girl, instilling in me a desire to help others and admiring her purity and spirit; The Little House on the Prairie books, where I grew a deep appreciation and respect for hard work and perseverance. I remember reading the Childcraft How & Why books and learning that young Native American boys would go out on a voyage when they came of age, returning home to their village after they tested themselves and became confident in their abilities. I vowed to do that, too. High school years were punctuated by books such as The Power of One, and I spent a few years idolizing the protagonist (a young South African boy who boxed), applying his knowledge to my pursuit of ballet and taking comfort in his principles against injustice and bravery as he faced his lonely road. Later in life, in college and beyond, I found more and more books that formed the bricks of my foundation of values.

In a surprising way, reading for me has taken my own life down a deep groove, more profound than I ever expected, often harder than I expected. I was a precocious reader, a writer and a journalist, and then I became cofounder and editor of Goodreads, a tech company all about books: finding them, sharing them, connecting over them, interviewing and collaborating with the makers, the sellers, the coders, the designers, all coming together in a symphony of passion for the object, and allowing our members to be the artists behind the content.

I've joked that I was an accidental entrepreneur. Among the scores of jobs I considered (I kept them in a yellow notepad with lists of pros and cons), bard was high on the list, but I became a journalist because I loved writing and it would sort of pay the bills (for years I tutored girls in high school calculus to support my journalism habit). When my husband came up with the idea for Goodreads and said he needed a cofounder, I thought about it and realized that this was the one exception I would make to the things I'd said I would never do: work with my husband, work in tech, start a business in a field far from my métier as an arts, style, and culture writer.

It was about books. How could I resist? Books matter more than anything. Suddenly I found myself testing features, rewriting copy on the site (after all, our members are literary people, and conjunction errors are unacceptable!), setting up newsletters, training writers to interview authors, doing interviews myself, writing press releases, thinking about the story of Goodreads and the brand that I envisioned for us: a place that was not snobby and not about our own personal tastes, a safe place for all readers to express themselves, share, and get excited about books.

It's been ten years now. Since those fateful days in 2007, we've seen our personal life blossom—three girls joined our family—and our professional lives evolve. We joined Amazon in 2013, which gives us the reach and resources to create even better experiences for our members, and Otis continues his work as CEO and I continue to work as editor in chief. Our team has grown to nearly 150 book lovers in San Francisco, Seattle, Costa Rica, South Africa, New York, and Los Angeles. At Goodreads our employees are both great at what they do and as passionate about reading as we are. But the most amazing thing is that the company has so much more ahead of it. I can't wait to see what it looks like in another ten years.

And we wouldn't have gotten here without the passion, joy, and energy of you, all our fellow readers. Some of my fondest memories are of interacting with members and hearing the stories of serendipity among like-minded readers: the couple who sent us pictures of their book-themed wedding in Oregon (they met on Goodreads); the woman who sent us a heartfelt letter telling us about how the friends she made on the site helped her get through cancer; the book club moderator who was surprised by an author ordering pizza for the group after seeing that they were reading her book on the site!

Things that get big are interesting and an accomplishment, but perhaps it's the editor in me that still cares about the details and the granular. Watching my daughter begin the voyage as a reader, I'm reminded that she is just one new little reader entering the tribe. And yet I can't help but feel she's embarking on her own personal Odyssey, her voyage into the wilderness to prove herself. Oh, what a journey it will be.

Fellow readers, what books have been part of your personal voyage? I would love to know.


See complete coverage of the Goodreads Ten-Year Anniversary Celebration, including:
Your Favorite Authors' Top Ten Favorite Books
Ten of Our Top Reviews of All Time
Ten Ways You Know You're a Goodreads Member
Participate in our Hide-a-Book Day on September 18

Comments Showing 1-50 of 95 (95 new)

message 1: by BookOfCinz (new)

BookOfCinz This is perfection! Congratulations on your 10 years... Goodreads is where I call home!

message 2: by Alondra (new)

Alondra Miller Congrats, Goodreads!!

Love the site and have been on for almost 6 years... very hard to believe.

Only social network I use, now.

message 3: by Katt (new)

Katt Hansen Congratulations! I love Goodreads and love spending so much time around people who feel the way I do about books. There was a time when I felt isolated because I didn't know anyone who read as much as I do. I kept thinking there had to be other people in the world like me, I just didn't know how to find them. Now I have, because of you and the work you've done. Thank you for that!

message 4: by Ninja Neko (new)

Ninja Neko Congratulations to my favourite website! Keep Goodreads great :)

message 5: by Ameetha (new)

Ameetha Widdershins Have you considered a Goodreads for Kids? Same site just with more options for profile protection and parental control and supervision? It would be nice to have my child have her own profile!

message 6: by Katie (new)

Katie Congratulations! Mazel tov! And thank you!

I've been with you nearly since the beginning (joined in June 2007), and I'm not an early adopter of *anything*! I use and love this site regularly. Just recently, I helped my ten-year-old daughter, a fellow voracious reader, set up her own account, and I felt such a thrill along with a twinge of jealously. If only I could have a record of my entire reading life! :) Ten years will have to be good enough, and it pretty much is! Thanks again for all of your hard work and perseverance!

message 7: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Silver Ameetha wrote: "Have you considered a Goodreads for Kids? Same site just with more options for profile protection and parental control and supervision? It would be nice to have my child have her own profile!"
with just kid giveaways would be nice

message 8: by Bara (new)

Bara Goodreads is the best social network. :)

message 9: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Hayward Pérez Barbora wrote: "Goodreads is the best social network. :)"
Yes it is!

message 10: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Hayward Pérez Great article! I have been on Goodreads since 2010 and the time has gone so fast!
My favorite books growing up were Kristy's Great Idea and all the other Babysitter's Club books.
Black Beauty and Zoey Fools Around and all the other books from the Making Out series of books by KA Applegate.

message 11: by Kunal (new)

Kunal Congratulations! I am grateful to you and your team for creating such a wonderful place for all us readers.
Looking forward to fabulous years for Goodreads ahead.

Few gems which have been a part of my voyage are A Suitable Boy, The Name of the Wind, A Storm of Swords, The Little Prince, Autobiography of a Yogi, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

message 12: by Dan (new)

Dan Congratulations on your amazing achievment. I developed my reading habbit this year at the age of 29 and I thank this website for keeping me interested and focused on my goal. You made a reader out of me.

message 13: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Sophia I love this community, sharing, tracking, connecting all of my literary adventures!

Congratulations on a decade of awesomeness!

message 14: by Gregory (new)

Gregory Congratulations to Goodreads on your anniversary. I am honored to be a part of your organization and with people who love reading. Thank you and here's to another 10 years of bringing the world together.

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

What a beautiful story and I would like to say you guys have done an amazing work for the reading community. GoodReads is the nicest place to be when you love books ^.^ And also a paradise for authors to connect with readers. Thanks, guys, for doing this!

message 16: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Daniel, This makes me so happy! I love to think that we're not only helping people who are readers, but also helping people turn into ones! Daniel wrote: "Congratulations on your amazing achievment. I developed my reading habbit this year at the age of 29 and I thank this website for keeping me interested and focused on my goal. You made a reader out..."

Cindy wrote: "This is perfection! Congratulations on your 10 years... Goodreads is where I call home!"

message 17: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Katie wrote: "Congratulations! Mazel tov! And thank you!

I've been with you nearly since the beginning (joined in June 2007), and I'm not an early adopter of *anything*! I use and love this site regularly. Jus..."

Katie, That's so special. I wish I had my whole life captured as well... :)

message 18: by Kerry (new)

Kerry I love this!

message 19: by Jaline (new)

Jaline Happy 10th Anniversary, Goodreads! What an amazing journey - and an astronomical accomplishment! This is a wonderful home for readers to meet, share their reading experiences, and find new books to explore. I'm so happy to be part of this community! :)

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Beautiful letter - congrats on the 10th anniversary, Goodreads!

message 21: by Axel (new)

Axel Goodreads is easily among the absolute top of online literary societies.

My personal living memory would be van Loons children's books and a large part of my voyage would be learning (through Goodreads) that his career did not end with the three books in my local library.
They were needful things through exams and growing up.

message 22: by Michele (new)

Michele Harrod Cindy wrote: "This is perfection! Congratulations on your 10 years... Goodreads is where I call home!"

Perfectly said! Me too <3

message 23: by Jen (new)

Jen I genuinely enjoy Goodreads. I get great book recommendations, endless choices. An online escape for book lovers worldwide. Here is to another 10 years.

message 24: by Amber (new)

Amber Congratulations and happy tenth birthday anniversary goodreads!

message 25: by Keanes (new)

Keanes It's the only social media I do. Congrats and keep reading.

message 26: by Glenda (new)

Glenda Nelms Been using Goodreads since November 2015. Because of Goodreads, I'm an major book lover! Thank you and Happy 10th anniversary, Goodreads!

message 27: by Janice (new)

Janice Happy b-day. Wish I'd known about Goodreads 10 years ago, would have used it lots.

Cassie    'The Thinker Go Go Go Go' Mis. Roben Goodfellow'\Isabelle Lightwood Happy birthday GoodReads! Congrats on 10 years! Been on here for almost 7 years, wouldn't dream of leaving.

message 29: by Natshane (new)

Natshane Happy Birthday GR!! It's a website that I frequent as much as Facebook! Been a loyal fan since 2010 and thank you for giving us such a beautiful place to mingle around!

message 30: by Tom (new)

Tom Killalea Congratulations, Elizabeth and Otis. You should be so proud of this wonderful service to readers!

message 31: by J. (new)

J. Thank you! I have been a member since the beginning. Great site! Great evolution!

message 32: by Kiara (new)

Kiara Ameetha wrote: "Have you considered a Goodreads for Kids? Same site just with more options for profile protection and parental control and supervision? It would be nice to have my child have her own profile!"

I made an account for my 6 month old, and we've already started adding the books we're reading to her! I would love for something like this to be a possibility before she's old enough to start adding the books herself! :)

message 33: by Marwan (new)

Marwan Goodreads is a heaven for bookworms

message 34: by Puja (new)

Puja Narula Congratulations Elizabeth and Goodreads. What a beautiful haven you, your husband and your team have created for book lovers globally. Goodreads is my constant companion, friend to go to, book club and mentor—all rolled into one. In the last few years, I got introduced to some of my most favorite authors on Goodreads, talked to them and even became friends with a couple. On whatever gadget I may be using, Goodreads is the first App that I need—almost like a life companion or a BFF who you can't live without. Bless you guys for connecting the Readers of the World!

message 35: by Sara (new)

Sara Naveed My day remains incomplete, solitary if I don't sign in on Goodreads. It's like my go to literary hub on the internet. Thank you, Elizabeth and the entire GR team, for creating a beautiful book haven for book lovers like me. I started using this portal as an enthralled reader and gradually turned into a proud published author. Undoubtedly, GR has remained an integral part of my arduous journey of becoming a writer.

message 36: by Pina (new)

Pina Baker Congratulations Goodreads. I love this site and visit almost every day

message 37: by Simant (new)

Simant Verma Congratulations on completing 10 years :) Goodreads is like a daily routine for me, like going to my job. The first thing that I do when I open my laptop is login to Goodreads. I don't know how I would have increased my interest n reading if not for Goodreads!

message 38: by Olivia "So many books--so little time."" (last edited Sep 05, 2017 11:42PM) (new)

Olivia "So many books--so little time."" Congrats on your 10th year anniversary! I thoroughly enjoy Goodreads--I've added quite a lot of books to my list of books to look for after reading about them on Goodreads.

message 39: by Kaemea (new)

Kaemea I came along sometime in 2007 after being on a...shall we say...snootier book site and finding it frustrating. Goodreads has become near and dear to me and I utilize it as much as I possibly can. Congratulations on a fine 10 years and here's to many more decades of bringing readers and books together.

message 40: by Magic (new)

Magic Trick Elizabeth, thank you so much for your work and your dedication. I had discovered so many books and quality literature here!
I wish Goodreads will remain an amazing place to meet for its readers.

message 41: by Angela (new)

Angela Gascoigne Congratulations and well done! I love Goodreads!

message 42: by Jon (last edited Sep 06, 2017 12:52AM) (new)

Jon I became a reader a bit late, in grade 8 junior high (I'm 31 now). It all happened by accident. I judged a book by its cover. Actually, I judged it by its spine followed by its cover. Oddly my choice was The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card. I hadn't really read any books for pleasure before that fateful fall afternoon in junior high. I was bored, and glancing at books. I had very bad attention deficit issues which made reading harder for me. I hated books not because of the books, but because of how difficult a time I had focusing on reading them.

BUT I came to love books. By sheer chance I saw that book, was intrigued, and bored enough to sit down and read. It wasn't easy back then. I struggled with every sentence. My mind would wander, and I'd have to re-read passages. I kept at it though. I began writing as well, and eventually would find myself having completed an Honors English Degree (Spring 2015)! While my first choice of book may not be all that impressive, it got me interested in reading, and I've read many literary masterpieces over the years, such as Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, Pride and Prejudice, Crime and Punishment, Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (I must include Anne Bronte, as she is sadly neglected and overshadowed so often), and so many more I'd love to mention.

Goodreads has helped me connect with others, create reading goals, and just enjoy the reading experience more by reading reviews and interacting with others. It's an excellent site, and I hope it stays around for years to come. I must say I feared the worst back in 2013 when Amazon partnered with Goodreads, but so far, so good.

So congratulations, Goodreads, on a good 10 years.

message 43: by Neerja (new)

Neerja Joshi Congratulations for such a big achievement :)

message 44: by Lilanthi (new)

Lilanthi Congratulations! & thank you for sharing the story behind this amazing site! Getting to know it's roots has made it all the more special!

message 45: by Gimel (new)

Gimel Samera-Ramos This is so beautiful! So thankful for this community of readers and how Goodreads has made it possible for folks around the world to connect over a common love! Thank you so much!

One of the books that was instrumental in my growth as a reader and writer is Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess. It happens to be one of my favorite films too :)

message 46: by Kostiantyn (new)

Kostiantyn Kharchenko Goodreads makes me feel positive and motivational. Thanks

message 47: by Ankit (new)

Ankit Saxena My Fav.. Congrats..

message 48: by Maggie (new)

Maggie It all begins with Twilight for me. 13 years old I begin reading the book to see what its all about and from there she started her bookish journey. After Twilight I read Percy Jackson series and it was love at first page. Percy Jackson shaped my high school years. He made me fall in love with Greek mythology all over again. Percy made me read many Greek classics and research the ancient Greek world. I gain so much knowledge and passion it made me think that the world is an interesting place. Now The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings make my heart skip a beat and my breath hitch. I am very thankful that I can find new books like my favourites on Goodreads and read , read , read. Thank you, Goodreads.

message 49: by KDawn (new)

KDawn I agree wholeheartedly! What a great site. I'm so glad I was an early joiner! I've discovered new authors and books I truly never would've found just browsing the library stacks. Now I just need to find time to get through my giant to-read list!

To answer your question, growing up I discovered the "Meg" series by Holly Beth Walker. I was instantly hooked on mysteries! I read them all multiple times. And I still remember when I was fifteen or so and my dad gave me The King's Justice to read. My first introduction to sci-fi/fantasy and the first time I fell in love with a character in a book!

message 50: by Ray (new)

Ray My favorite website in the entire world. I.Love.It.Here.

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