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Question of the Week > What Are The First 3 Recommendations GR Provides You? (5/24/20)

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message 1: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2713 comments Mod
On the GR site, if you go to Browse and then to Recommendations, what are the first 3 recommendations GR suggests based on your "Read" shelf? Are these actually books that interest you?

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 245 comments I don't see recommendations on my 'Read' shelf. The first one that pops up is based on my 'To-Read' shelf, and they are not much use--

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 by Hayao Miyazaki, which I would probably read if it dropped in my lap, and two books in Portuguese that have no English translations (because I added Clarice Lispector's stories to my To-Read books, but the version I added appears to be in English)

message 3: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 279 comments Great question!

Bloody January, Bull Mountain and Big Lies in a Small Town. No, no and no. These were all recommended because I recently added When These Mountains Burn.

What made me laugh though, was a little further down I found Furniture, a full-color design reference book, that was recommended because I read Eva Moves the Furniture, a novel about a Scottish girl and the death of her mother, with a metaphoric title. :-/

message 4: by Antonomasia (last edited May 25, 2020 09:37AM) (new)

Antonomasia | 156 comments Like Bryan found, it has "To Read" first (and also Currently Reading) but no "Read", and no I don't want to read these books:

- The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray
(A British right-wing pundit attacks identity politics. I have heard him talk about this topic on the radio when he was doing publicity for the book and he didn't have anything really new to say, and what he said then is covered very well by the top 3-star review. It surprised me that he was only 40.)

- 9 Lessons in Brexit by Ivan Rogers
(A British former ambassador to the EU discusses problems created by the Brexit vote. I have read many books' worth of similar content in articles, including one or two by the author, and don't need a book as well. Besides it all looks a bit different now.)

Both are because I shelved Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics by Jonathan Sumption (This book is a near-verbatim version of the Reith Lectures by this retired Supreme Court judge and medieval historian, which are on BBC iPlayer.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000... )

Because I shelved Watchmen by Alan Moore:

- Batman: The Long Halloween #1 by Jeph Loeb
Not even the collected graphic novel, just part 1 of this comic. And no I CBA. If I was going to read a Batman comic it would be one of the really famous ones like Killing Joke. But that's also Alan Moore...

message 5: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 58 comments On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts

-- They must have confused me with someone else.


-- Have to know more but doubt it.

The Night Watchman

-- Probably could throw it on the backend of my TBR queue and then forget about it for a couple of years.

My reading tastes are inconsistent and contradictory.

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 456 comments I don't see recommendations for my 'Read' shelf, but I do see them for my DNF shelf and I must say, GR did a great job with that - don't want to read any of 'em.

The recommendations for my 'Currently Reading' shelf are all based on Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners. I, as a carbon-based life form, would have recommended other short story collections by authors with a similarly quirky and sometimes fantastical flavor, like Amber Sparks or George Saunders. GR's algorithm found me a comic, a collection of writings by a radical feminist and one book I actually did try to read once but wasn't in the right mood.

House of X / Powers of X No
Last Days at Hot Slit: The Radical Feminism of Andrea Dworkin No
Antigonick, Tried

message 7: by Stacia (new)

Stacia | 134 comments It doesn't have one for my read shelf. It has one for my 'to read' shelf:
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue -- I have always wanted to read a book by V.E. Schwab but I am not sure if this storyline appeals to me or not. Maybe.
The Extraordinaries -- YA. Most likely no. I am not a fan of YA.
Foundryside -- Originally I probably would have said no based on the cover (makes me think of high fantasy) but a few of my GR friends have given it very good reviews and it sounds good from the description. Yes, I would try this one.

Funny that the first many recommendations it gives me based on my 'gothic, spooky, or creepy' shelf are in other languages.

message 8: by Neil (new)

Neil | 309 comments I also don't have recommendations based on my read shelf (even though it is ticked for them in my shelf list). But my "5 Star" shelf gives me these:

Sorcières: La Puissance invaincue des femmes
In the Dream House
The Starr Sting Scale: The Candace Starr Series

A bizarre selection when you look at the books it is apparently based on.

message 9: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2156 comments Mod
I don't have one based on 'Read' books, either. I have ones based on my apparent interests, and most of those are based on a single book. I suspect they have an incredibly simplistic algorithm that gives you recommendations based on one book, rather than any kind of trend in your history.

It used to be much worse, with GR pushing new books at the top of your home page, and always based on the most popular book(s) you read. This is the reason I took Harry Potter and Twilight off of my "Read" shelf. It didn't even matter that I had given Twilight one star, I was getting endless recommendations for teen paranormal romance. And this was BEFORE they sold to Amazon.

message 10: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 84 comments Well that was bizarre. Based on my to-read shelf:

Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Frank W. Boreham's Mushrooms on the Moor, which appears to be nature-inspired devotional ramblings, and
Lucy Maud Montgomery's Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories: 1896-1901

With the exception of the mushrooms, I might read those. Weirdly, they are all based on my adding a George Gissing book (I have no idea how that led me to Stephen King...)

message 11: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments I have no recommendations based on shelves but do have them for genre --
Biography --The first one is The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro is first and that's a biography I would read, as I love Caro's series on Lyndon Johnson.
Politics -- The first one is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, the blurb for which doesn't entice me.
Sci Fi -- The first one is Two Tales of Korval by Sharon Lee, which doesn't interest me at all
Suspense & Thriller have the same first book -- The Green Mile, Part 1: The Two Dead Girls by Stephen King. The Green Mile was a good movie and I do like King's work but why Part I only?

I would never use GR's recommendations when there are much more reliable real people to get recommendations from.

message 12: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2156 comments Mod
LindaJ^ wrote: "Suspense & Thriller have the same first book -- The Green Mile, Part 1: The Two Dead Girls by Stephen King. The Green Mile was a good movie and I do like King's work but why Part I only?"

I suspect this goes back to the simplistic algorithm they use. Likely just looking at who else has marked as 'read' some book in your list.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption is an excellent book on just how bad racial imbalances in the justice system go, especially in the south. But it's not unrelenting grimness or a litany of injustice, as Stevenson lets you get to know the people affected; and there are victories as well. I can't say it's not frequently infuriating, though.

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 456 comments When it gave recommendations for my DNF shelf, I immediately pictured a roomba stuck against a wall ;)

message 14: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments Whitney wrote: "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption is an excellent book on just how bad racial imbalances in the justice system go, especially in the south. But it's not unrelenting grimness or a litany of injustice, as Stevenson lets you get to know the people affected; and there are victories as well. I can't say it's not frequently infuriating, though."

Thanks for the better description, Whitney. I'm not sure I need to be any more irritated by Southern states right now.

message 15: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2156 comments Mod
LindaJ^ wrote: "Thanks for the better description, Whitney. I'm not sure I need to be any more irritated by Southern states right now."


message 16: by Hugh (last edited May 26, 2020 06:28AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2713 comments Mod
Mine defaults to recommendations by genre and lists these genres in alphabetical order starting with biography. These days I almost never read biographies, so they have lost me already.

I turned off recommendations for most of my shelves (I find the recommendations based on "Currently reading" the most annoying - I may be hating the book I am currently reading, so the ones I have left enabled are favourites and little-known-gems, both of which are for long-term choices rather than ephemera).

So to give the algorithm a chance, I'll look at favourites:
1. In the Dream House - OK, this one is something I might consider reading, but is a long way from the top of my wishlist
2. Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life-in Judaism - apparently because I liked The Mirror & the Light. I find this one utterly baffling - it is not even fiction and I am a non-denominational atheist.
3 Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland. More non-fiction - I can see a link with Milkman but not to the other two books mentioned (Ducks, Newburyport and Lost Children Archive).

Moving on to little-known-gems, number one recommendation is:
27 śmierci Toby'ego Obeda. No idea what this one is - I don't speak Polish, but the recommendation is based on my listing of the English edition of a Polish book, Flights. Which reminds me, this book is now too well known to belong on that shelf.

So not a great hit-rate. The most annoying thing is that only the most recently added books on the chosen shelf are taken into consideration - most of my Favourites were added in 2014 when I joined GR...

message 17: by Robert (new)

Robert | 437 comments Totally baffled
In overview:
Handbags and Homicide
L' Auberge
The Disengagement ring

All three are from a genre I don't read.

From Currently-reading
Wyrd Sisters
Monstrous Regiment
Carpe Juglum

This sort of makes sense because I'll be reading a Terry Pratchett's Small Gods in 2 weeks time but that's because I'm reading books that have been on my TBR for over 10 years. I don't intend to read another after Small Gods

From my To-Read section

The Giver of Stars
The Tattooist of Auschwitz

I'll be reading Hamnet next week but the other two don't interest me in the least.

Conclusion : The Goodreads algorithm is a bit wonky

message 18: by Antonomasia (last edited May 26, 2020 06:16AM) (new)

Antonomasia | 156 comments My 'favourites' recommendations are no better, and like Robert's currently reading ones, they have given a lot of weight to the SFF - in this case, a collection of the first 3 novels in a series by Ben Aaronovitch leading to novels from the early 2010s.

Hounded by Kevin Hearne
I'd never heard of this fantasy novel before, but it sounds quite entertaining. If I was one of you people who effortlessly reads 200 books a year, I'd consider giving it a go. As it is, probably not

Then two of the same thing - an omnibus *and* the first book in its series
Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey
5+ years ago, Wool seemed like something I ought to have read, but it's a long time since I heard people talking about it.

message 19: by Vesna (new)

Vesna (ves_13) | 155 comments Mod
Well, the Goodreads algorithm doesn't work well for me either. This is what shows in the top 3 recs for my favorites shelf (I also don't have it for the "read" shelf).

1. Muldental because I liked Waugh's Decline and Fall. I wanted to see what kind of social satire it was and found out that 1. it's only in German and 2. "Daniela Krien tells of people whose lives faltered at a counterpoint to history. It tells of disorientation and deep despair." (Google translation) ???

2. American Dirt because I liked The Dutch House by Anne Patchett. I don't see any connection at all except that they might be generally labeled "contemporary".

3. The architecture book Atmospheres: Architectural Environments. Surrounding Objects (this one was at least translated from German) because I liked Calvino's Invisible Cities. I guess the algorithm confused the "cities" in the title for an architectural treatise. :-)

message 20: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2713 comments Mod
Let's see... From my "To Read", GR gives me:

- The Pale White by Chad Lutzke
MEH. Sort of ridiculous sounding horror novella. Probably not something I'd pick up unless a friend highly recommended it. Entirely based off the last owned-but-unread book I added to my TBR list

- Dear Corporation, by Adam Fell
SURE. It's poetry and based off another poet I might like but haven't read yet. No real way to predict this one without reading it, but at least seems semi-relevant to me.

- The Patience of a Dead Man by Michael Clark
NAH. Another horror based off the same book GR used for the first rec above. I'm not a huge horror reader, but I've added a couple contemporary ones recently, so I'm guessing the GR rec gives primacy to more recent additions

I tried to edit my shelves to get it to give me recs from my "Read" shelf, but GR refuses. The only reason I can figure out for this is that one of the potential reasons for not including a shelf is if you have rated books lowly on that shelf (there's no explanation for what this actually means).

I feel let down... Like I've given so much personal data away and GR hardly knows me. :(

[shuffles off looking for a new bot to make friends with... ]

message 21: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2713 comments Mod
Hugh, In the Dream House was pretty amazing. I'm not given to memoirs usually, but this takes an innovative approach and is a real gut punch.

message 22: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 652 comments My three recommendations are
The Joy Luck Club, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and The Prince of Tides. All three were suggestions because I added some John Irving books to my to-read list (shocked some friends recently when I said I had never read any John Irving).

What cracked me up the most - I have a "did not finish" shelf and it's giving me recommendations based on that shelf. What a surprise, none of them sound appealing!

On my main page, though, it recommended Writers & Lovers which I actually am interested in reading.

message 23: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 185 comments I actually joined Goodreads 10 years ago simply to access the book recommendation algorithm. Added and rated 20 or 30 books and bought the first novel it recommended which was The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels, a book I hadn't heard of before and loved when I read it.

So I added all the rest of my shelves - and in the 10 years since I don't think it's come up with another great recommendation.

Fortunately groups like this make up for it.

To be fair as of now its recommending from my 2020 shelves three new books that I might at least consider reading - Sisters, Red Pill and A Day Like Today. Although all three are driven by me having read one other book - The Liar's Dictionary - that few others have so it is simply recommending books read by others who've read that (one is my twin brother).

That is the real issue with the algorithm - it doesn't seem to have any ability to regress recommendations on one's views on multiple books.

message 24: by Emily (last edited May 26, 2020 12:00PM) (new)

Emily M | 84 comments So I got it to accept more shelves.

Based on one book that I enjoyed, The Limits of Enchantment, which is supposedly fantasy but is in fact a largely realist story about midwives in a 1960s English village, it has suggested a whole range of books, among them Transformers: Megatron Origin, Red Love: The Story of an East German Family and Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States.

I feel like the algorithm is trolling.

message 25: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2713 comments Mod
Emily, Megatron's origin story is much more nuanced than people give it credit for... It's like if Oliver Twist was a cyborg sent on the Odyssey. (Actually, I have no idea what his origin story is, but he transformed into a gun when I got him as a toy back in the '80s.)

message 26: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 220 comments Temporary by Hilary Leichter

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld

The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns

I haven't heard of any of them and they sound great!

message 27: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 156 comments The Vet's Daughter was always coming up in polls for the NYRB group (when I was paying more attention to that group last year)

message 28: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2713 comments Mod
The Bass Rock is on my to read list but the hardback is rather expensive so I will wait for the paperback unless it makes the Booker longlist. I am impressed and surprised that you got 3 decent ones...

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 456 comments Hugh wrote: "The Bass Rock is on my to read list but the hardback is rather expensive so I will wait for the paperback unless it makes the Booker longlist. I am impressed and surprised that you got 3 decent one..."

The "Books on the Go" podcast had an episode on The Bass Rock. Sounds good!


message 30: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  | 22 comments Winter Garden
The Lavender Garden

Seems GR has me pegged as a historical fiction reader and a gardener.

message 31: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2713 comments Mod
Is that a fairly accurate "pegging", Kathy?

message 32: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  | 22 comments I am a gardener, and I do love historical fiction. The selections seem a bit too romantic for my tastes but GR probably uses an algorithm that knows me better than I know myself.

message 33: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2713 comments Mod
It certainly doesn't know me...

message 34: by Antonomasia (last edited May 30, 2020 02:09AM) (new)

Antonomasia | 156 comments It seems unsophisticated compared with a lot of others these days - as Paul said it may base each recommendation only on a single book.

As I always end up saying in recommendation discussions, Amazon's "customers also bought/ viewed" has served me extremely well over the years, but the GR recommendations I've rarely taken notice of at all. A few months ago, someone (who hasn't found anything especially great about Amazon recs) asked if these Amazon ones were on specialist topics and they nearly always are. (Apart from one or two gifts for relatives.) This is what seems to make the difference. What I reckon happens with the Amazon recommendations that work for me is that the connections between the books are made by people buying books on reading lists for various courses, and this creates a cluster of books on the topics sourced from several universities' or professional training providers' lists, a sort of best-of.

message 35: by Sam (new)

Sam | 203 comments Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings
The Tartar Steppe
Zeno's Conscience
All good recommendations given my recent interest in translated fiction. The recommendations based on my to read shelf are a bit wonky though.

message 36: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2713 comments Mod
I used to pay attention to Amazon's music recommendations and that seemed to work better (and use more than one known choice as their basis). Maybe my reading interests are too diverse.

message 37: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2713 comments Mod
If you click on any book on GR, to the right (if using the website), is a "Readers Also Enjoyed" selection that comes up. Those seem like highly relevant selections based on one book, as well.

Looking at another reader's favorite shelf or 5-starred books is often much more interesting.

I know there are a few sites out there specifically designed for this sort of thing, such as What Should I Read Next? (also based around one book/author---you input a book title or author name and it spits out results based on this). I could have sworn I'd come across one that allowed you to put in multiple books/authors and it created a kind of dynamic hub-and-spoke visual of authors/books... but I can't seem to find that one again.

I like the "Compare Books" feature that allows you to look at which books on your shelves compare to another reader's (you have to go to another reader's shelves first on GR to use the feature), but I don't understand why you can't do this with a Group's bookshelves...

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 456 comments Marc wrote: "I like the "Compare Books" feature that allows you to look at which books on your shelves compare to another reader's (you have to go to another reader's shelves first on GR to use the feature), but I don't understand why you can't do this with a Group's bookshelves....."

I love the Compare Books feature on GR. I always use it when I get a Friend request or Follower alert.

message 39: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2713 comments Mod
Yes, I use Compare books a lot, especially when deciding on friend requests.

message 40: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 220 comments I agree about Compare Books and I love how the default for the sort feature is to start with the rarest books we both have in common.

message 41: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 652 comments Ooh I had never seen the "compare books" feature! Cool!

message 42: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2713 comments Mod
You can filter it by shelf, as well, so if you're looking for books both you and another GR member have on their to-read shelf, it's very helpful. Would be great if you could do this within a group to see which books are on all or many members' shelves.

message 43: by Antonomasia (last edited Jun 07, 2020 12:05PM) (new)

Antonomasia | 156 comments That can be done with the API. An academic study from last year which used it, and included this group (though only users with public profiles):
PDF: https://wlv.openrepository.com/bitstr...

Not the most academic academic writing I've ever seen, and it's 26 pages, but some of you might be interested.

When I first saw it, I tried to work out which thread I should post it in, but didn't and then forgot - until now!

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