My Love/Hate Relationship with Goodreads

Goodreads.com is a social media website centered around and dedicated to books. The site allows users to keep track of books they’ve read, when they’ve read them, and books that they want to read in the future. It offers book recommendations based on the specific books users have “shelved” and supports forums for reading groups and book discussions. It also provides a system for users to rate and review each book.

To a lot of book-lovers, Goodreads is a paradise. I, however, am not so sure how I really feel about it.

I joined a little over four years ago, in August 2011. At that time, I was keeping an Excel spreadsheet of every book I’d ever read and Goodreads seemed like a really groovy upgrade for keeping track of my books. Now, if I had really asked myself why I was keeping track of my books and took a good look at the answer, who knows if I would’ve even joined.

I kept track of every single book I read (whether to keep track of books I didn’t finish was not an issue then because I slogged through and finished every single book I started, even if I hated it) so I wouldn’t accidentally reread any. I have never, ever accidentally bought a book I already owned. Accidentally checking out a book I had already read from the library has happened exactly one time in my life. This is how it went.

<Reads first chapter.> This sounds familiar. Either this story is totally unoriginal or I’ve read this book before.

<Reads second chapter.> Nope. I definitely read this before. I enjoyed it, but don’t want to read it again right now. I think I’ll check something else out.

<Returns to the library.>

The amount of time and effort I’ve put into keeping track of my books to prevent that scenario above is insane. Way more time than accidentally rereading the first two chapters of a book. My logical mind totally knows it’s not worth it. But a part of me also feels a bit obsessive/compulsive about books because they are a passion of mine.

The thing is: I need to be careful that the obsessive/compulsiveness tied to my passion doesn’t overshadow my passion, making it unenjoyable.

Since I am simplifying my life in all other realms that I can, I want to simplify my reading realm as well. When I think of how to do this, I immediately think that deleting my Goodreads accounts will eliminate a lot of mental clutter from my reading realm and my life. Finding and logging each book, updating reading progress, rating the books (I hate star-rating books, but do it anyway on Goodreads), comparing my reading to others’, spoiling books by reading reviews — I can definitely do without it. I’d probably be better off.

But, still, I’m not going to delete it just yet.

Even though I joined Goodreads in 2011, I have yet to go a whole year keeping track of books as I read them. I constantly second-guess my list. Should this be here since I didn’t finish it? (Now an issue since I don’t bother wasting time reading a book I’m not enjoying). I know I read that, but I don’t remember the story at all. Is there some book I read in my youth that I’m missing? Should picture books count? I worried about the number of books I read. Was it going up steadily enough? What did my number say about me as a reader? I was scarfing down little books I didn’t really care to read, just to boost my number.

I constantly yo-yo’d between keeping a Want-To-Read list or clearing it back out to zero. If the list got too long, I got overwhelmed. Sometimes I totally forgot about a book until I saw it on that list again, then it was another item back on my mental to-do list. Clearing it out helped to relieve stress, but I wondered… What might I miss out on reading since I don’t have it written down somewhere?

Generally, I think know I will be fine without a Goodreads account. I can hand-write the titles of books I want to read on Post-its and put them in a To-Read jar on my bookshelf if I ever find myself without inspiration of what to read (not likely). I don’t really care about knowing every single book I’ve ever read anymore, so I don’t think anyone else will either. Books come and go. They serve their purpose in my life when they present themselves, and then I grow and move on and sometimes, when it’s important enough, I remember.

I’m keeping my Goodreads account through the end of this year because there is only a little more than two months to go anyway. I’m curious to see my “Year of Reading Stats” come 2016. Curious to see if I will get any more benefit from looking back at what I read throughout a year as opposed to the benefit the actual books and stories gave me.

This was a rambling post, which is what deterred me from writing it for so long, but I had to get it out there. I had to write through it to help get through it. Mentally, I think I’m getting to a better place regarding books, Goodreads, and keeping lists for the sake of keeping lists. I hope my story has spoken to you in some way to better understand yourself.

Enjoy.

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