Although I’ve been using Goodreads to record and review books since 2014, it wasn’t until my relatively recent participation in the bookish community that I started learning a lot of pretty cool things built into the site. If you’re a regular reader of book blogs, you’ve probably at least tried out the [self-proclaimed] “world’s largest community of book lovers”, and for purposes of brevity I won’t go into too much depth in this post — hopefully it’s still accessible!
(Also, please do feel free to skim for the features that most interest you; this post got a lot longer than I expected it to be.)
I’m not by any means an expert (though I am a Goodreads librarian!), but if you have further questions, I can try to help; I’ve also always found the Goodreads support staff especially helpful and friendly, and in my experience they return emails promptly and follow up until the problem is truly solved. (I may also eventually do a guide targeted to beginners!)
One final note: apparently Sam @ Fictionally Sam and I share a brain or thought process or something, because she actually also has a Goodreads guide going up very soon!
I’ll make sure to link it here once it’s posted It is up and I have linked it, so make sure you check it out 😉
Extra Book Details
If you’ve used Goodreads for reviews and/or tracking the books you’ve read, you’re likely already familiar with the “review” and “date(s) read” boxes (and they’re pretty self-explanatory). But if you click the faint gray text underneath that says “More details…” you’ll also get these options:
Although “I would recommend to” is a freeform box (meaning it’s meant for categories, e.g. “readers who loved [other book],” rather than specific people), “Who recommended it to me” does let you tag other Goodreads users, and will even autofill users you’ve friended/followed! (More on that below.) There’s also a character-limited section for notes that only you can see; Briana @ Pages Unbound wrote a post about using private notes and “currently reading” status updates to facilitate your review-writing process! Finally, you have the option to catalogue specific information about your copy of the book, if you check the box to indicate that you own it.
None of the above are mandatory, of course, but they’re all nice to have!
If you’ve ever asked a bookish influencer (blogger, Bookstagrammer, BookTuber, etc.) about their favorite kind of comment to get, many will say that we especially love hearing that someone added/ordered a book based on their recommendation. Partly due to this, and partly because half the time I can’t remember where the titles on my TBR originate, earlier this year I started a recs-from-bloggers shelf to keep track and link up the review/recommendation post.
Essentially, this lets you tag a specific person who recommended the book to you. Just one, though, as far as I’ve found — if multiple people have posted about the same book, I’ll tag the most enthusiastic or the first one I read, but list all the posts in the review itself. And, in case you’re wondering, they’ll get a notification that you tagged them in your review.
This feature has led to much excitement among my blogger friends, so it has a special place in my heart 💕 (And it actually inspired this post!)
Interacting With Others
On the topic of other Goodreads users — since the site is, after all, marketed as a social platform — there are a variety of ways you can engage with other users! (That said, I didn’t start engaging in the bookish community until fairly recently, so I know how daunting it can be.)
Active Goodreads users have probably seen this feature before; it’s an easy way to find and communicate with users who share a specific bookish interest: reading challenges (such as PopSugar, Beat the Backlist, & Devour Your TBR), Netgalley users, Edelweiss users, buddy/book club reads, etc., etc.
If you can imagine it, there’s probably a group for it. They range from big and busy to quiet and close-knit; there’s probably also a group that you’ll fit right into if you go looking! (Though it can be a little difficult to find a good match when you’re just starting out — as always, it helps to know your own criteria and preferences before you begin.)
Maybe you’re looking to connect with specific people, whether they’re IRL friends or fellow bloggers, or you met in a group and hit it off. From their profile page, you can follow their updates, send a friend request (some users will have a “security” question, usually open-ended; Goodreads currently doesn’t have a setting to make them mandatory to answer, but your request is generally likely to be ignored if you ignore the question), message them (if they’ve set up permission for non-friends to do so), and even compare books on your shelves.
Compare Books (By Shelf!)
Before I accept friend requests, I like to check whether we have any books in common. By default Goodreads will display matches for “All” shelves, meaning that it will display titles you’ve both shelved regardless of which shelf/shelves they’re actually on (e.g., a book that is on your “wishlist” shelf and their “Currently Reading” shelf will be displayed in the list). Personally, I prefer to set the filter for books that we have both shelved as “read,“ as outlined in the red box below:
You can also compare shelves that aren’t common (i.e., have different names) between your accounts — for example, your TBR and their read shelf, or each of your available-to-buddy-read shelves, or anything else your heart desires. The possibilities are limited only by the shelves each of you actually has.
(There is also a book compatibility test, as indicated in the top right corner, but I really don’t understand the formulas/algorithms and have found that comparing titles and reading some of their reviews gives a better idea of how similar your reading tastes are.)
Setting Up Shelves
Goodreads shelves are a great tool for organizing all the books you’re adding. You start out with three basic shelves — Want to Read, Currently Reading, and Read — but you can add lots more, and even customize them!
(In case you’re wondering…
- My featured shelf is my Favorites shelf.
- Shelf sorting is enabled only for my TBR and Favorites shelves so that I can manually change their order.
- I set ARCs, buddy/book club reads, next-in-series, etc. as sticky shelves to more easily select them when adding books.
- My exclusive shelves are Read, Currently Reading, TBR, DNF, DNF to Revisit, Maybe Read, Say No To This, and Year in Review.)
Creating & Editing Shelves
Lauren @ Northern Plunder has written a really helpful post on how to add shelves, edit shelves, pick the shelves you want recommendations for, and make shelves exclusive/featured/sticky, as well as everyday-language explanations of each type. If you’ve ever wondered how to make a shelf for the books you didn’t finish, or a wishlist for gift ideas, or if you want some ideas for shelves to include, go check it out!
Shelf Display/Sort Settings
You can also change the default sort and display settings for each shelf, depending on what you’d like to see! Personally I keep the cover, title, and author, but I have different priorities for each shelf.
Every book on my Favorites shelf has a 5-star rating, for example, so I unchecked that column — leaving more space to see my review! I also sort by position, or order, meaning the top 10 on this list are my actual top 10 favorite books. (Beyond 20-25 or so, though, the order becomes somewhat arbitrary.) On other shelves, I might sort by Date Added or Date Read; for reading challenge shelves, I also have it display Notes — where I record which prompt each book fulfills.
Year in Review
Whether or not you’ve had time to write your own reviews, here’s a chance to review your entire [Year] reading and post it under this title so that others can see what your reading year was like. Together, all the reviews of [Year] on Goodreads should make an interesting and varied catalogue of books to inspire other readers in [Next Year].
For those who want to create an overview of their year of reading — whether that means writing it up at the end of the year/start of the next or updating as the year goes on — the Goodreads Year in Review series offers a place to do just that.
Anything goes, really. I based my format off other “reviews” that I saw, including some statistics from Goodreads’ “Your Year in Books” report, a summary of my reading challenge goals and how I did, the 5-star reads of the year, and a blurb about how my reading went overall. The best part of this feature is that you can do whatever you want, whether that’s ignoring its existence or copy+pasting/linking all your reviews from that year.
Thank you for sticking around to the end! Did you learn something new? Have any tips/reference posts to add? Or you can share your own Goodreads preferences with me; I’m always curious about how everyone else uses the site!