Thursday, January 07, 2010
Although this blog will probably end up having a lot to do with books and reading, it is not a book blog. I use Goodreads extensively. It started as a place to help me find books to read beyond just browsing the shelves at the library or bookstores. I'm lucky to live in a suburban city that has some of the top-rated libraries in the nation. Our little libraries are terrific for browsing, they have a really extensive collection. I read primarily science-fiction and fantasy and these collections are by no means less cared for and updated than more "mainstream" books. But there is still only so much that one library can hold. I read a lot, and sometimes it feels like I've already read everything of the shelves that really excites me. In addition, due to my health situation, going and browsing can be exhausting. Finally, I love a series and when I get one book, I usually immediately or soon after want the rest of the series. All of this leads to placing requests for books. An additional benefit our wonderful local libraries is that they are linked in a consortium of 31 library systems across 9 counties. This gives me access to more than ten million items. Very nearly any book I want will be delivered to my local branch, often within days, and held for me to pick up at my convenience. But there is one catch. I have to know what to ask for.
Which leads back to Goodreads. I started by browsing, and seeing which books people who'd read a book I liked also liked. Which lead to entering in all of the books I'd ever read into "shelves" on the site for easy access. I loved the idea of having a record of what I've read. As much as I love owning books and have many (many), most of my reading over my lifetime has been through the library or borrowing books from friends. It can be hard to remember which authors or series I want to follow, or to make recommendations to friends. And it's just plain satisfying to see it all of the information gathered in one place.
Then as I began to enter new books as I was reading them, I was getting better and better recommendations popping up and a long to-read list was forming. Yay! I get anxious when I don't have a pile of books waiting to be read. What if I'm in sick for a while, or it snows, or the world is ending, what would I do without a stack of books? I'd go insane! My to-read list is a great comfort to me, it helps prepare me for the worst disasters imaginable.
When I started with Goodreads I had no intention of writing reviews. I thought of that as something for the pros or for people who were so interested that they make book blogging a major part of their lives. I was wrong (not for the first time). I really enjoyed seeing the reviews of books I was contemplating reading, all written by regular people, users of the site. It gave an insight into the books that was very personal and fresh, just the kind of info I wanted. And if I liked reading what they had to write, maybe they'd like reading my thoughts as well. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of reporting on my opinions of the books I was reading. It's satisfying. It's fun. Sometimes it starts a conversation. And it might encourage other people to read books and authors that I thought were great.
So voilà, I was a book reviewer. I also ended up using Goodreads for groups discussions of books by genre or topic, making friends, entering contests, etc. But finding, reading and reviewing books is the heart of the site for me. Therefore, why would I need to post reviews to another site? I like Goodreads centralized reviews, being able to quickly scroll down a number of reviews about a book I'm interested in. Although I enjoy reading reviews posted by friends on their own sites, I don't necessarily want to spend hours a day browsing through hundreds of sites to find the books I'm interested in. I also don't have the energy or interest in writing full-out book reviews with proper structure or content. I like just making comments on what interested me. Finally, although I like the idea of getting free books, I don't want to have to read a book that isn't on my already extensive to-read list and I want the freedom to read in whatever order I like. If I start a series and want to keep reading the rest of it, I don't want to feel pressure to stop and read the advanced copies a publisher gave me in order to get info about those books out there before its release. So book blogging isn't for me. But talking about books on this blog, that's a guarantee.