Opinion: I’m tired of creepy people on Goodreads

Stop. Just, please stop.

This is getting out of hand.

Okay, deep breaths.

When I first joined Goodreads, my friends list consisted of people who were really and truly my friends, or friends of friends — for the most part, people I knew in real life in some way, or who had an actual connection to me.

Over the years, especially since I started blogging, my friends list has expanded, and that’s usually quite fun. I love seeing what everyone else is reading (yes, I’m that person on the airplane who looks at everyone else’s book as she walks down the aisle), and I love getting feedback and ideas and inspiration from the people I meet.

BUT… has anyone else noticed lately the proliferation of creepy people who seem to think Goodreads is a hook-up site?

My policy over the last couple of years has been to accept all Goodreads friend requests, because why not? The more, the merrier! We’re all book lovers, after all, so why not be friends?

Except now I find that at least every couple of weeks, I’ll accept a friend request only to get a follow up message that creeps me out. Like the one that arrived today:

You are truly a beautiful woman. Honestly I will like to be your good friend. 

Um. Thanks? But no.

Here’s one from a couple of weeks ago:

Are you on hangout so we can have a good time and good privacy for ourselves


There are also bunches of more innocuous messages, that all seem to be variations on Joey Tribbiani:

Not casting aspersions based on gender or anything… but 100% of the creepy Goodreads messages, as well as the “how you doing” messages, are from men. Make of that what you will.

I’m just ignoring for now. If I pretend not to see them, maybe they’ll go away? If anyone really crosses a line (or if I end up seeing something I deem offensive on their profile), I’ll delete them… but otherwise, I’ve mostly just been shrugging and moving on.

It does feel like these kind of messages are showing up more frequently lately. Maybe everyone is just at home with more time on their hands these days? For whatever reason, it’s often enough that I’m starting to get annoyed.


Anyone else experiencing the same thing? And if so, how do you handle it?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten great books with under 1,000 ratings on Goodreads

TTT summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is  Top Ten Books We Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads.

This is such a fun topic! Being a numbers geek, I had way too much fun sorting my Goodreads shelves by my stars and then by the number of ratings, looking for books I gave either 4 or 5 stars that deserve way more attention than they’ve gotten so far. And then I decided to make it a bit more of a challenge, and picked only books with under 1,000 ratings.

Here are 10 books I really enjoyed, all with not nearly enough ratings:

1) Gathering Storm by Maggie Craig (review): This historical novel about Jacobites in Edinburgh is perfect for Outlander fans! (30 ratings)

Gathering Storm 2

2) Harrowgate by Kate Maruyama (review): Good, creepy, spooky horror. (530 ratings)


3) Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett (review): I’ve been raving a lot about this one! A relatively new release about an Australian whaling village, it’s much more entertaining than you might guess just by reading the description. (I loved it.) (564 ratings)

Rush Oh

4) All the Winters After by Seré Prince Halverson (review): A beautiful novel that totally fed my Alaska obsession. (597 ratings)

All the Winters After

5) Blue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe (review): A moving look at military veterans and their families. (315 ratings)

blue stars

6) A Late Divorce by A. B. Yehoshua: This Israeli author’s writing is so gorgeous! I read this book ages ago, but always remember how powerful the story is. (275 ratings)

Late Divorce

7) The Outlandish Companion, Volume II by Diana Gabaldon: See, I managed to sneak an Outlander book into my list this week! This reference volume is a must for fans of the series. I wrote a detailed post about what’s inside, here.  (530 ratings)


8) Depth by Lev AC Rosen (review): Just an amazing sci fi noir detective story set in a flooded New York after the oceans of the world have risen. The descriptions of the city alone would make this book worthwhile, but add to that a terrific mystery, and it’s a must. (335 ratings)


9) The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon by S. S. Taylor (review): This is a smart, fun middle grade read that’s perfect for kids (and their adults) who enjoy brainy, daring adventure. I can’t believe more people haven’t read it! (789 ratings)

Expeditioners 1

10) The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters (review): Cat Winters has quickly become one of my favorite authors. This retelling of Hamlet is powerful and surprising, and deserves to be widely read! (517 ratings)

Steep & Thorny Way

What books made your list this week? Please share your TTT links!

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Goodreads Is Damaging My Calm Today

I’m not anti-Goodreads. In fact, I usually love the site. I’ve managed to sidestep all the upset about the policy changes in recent months, especially the uproar over deleted shelves and reviews. I participate in Goodreads because I love tracking my own reading, keeping up with friends’ reading lists and reviews, and staying on top of new releases that I might otherwise miss. No drama for me, please! I have enough in my real life, thanks.

So what’s bothering me today?

It may seem like a minor point, but my issue today is with… (drumroll, please!) … SORT ORDER.

Huh? You may well ask…

On any book’s page, we get a synopsis and some details. Scrolling down, we see My Review, Friend Reviews, Lists with This Book, and then Community Reviews. And it’s in the Community Reviews section that I start getting annoyed. I supppose that it’s my own damn fault that until today, I never noticed that there’s a sort option for how Community Reviews are displayed. The choices are newest, oldest, and default. So what’s “default”? Goodreads describes its default sort option thusly:

The default sorting algorithm on Goodreads uses a variety of factors to determine the most interesting reviews. The recipe for our special sauce is a closely guarded trade secret, but the ingredients are: length of the review, number of people who liked it, recency of the review, popularity of the reviewer (i.e., number of people who have liked reviews by that person across all books).

So what’s my problem with this? The problem, for me, is that the review(s) that get the most prominence in the default sort order tend to be by reviewers who write the type of reviews that I personally try to avoid like the plague.**

**Hey, let’s be clear: To each his/her own! It takes all types, and I respect everyone’s right to write whatever they want, however they want! But I have preferences, and I know what I don’t like to read, and that’s all I’m saying here.

Again, just personal preference, but I can’t stand ranty reviews, the “look at me, I’m so clever” reviews — and I know some people love ’em, but I just don’t like looking at reviews with graphics/GIFs.

But beyond all that, I see no value in tearing down a book, and by extension, its author, for the sake of showmanship or attention-grabbing. But for whatever reason, it’s exactly these type of reviews on Goodreads that seem to get tons of “likes” — and therefore, those are the reviews that show up at the top of the sort order.

For a lot of books that are well-received overall or have a huge number of reviews, perhaps that doesn’t matter so much. But for a book by a new author that hasn’t “traveled” much yet, having a harshly negative (but highly “liked”) review pop up first in the default sort can only be damaging to its success. Let’s be honest: How far down do you scroll once you get to Community Reviews? Probably not that far, right? So if the first couple of reviews that show up are intensely negative, how likely are you to keep reading?

Don’t throw things at me when I state that I like Amazon’s lay-out better, where we see a graph of the reviews (how many per star category) prominently displayed above the individual reviews. Did you know you can read Goodreads reviews that way too? I didn’t, before today. Because it’s not obvious, and I just never thought to look. But yes, underneath the Community Reviews header, there’s an option for Rating Details, which displays all reviews sorted by stars.

Lo and behold! The picture really changes if you look at a review via Rating Details. In the case of the book that first set me off today, here’s what happened:

Under Community Reviews, by default sort, the first review is a one-star rant that, among other things, compares reading the book to “eating a rectum”. (There’s a lot more to the metaphor, but I’ll spare you.) Unbelievably, this review received 55 likes and 43 comments (many by the reviewer herself). Again, just to be clear, I respect the reviewer’s right to review the book as she sees fit. But is it fair to potential readers to have this review appear on top by default, unless they specifically change their sort order?

Looking at the very same book, if I click on the Rating Details menu choice, suddenly the book appears in a whole new light! 59% of reviewers gave the book either a 4 or 5 star rating, and only 4% of the reviews were 1 star. Wow, a lot of people liked this book! But you wouldn’t know that based on the default sort.

And when I open the page for other books I’ve read recently, the pattern seems to hold. For whatever reason, the ranty, negative reviews seem to get a lot of likes, which by the Goodreads “special sauce” formula means they rise to the top of the sort.

I don’t know why this particularly set me off today. Well, yeah, I do. I just felt bad, that’s all. I felt bad for the author who poured her heart into a first novel, and whose book’s page consistently shows this awful rant at the top of the Community Review section. How disheartening!

Like I said, I respect every reader’s right to give out one-star ratings as well as five-star ratings. And if you enjoy reading ranty reviews, by all means, have fun! But this super secret algorithm of Goodread’s seems a bit unfair in the long-run, as the picture that ends up being painted isn’t necessarily backed up by the totality of reviews given.

So, what do I want? I guess I’d like Goodreads to change their page lay-out, actually, although I suppose that’s wishing for the stars. Still, I think there must be a way to display data initially that doesn’t skew one way or the other, and that lets readers decide what type of reviews they want to focus on. I’m all for the fair and open exchange of ideas, but sometimes it’s the presentation that ends up mattering the most.

And when it comes down to deciding whether to give a new book a try, particularly when it’s by an author we’ve never read before, are we going to try the book that seems to have received very good reviews from most of its readers? Or are we going to read the book compared to eating very unsavory body parts? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

This is mostly a reminder to myself to dig deeper, I suppose, and not be unduly influenced by the first review I see, no matter how many “likes” it has. But for those of you — like me — who never paid enough attention to know that you have a choice, I have just two magical, important, life-changing words for you:

Sort order.


A note after the fact: When I posted this earlier today, I had a momentary brain lapse resulting in not quite getting the post title to say what I’d meant it to say. In other words, I screwed up my pop culture reference! Couldn’t rest until I fixed it. Aaah. All better now.

Is there such a thing as too much reading?

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 140 books thus far in 2012 — although to look at the stacks, piles, and bags of unread books sitting around my house, you might reasonably assume that I’ve done nothing all year but twiddle my thumbs. Occasionally, I feel like this:


Side note: If you Google “drowning in books”, you get a few images like the one above, and then lots and lots of references to books in which there is a drowning. Sometimes, I feel like Google just doesn’t get me.

So returning to my 140 books… let’s bear in mind that you might not consider all of these “real” books. I upped my goal for the year pretty drastically once I realized how many graphic novels I’ve been consuming. So far in 2012, I’ve read all of Buffy season 8, all of the Fables volumes to date plus some of the one-offs, the Jack of Fables series, some of the Locke & Key series, and a bunch of stand-alones. Roughly put, I’d say about 40 – 50 total. Now subtract from my total the kids’ books that I’ve read aloud to my son, and I’d put my “real” total somewhere around 70 or 80.

Why ask if it’s possible to read too much? Several reasons. First and foremost, I wonder if it’s possible to retain that much material, when there’s so much new data entering my reading brain on a daily basis. The answer, I think, is probably not. Sure, I could give you a description a sentence or two in length about just about anything I’ve read in the last few years. But ask me about plot details, chronology, character names, or other nuances, and I’ll probably draw a blank. This actually comes up quite a bit in my house. My husband will end up reading a book that I read six months or a year earlier and will expect me to be able to discuss details with him. When I give him a vacant stare or shrug my shoulders, he’ll usually respond with a snide (but deep down, kind of loving, I’m sure) comment about me losing my memory faster than he is. (Only funny if you’re aware of the fact that he’s 20 years older than I am. Sorry, off-topic and a bit TMI). What I keep reminding dear husband is that in the six months or year since I read the book, I’VE READ 50 MORE BOOKS! That’s hundreds of characters, plot points, funny quotes, and unusual locations to keep track of!

This probably has a lot to do with my reluctance to get involved in series or trilogies, especially if they’re currently unfinished. I loved reading the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher, which I picked up after the sixth and final book was published and read straight through, beginning to end. Likewise, with A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, I read books 1 – 5 pretty much without stopping. That’s the way to do it! No lapses, no time in between books for facts and figures to be overwritten by extraneous information from bunches of other books! When I read a book, no matter how great, and then have to wait a year or more for the sequel, chances are I won’t remember it as well as I’d like, in which case I can either a) re-read the first book (as I did with A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night this past summer), b) wing it and figure enough will come back to me as I read the new book (which tends to be my approach with certain ongoing series like the Sookie Stackhouse books or the Dresden Files, or c) realize that the details aren’t sharp enough for me to truly care what happens next, shrug my shoulders, and decide to skip it (as was the case for me with the sequels to The Strain — that book scared the bejesus out of me, but by the time book two rolled around, I was over it and didn’t bother reading any further).

My second reason for asking if it’s possible to read too much? Well, I suppose it’s just a “stop and smell the roses” sort of thing. Am I reading so much, so fast, trying to get through so many books, old and new, that I rush instead of savoring? Am I really tasting each bite before I swallow? (Is that kind of a gross metaphor?) Perhaps I should take more time, read more carefully, wallow in the sensations, admire the deft turns of phrase. I think I enjoy the books I read. I think I get quite a lot out of my process of reading. I can’t really imagine slowing down. But I do wonder if I’m denying myself the pleasure of a slow read in favor of reading everything in sight. We shouldn’t gobble our food; is it a good idea to gobble up our books?

The final reason for my question gets back to Goodreads and all the various reading challenges that seem to have proliferated in recent years. In this age of reading as social media event, has reading become a competitive sport? Read a title for each letter of the alphabet, read an author for every letter, read every book on a Great Books list… the number and variety of challenges out there in the blogosphere are seemingly infinite. When did we start worrying so much about meeting goals? Is this a form of peer pressure? Keeping up with the Joneses? In one of my online book groups, there was a debate about whether certain types of reading “counted” toward an annual total. Counted as what? Real books? If I can hold it in my hands and turn the pages, it feels pretty real to me (and okay, yes, I acknowledge that e-books are real too; not completely dissing technology over here). But isn’t it a bit weird to stop and think about goals and totals before deciding to read a book? If I want to re-read a 1,000 page book, shouldn’t I just go ahead and do it, without worrying about scores or keeping up? Granted, this is partially just my own dormant competitive streak coming to the surface — I’ve never been the slightest bit athletic, never felt compelled to run races or set swimming records, but reading is something I’m actually good at! Can I get a gold medal in fiction reading? Please?

So here I am again, back where I started, wondering if I do, in fact, read too much for my own good. I don’t have any answers. I know that reading brings me joy and satisfies my intellect, emotions, and curiosity in ways that nothing else does. But would I enjoy more if I read less? I’m not sure that I actually want to find out.