At the beginning of this year I decided that I was going to give up recording my reading on Goodreads. I have failed. I am a GoodReads addict.
When I was a kid, I was a casual list keeper, including one of all the books I read. I say casual because after an earnest beginning, faithfully writing down every title I read, I would forget my list until months later when I would call on my powers of recall and I would try to add to it again. Inadvertently, I would lose my list (probably my incredibly neat mum would put it somewhere I could never imagine searching for it like my own desk drawers) and after some time I just gave up on my list keeping. That is, until 2007, when I discovered the social aspect of list keeping. This is the only lifelogging I take part in. I don’t have map my runs (haha – make that walks), I don’t have a fitness logger (I probably should) but I do map my reading.
It took me a while to settle with GoodReads. I started out with LibraryThing and then moved to weRead. I used both solely as a list keeping space but then I exported all my items to GoodReads in 2010 and it all became quite social. Many of the twitter reading crowd were already there, as well as my library colleagues. I particularly enjoyed posting my picture book library storytime recommendations and to this day, it is my most used tag. But I was also keenly aware of the arguments and problems that came with GoodReads, so I rarely commented on other people’s reviews and my own reviews there have become shorter and shorter to the point that I gave up using the site altogether after last year’s bullying behaviour (though I did not delete my account). I miss some of the social readers I used to follow who have left for various reasons. Some have gone to Riffle, others no longer keep a public log of their reading anymore.
As for myself, I tried to keep a spreadsheet instead. I thought it would be more exciting (now there’s a word most people wouldn’t associate with spreadsheets). I could truly be honest. Books that I hated, I could write explosive, expletive laden reviews without feeling mean, horrid or even fear the attack of fans of the book. But the truth of the matter is, I have not written any explosive, expletive laden reviews on my spreadsheet (well….there might be just the one). My spreadsheet became forgotten. It is languishing on a USB somewhere in my house, much like the earnest lists waiting neatly in my drawers.
So I thought I would just post every book I read on my blog instead but that too has failed. I read too many books that I can’t be bothered to review – particularly picture books. I like the tagging aspect of recording my reading (ever the rebel librarian – everything must be rogue catalogued! Power to folksonomies! Down with taxonomies!)
I also missed seeing what others were reading. Sure, I realise that this is just an exercise on tracking my media consumption by couching it in terms of “social reading” and “lifelogging”. I know that my data gets used by companies, publishers, authors etc etc. But I am happy for that. I don’t mind companies getting a different understanding of readership and I like the social aspect of reading. This is the way reading originating. Documents being publicised, read aloud in town squares, in salons and social reading clubs. I also like that the reviews I am reading are crowdsourced from readers. As a professional librarian, I have always followed literary reviewers’ recommendations but I have never been devoted to any particular review journal for my own reading choices. Occasionally, a book would interest me, but my main source of recommendations came from family and friends passing around a favourite read or purely on the strength of a pretty cover and a fabulous blurb. I like being able to bypass the usual cultural gatekeepers. I like reading what readers who don’t have a list of bonafides to back them up, think about a book. Their reviews can be disarmingly honest, weirdly fannish, sometimes harsh, sometimes funny, sometimes perculiar, and for the most part, refreshingly reader focused.
I am also rather deliberate in lifelogging my reading. I want to leave this digital footprint. If GoodReads is around in 40 or 50 years, I love the thought of this list still hanging around. If, like many commercial ventures, they disappear, so will my list. Maybe it will be searchable in the Way Back Machine (doubtful), or maybe I will have had time to export my data back to a lonely, unexciting spreadsheet. But for now, I have revitalised my account. Over the past couple of months, I have added the books that I have been reading throughout the year. I had set a 2015 Reading Challenge of 5 books. This is far better than my 2012 Year of Reading a book a day 356 goal which very nearly killed my love of reading. A 5 book goal is awesome. I log in and see myself called an “Overachiever”. I like setting the bar low. That is much more fun.
As for what I am currently reading: I am still dipping in and out of Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy. Written in a comic strip style, it is like attending Hogwarths but the magic is just a skill, there is no adventure or horror, just teens angsting about life and themselves. I am loving its weird, absurd delivery.
I also just finished Victoria Dahl’s Taking the Heat with a hot, male, rock-climbing librarian wooing an advice columnist. It was fabulous. But I will write a separate review later in the week – teaser!
And I am currently reading Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger. Ohhhhhh sooooo gooooood! I cannot put it down.