Have you ever come into the library, picked up a book, and can’t remember if you read it or not? Or do you remember the plot of a book you read recently but don’t have the title?  I can tell you that both happen to me on a regular basis.  I have been a voracious reader since I was a child.  If you are anything like me, or are simply a more than passing reader, you might want to track the titles you have previously read, share your rating, and/or take part in a larger community of readers.  Well, like anything else in this day and age, there’s an app for that!  While you can log into your NHFPL library account and set it to track the books you have checked out, if you want to rate or critique books, here are the two most used tools!

Goodreads has been the most popular social cataloging site for readers for at least the last decade.  It was first established in 2006 and launched in 2007.  Today, Goodreads has over 90 million different members!  A Goodreads account is free.  When you start a Goodreads account, you just must create a username and password.  You can also log-in using a pre-existing Facebook, amazon, or apple account.

Once you create an account, you can connect your account to your friends list on Facebook or your contacts in Google.  This will find friends of yours that are already on Goodreads and allow you to follow and be friends with them.  From there, you can set your reading goal.  This goal is how many books you want to read in the calendar year. There is no right or wrong in setting your goal.  My personal goal for the past few years hovers around 100 books, but I know many people who have goals of 10 books.  You can also skip this step.  You can set it up later if you change your mind.

The next step is to select your favorite genres.  This step helps Goodreads give you recommendations for books to read.  You can select as many or as few genres as you would like.  You can also update your favorite genres list at any time by clicking on your avatar and clicking on “Favorite Genres”.   There are a wide variety of options available to select. 

After you have selected your favorite genres, Goodreads is going to ask you to rate some of the books you’ve read.  This book list is based on your previously selected genre list.  Rate your books 1-5 stars, with one being low.  You can also mark books that you want to read.  By rating a book, Goodreads assumes that you have read the title.  Once you’re done with this step, you will be redirected to the standard landing page that you will regularly see when you log onto Goodreads.  I’ve shown mine below!

Goodreads homepage after setup

Goodreads is more than just a list of books.  When you select a title, you will get an image of the cover, title, author, average rating, a description, links to buy a copy, reader questions and answers, reviews, and more!  This is one of the places you can also mark if you want to read, are currently reading, or have read the title.  You can also add books to a “shelf” which you can create yourself to sort books into different categories.  Some other cool features include reading challenges, book giveaways, trivia, quizzes and more!

My thoughts on Goodreads

Pros: The thing that I think makes Goodreads a great tool is that there are so many people on it.  When I’m browsing the library shelves for a new book to read, I can scan the barcode into Goodreads and see the reviews.  Over the years, I’ve found people on goodreads whos opinions on books are like mine, and look for their reviews specifically.  If you watch or are on BookTube or BookTok, you will often also see those names writing reviews on goodreads!

There is also an app that I find manageable in navigating for the basics.  For more detailed work (in depth reviews, etc.) I would use the desktop.  There are also so many ways to log onto goodreads, it makes the process quite easy.

Cons: Goodreads was bought by Amazon in 2013.  While using Goodreads itself is free, there are often large distracting advertisements that make Amazon a ton of money.  The buttons to buy titles are very large for Kindle and Amazon.  Other stores are in a dropdown with Amazon at the top. 

Goodreads only allows you to rate in whole star increments.  So if you were just above “meh” with a book you must decide between 3 and 4 stars rather than 3.5.  This can potentially skew some of the ratings. 

Realistically, the layout of Goodreads is extremely dated.  Very little has changed on the platform since it was launched.  That doesn’t particularly bother me since I’ve been using it for such a long time.  However, for those new to the platform, it can be offputting and difficult to navigate.  Some of the groups have not been used in a while, and the reading challenge/discussion groups are in a forum form, making it time consuming to read everything if you haven’t been on for a while. 

The Goodreads book awards were also a thing that I used to always look forward to.  The selections are made based on reader votes, which I think could be great for reader representation.  The past number of years, the results have been quite predictable.  For example, Sara J. Mass will win over pretty much any other Young Adult author regardless of the title.  Then, some people have only read one book in a genre so they only vote for that title, even if they hated it.  In reality, you can no longer put any stock in the award since it’s become mostly an author popularity contest rather than a vote on the actual best books.

Final Thoughts

Goodreads is a great tool for those interested in the social aspect of reading.  It is mostly accessible, and has nearly every book that you could think of.  Many users are extremely active, so this could be a great place to get book recommendations.  Since it’s all online, you can put the books on hold at the library while looking through the platform!  However, for those who would rather support smaller or minority owned companies, Goodreads might not be right for you.

I first found out about The Storygraph in 2021, but the site has been around since 2019.  The tagline of The Storygraph is “Because life’s too short for a book you are not in the mood for”, and I think this tagline is very indicative of the goal of the platform.  The Storygraph is not designed to be a social media type site.  Rather, it is designed to give the best book recommendations to readers based on a wide variety of criteria.  Nadia Odunayo, the Co-Founder and CEO, believes that she has finaly created a platform that puts readers, rather than advertisers, first.

Setting up your account on The Storygraph will take a bit longer than with Goodreads.  Don’t let this scare you away though.  The Storygraphs goal is personalized recommendations on what to read next, so it’s going to ask you a series of questions about the books you like to read; what genres, themes, and writing styles you prefer; your absolute turn-offs, and more.  This allows The Storygraph to personalize your reading experience.

‘But what about the thousands of books I’ve already tracked in Goodreads?’ you may ask.  Not a problem.  You can import your entire Goodreads library into The Storygraph.  While there is a process to do so, the directions are extremely clear.  Be warned though, the transfer process might take a while.  Luckily, you don’t need to sit there while it’s happening.  If you’ve created shelves in Goodreads, those can transfer over too!

OK, so you’ve finished setting up your account with The Storygraph, and you are on the homepage.  The design is extremely clean, with a white background and teal accents. This home page displays your book recommendations, your virtual ‘to-read’ pile, and a list of books you marked as currently reading.  Filtering these various ‘piles’ is easy, AND there are many options for how you want to filter.  These can include mood, pacing, fiction/nonfiction, number of pages, and more!

If you were to look at reviews of The Storygraph online, many writers will say there is no app, and instead there are directions for how to place a link to their mobile friendly website on your phone.  When I first started using The Storygraph, this was indeed the case.  However, there is now an app!  The app works nearly the same way as the website link.  Its clean colors and layout, and intuitiveness make it easy to navigate and easy on the eyes.  If you are running low on phone storage though, the directions to link the website still work.

When rating a book on The Storygraph, you can rate with quarter stars.  This addition is great for those books that toe the line between OK and awesome.  You also can do more than just adding a review.  Instead, The Storygraph asks you several questions about characterization, plot, pacing, mood, and diversity.  There is also a place to include themes, topics, or tropes, as well as content warnings for graphic content.

The Storygraph has a few awesome features that I didn’t even know I wanted until I had them.  My favorite is the “statistics”.  Not only does this section tell you how many books you read, but breaks everything down into very detailed sections.  I’m going to show you some statistics from my personal account just to get an idea of what they look like!

Image of pie chart titled “mood”.  Below is a key of what the different colors stand for
Image of a bar chart titled “Genres”.  On the left hand side are a list of genres, and across the bottom are the number of books.

My Thoughts on The Storygraph

Pros: The Storygraph is a black woman owned small business, that took the time to see what readers wanted, and then made it.  The platform was designed with the user in mind, and is a great tool for those who are interested in BookTube, BookTok, or just reading statistics in general.  It’s clean lines and ease of use make it ideal for those who want to focus on the reading.  The statistics option and thorough rating system are both fantastic additions that I personally LOVE.  I find it makes me think about what I’m reading so much more! 

I appreciate that The Storygraph makes me think about what made me love (or hate) a book.  And when I couldn’t always put that in words, the check boxes helped me out.  I also appreciate how The Storygraph is still adding new features based on the requests of it’s users.  Nadia, the owner of the company, is regularly on the platform and is active in the “feedback” section of the site.  This section is also available to users, so they can see what changes are in the works!

Cons: The biggest con of The Storygraph is that there are some features that are only available on the paid version.  The paid version helps keep The Storygraph advertisement free.  It also allows users to compare statistics across two time periods, provides personalized book lists and unlimited recommendations, and your tickets get put at the front of the queue.  The cost of the paid version is $4.99 a month or $49.99 for a year.  For most users, the free version is more than adequate.

Second, The Storygraph is currently independent from API’s and Social Media Platforms.  This means  you can’t easily import friends from social media platforms or e-mail.  Through recent updates, you can share what you are reading on social media platforms-that being said, I have only found the ability to do this through the app, not the desktop version.  You also can’t sync your account to your Kindle (since Kindle-and Goodreads-is owned by Amazon).

Last, because The Storygraph is a younger tool, some of the features that people like in Goodreads (such as a barcode scanner) are currently not available.  However, as I said earlier, Nadia is very active on the site and is taking recommendations for added features.  Tools like a barcode scanner are on her radar and many are in the works.

Final Thoughts

The Storygraph is great for readers whose primary focus is tracking their reading, looking at reading statistics, or want more in depth information about the feel of a particular title. However, if you are looking for a community of readers, you aren’t going to find that here.  At least, not yet.  Over time, that may come.  The paid version is good for those who are willing to spend $50 a year for the added features or want to support minority owned businesses-but the free version is more than adequate for the regular user.  The Storygraph is also a great alternative to Goodreads if you prefer to shop local or use the library rather than Amazon.

So which should I use?

That decision is totally up to you. As a librarian, I use both for different reasons.  At the end of the day, both are great tools to help you pick your next library book, and both allow you to track your reading.  The features and layout are what makes these tools different.  Regardless, if you want to share your love of books with other readers, either of these options could be the one for you!  Check Goodreads and The Storygraph to see what others think of your favorite library book!