How Does Goodreads Work?

Goodreads is what is known as a "social cataloging" service.  What that means is that it essentially functions as a database of information about a particular subject (in this case, books), but it also allows individual users to discover and organize this information in their own way.  Then, people can compare how they've organized the information that they've found, and use these comparisons to find information on new things that they might like. 

Other websites that work like this include IMDb for movies and television shows (see our IMDb course), or Pinterest for images or image-accompanied information (see our Pinterest course).

In general, there are five major elements to using Goodreads:

  1. Creating a profile to express yourself with

  2. Building a virtual collection of book information

  3. Connecting with friends and other users of Goodreads

  4. Joining groups and discussions to have deeper conversations about books

  5. Learning the essentials about a book, including picking up a copy for yourself!

Create and edit your profile

Click on the little triangle at the rightmost corner of the top menu and click Edit Profile.  Here, you can make a name for yourself on Goodreads… literally! 

Input your first, middle, and last name, and maybe pick a username and profile photo for yourself.  Say where you are in the world, when you were born, and what gender you are.  Put a link to your website, say what you're passionate about, spill on what kinds of books you like to read, and just write a general introduction to who you are, so that other people on Goodreads can get to know a little about you. 

Or, if you're not too keen on putting yourself out there, you can choose who gets to see your information, or just not put it in at all (you only need a first name).

Build and organize your virtual book collection

Almost anywhere you see information about a book on Goodreads, you can rate it out of five stars and/or mark it as Read, Want to Read, Currently Reading, or generally add it to one of your virtual "bookshelves".

Once you add books to your collection, you can organize them on virtual "bookshelves" by genre, author, when you read them (or want to read them)… pretty much however you want!  In addition, once you  rate at least 20 books, Goodreads will use your ratings to steer you towards information on more books that you might like.  You can even ask for and receive recommendations from other users on Goodreads! 

For more information on organizing your bookshelves and receiving recommendations, check out our How to Use Goodreads tutorial (here).

Find friends and people whom you want to follow

Another way to quickly grow your collection on Goodreads is by comparing notes with other users.   One way to do this is to find people you know who already use Goodreads.  You can do so by checking contact information your email and social media accounts against what Goodreads has.

You can also click on a user's name on Goodreads to see their information, and ask to add them as a friend or follow their activity…

…or click on an author's name to see their information, and follow what they do on Goodreads.

Join groups and discussions

Want to get even deeper into the social aspect of Goodreads?  Click the small triangle beside Explore and click Groups to see a list of user-made book clubs on Goodreads that you can join.  Some are dedicated to a specific genre, others to a specific author, and still others to a specific book or book series.

Or, if there isn't a group dedicated to your favourite book of all time, head over to the book's information page by clicking on it, and then scroll to the bottom of the page.  You'll see discussion topics about the book; click one to see what other Goodreads users have to say.  You can post a new comment, reply to other comments, or sort comments in different ways.

Get up close and personal with your favourite books

There's more to a book than a name and its author, obviously!  Pretty much anywhere you see a book, you can click on its cover or its name to see more information on it, including its genres, ratings, plot summaries, questions that Goodreads users have answered about it, and more. 

One of the most useful things you can do is have Goodreads connect you to a store where you can order a physical or electronic copy of the book, or borrow a copy from a local library.

You can also click the small triangle beside Explore and click Ebooks, and then choose from a selection of electronic books to preview, buy, read, or even save to your computer! 


As you can see, there's a lot that you can do on Goodreads.  And we're going to walk you through how to do the bulk of it, so stick with us!