This week I am bringing you a website review :) For a while, I used to be a member of Shelfari - referred there by a librarian friend who was an active member, her passion for the site did little to ignite my own. Of course, I didn't have this little blog back then, but I didn't really want to participate in the "fun" groups or clubs and adding my own books and connecting with friends there didn't really do it for me. When I quit Facebook - I also quit Shelfari.
I figured it was probably just another Shelfari, but thought it might actually work better for me if I could find a bookish website that would allow me to submit reviews to several sites simultaneously AND connect with other readers for recommendations. This seemed to fit the bill. As a bonus, they had widgets so I could automate my own blog to keep my reading list up to date. (If you look on my "Read" page, you'll see what I mean. Those little widgets update automatically as I add/finish books). I still intended to post my reviews on my own blog first, but this gives me a place to move them over to for a wider audience.
Unlike Shelfari, I don't feel the push to participate in the clubs. They have similar groups on Good Reads, but it is managed in a much gentler way. With Good Reads, I just feel like I have a place to track books and manage what I plan to read next. One feature I do really like, though, is the ability to just comment on a book (or on another member's comments about that book). It makes it less of a forum and more like commenting on someone's Facebook photos. The homepage features feeds of what your "friends" are doing and there is also a secondary tab for discussions on books you have read and groups that you follow.
The simple interface and easy controls make this site a pleasure to play on. I did find myself ambitiously setting up a personal challenge for myself to read X number of books in 2011. They made it too easy by putting it on the homepage :P
Add to this the section of free ebooks (mostly classics and amateur fiction), giveaways, lists, and a bookswap (US only, unfortunately) and Good Reads is a decent little reading community.
This review wouldn't be complete without mentioning the one thing that I feel is missing from the site. This would be the ability to compare books with other members to see what members are most like you. Shelfari has this functionality and I get the impression that Good Reads would like it (they actually list the development of such a feature as a "problem to solve" in their careers section). So, maybe in time this will be added (I hope). Though, really, I'm not a member there to necessarily connect with strangers. I'd rather connect with my own friends to see what we're all reading. The only time a feature like this would be handy is when I am seeing book recommendations and can see what similar readers liked.
If you are a reader and are looking for a fun way to track your reading and manage your reviews - give Good Reads a try. Feel free to look me up over there at http://www.goodreads.com/khourianya