Friday, February 24, 2017

In Which I Attempt to Explain Why I Have 82 Goodreads Shelves

In the beginning (2008), when I was neither a blogger nor a reading teacher, I had the same three shelves that everyone starts with: Read, To-Read, and Currently Reading.  I've never been a big fan of "Currently Reading," as I tend to read too fast to bother keeping up with it.  It also seems a bit cursed to me; any book I do take the time to add to that shelf tends to never get finished.  If it were called "books I feel like I should read but actually feel rather lukewarm about," it would be more accurate.

I soon saw that you could add categories.  I couldn't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure the first few I added were Mystery (because I read a lot of mysteries), Abandoned Midstream (because I'd never heard of DNF), Read Repeatedly as a Kid (because I initially tried to put all the books I ever remembered reading onto Goodreads), and Other Worlds (because I didn't realize how silly it was for me to combine every sci fi, fantasy, dystopian, magical realism, and other type of speculative fiction into one giant shelf).  I'm still regretting that last one, as it has 317 books on it, and I dread the idea of going through and re-sorting them all into more specific shelves.

From then, I've added shelves sporadically and spontaneously.  My additions fall into three general categories.

1.  Genre and subject matter
Professional Reading, Poetry, Historical Fiction, Immigration, Bullying, Memoir & Biography, Adoption & Parenting, etc.

2.  Type of material
Picture Book, Graphic Novel, Audiobook, Novel in Verse, etc.

3.  Note to self
These are categories that help me to organize my reading and book buying (Wish List, In My Classroom Library, Mt. TBR 2017, etc) or are purely subjective comments about various books (Made Me Laugh, Feminist as Hell, Didn't Live up to Premise, etc.)

Sometimes things overlap.  If I have a Call a Doctor shelf and a Mental Illness and Differences shelf, where does a book with a protagonist who's autistic go?  Sometimes I start a very specific shelf, and then neglect it.  Other times I adapt to a shelf without really registering that change in the shelf name.  I have a shelf called Bullying unit 2014, which consists of books that my department used in, yes, a literature circle unit around the topic of bullying (guess when?).   But since then, whenever I've read a book that seems like it would be a good fit for a middle school bullying unit, I add it to that list, even though it wasn't in our original syllabus.  Somewhat similarly, when I first served as a Cybils judge last year, I put the books I had to read in a Cybils shelf, but since then I've added other books that I heard about because they were short-listed or winners for any Cybils category.  It's a bit messy, as there are plenty of books that I'd already read that have been honored in the 11 years of Cybils awards, so the shelf really reflects books I heard about specifically through the Cybils website.  And then there's the Award Winner shelf.  I was thinking things like the Newbery or the National Book award, but Goodreads helpfully informs you when a book has won some obscure local award as well--so do those books make the shelf or not?

Whenever I get to dithering too much about that type of issue, I remind myself why I have this system in the first place. This is not a professional task, and it's not something I have to make clearly navigable for others.   I just want to track my reading and see what my trends are.  I want to be able to find books that I only half-remember later on.  I want to sort the thousands of books I interact with into more manageable groups.  And sometimes, I just want to browse my titles and Goodread's resources and enjoy myself.  One fine day, sorting out that Other Worlds shelf will be exactly the kind of precise, yet untaxing, project I'm in the mood for.

If you're on Goodreads, how many shelves do you have?  Which are your biggest?  Besides that giant Other Worlds shelf, I have 572 on my YA shelf and 372 on my In My Classroom Library shelf.  Do you find the shelving system useful overall?  

Also, take my poll!


  1. I have 15 shelves, but I don’t use them all. I’ve been on Goodreads since 2011 and am too lazy to reorganize old shelves. I currently use broad categories like YA, adult, nonfiction, short stories, etc. I spend a stupid amount of time stressing over if I should add books to multiple shelves. What about the books that are YA _and_ short story collections? What about the ones that are nonfiction _and_ graphic novels? I DON’T KNOW!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. I totally cross-categorize books. I actually really wish there was a sort function that allowed me to call up those nonfiction graphic novels or YA short story collections!

  2. Wow...that'd be too much for me to handle! I organize based on books I own and books I don't (yet): Want to Read, Read, and Currently Reading, but also Owned TBR (because I can't remember the books I own), Library TBR (because I have over 600 books on my to-read shelf at the library), a wishlist for my otsp secret sister, First Reads (which Goodreads made me do for any books I've won in a giveaway there), Sequels Prequels (so I can remind myself what sequels I need to read ASAP), and a To Read in 2017 shelf (because I had readers vote on the top 12 books I should read this year, and I can't remember them). So my shelves are more of a to-do than organizing books by genre, theme, etc. I cannot imagine the time it takes for you to keep those organized!

    1. It seems pretty easy to me, because I just check off the boxes when I've read a book. I should clarify that I usually only shelve books as I finish them, other than TBR, of course.

  3. I'm too disorganized to have more than a few shelves on Goodreads and I also forget to update it regularly. hahah So a few shelves makes sense for me. But I do admire your dedication!

    1. I think of myself as someone who struggles mightily with organization. I love setting up systems and processes, but I suck at follow-through. For whatever reason, Goodreads has been something I use regularly and have kept up for nearly ten years.

  4. So I have a lot of shelves. I have 72 as it turns out, BUT most of them are month shelves, just because it makes it SO much easier when I am doing new release posts and such. Other than THOSE, I only have a handful of shelves, and none of them make much sense. I just keep adding books to my TBR, and then after years go by and I never read them, sometimes I take them off ;) Sadly, my most used shelf (after to-be-read of course) is own-physical. So that's a problem. Your shelving seems actually useful, and I like it!

  5. Hahahaha you don't have to explain this to me because I have close to 200 shelves. I don't really care if other people find them useful because it's *my* Goodreads profile, and *I* like them. But I have shelves for each year (to track my reads since GR didn't use to have the reread thing), for each genre/subgenre, for different physical disabilities and mental illnesses, for things like favorite books and favorite characters, for different supernatural creatures, and various other things. I like being able to easily find, for example, all the books I've read that are about vampires. Or all the books with covers I love. Or all the books with characters who have depression/anxiety. My biggest shelf though, other than read or to-read, is fantasy, which doesn't surprise me lol.


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