I haven't felt like I had anything real to offer to the conversations around Black Lives Matter, or the pandemic, or any of the other ways, small and large, the world seems to be burning down at the moment.
And while I was happy to read as a form of escapism, I didn't feel right about continuing to prattle on about those books when all of the above was going on.
None of which has changed. But I don't want to kill off my blog either, so....hi. It's me.
(NO SLIGHT against those of you who have kept on keeping on. We all need to do what it takes to survive this time, and I am sure blogging is a serious mental health support for many of us.)
One thing I've been messing around with a bit is different reader sites, alternatives to Goodreads. I happened upon Goodreads in June, 2008, so I have a pretty big investment in the site. These are my "exclusive" shelves, meaning I have 4,142 books on the site. FOUR THOUSAND PLUS BOOKS.
It's...a little unwieldy. Plus I have 98 additional shelves, and now that I know that fact, I want to add two more.
Common complaints about GR are #1, that there is no ability to add half stars, and #2, that it's now owned by Amazon, and eff Jeff Bezos. I've also seen people complain that if you add a book as DNF, it counts towards your reading goals, but um, no, as you see above "abandoned midstream," being one of those exclusive shelves, is counted separately from "read." (That's how ancient my account is; I didn't even know there was a term for books I didn't finish.)
In counterpoint, #1, I don't care about the half star issue, because I am a weirdo who tracks my reading annually on a Google Form, and I have half stars on there. #2, while I'm no fan of billionaires who don't pay fair taxes, I also don't buy books through Goodreads, so I don't feel like I'm actively supporting Amazon by using it.
No, what bugs me about using Goodreads is that here I am, trying to track my own reading for my own record keeping, but others use it as a review site. Which, in all fairness, IT IS, but I don't want to be involved in that. I mean sure, I love to see what my friends think about books I'm reading, but honestly, I don't care much beyond that. I also want to be able to say, "I LOATHE this work" even if it's objectively well written, or "I LOVE this book" even if I know it's problematic.
Guess which is which!
Also, to be able to say, "This middle grade novel didn't do much for me, but it's good for what it is, 3 stars," without pissing the author off. I mean, I GET why that would piss them off, and if I were a professional reviewer, I sure as hell wouldn't review like that, but I'm just trying to remember what I thought about a book.
So when I saw a bunch of tweets about new book tracking apps, I figured now was as good of a time as ever to check them out. I've only looked at two, because it seems that I prefer to spend most of my time doomscrolling Twitter, but here's what I have found so far.
STORYGRAPH exploded recently and is advertised as a site that is more aesthetically pleasing and user friendly than Goodreads, and as being owned by Black women instead of, y'know, Bezos. Of course, I haven't been able to corroborate that detail. As for it looking nicer, well:
They are in beta testing, so I don't expect it to have everything I'm looking for. They do import your GR titles, and it's a very easy process. I did lose a lot of my "read" dates and had to go in and adjust them, and it also put a bunch of my exclusive shelves onto my "read" shelf, so I had to move things around. It works on my laptop and on my phone.
The other site I'm testing out is Book Sloth, which has the benefit of an adorable logo.
It's an app, which I don't like--I want to be able to use my laptop. I'm old, my eyesight is no longer perfect, and I loathe the physical act of typing on my phone. However, I do agree that this one is attractively set up.
And it's also cool that they are promoting #BLM and anti-racism books. Overall, it seems YA heavy, unless that's due to how I answered their questions?
Oh yes, both sites pride themselves on their ability to help you find new books to read. While I admit that I do use that feature on Goodreads, finding new books to read is...not a huge problem for me. Remember this?
And that's after I spent a huge amount of time in the Early Pandemic Era culling about 2/3 of my TBR. So this isn't a very important feature for me.
My overall feeling is that while both of these sites/apps have potential, and I will probably keep my accounts open on them to check in with as they move past beta, right now I will stick with Goodreads. The main thing GR has that these sites lack (as of now) is the ability to cross-shelve, to create shelves, and to do all the sorting I love to do. Let's say I want to find a middle grade mystery to recommend. I call up the two shelves, sort by star rating, and tell you that I enjoyed Woof and Chomp quite a bit.
Or maybe I'm trying to find out which are the oldest fantasy novels I've read, I see that The Light Princess was published in 1864.
So there's my not-very-definitive conclusion. Until I can sort books more precisely, I will stick to Goodreads, despite my discomfort with the disconnect between how I use it and its public role.
Have you tried any other readers' websites? Rely on journaling or spreadsheets? Or do you eschew list keeping altogether? Do tell!