The Great Purge

Goodreads site

I had around 730 books on my to-read shelf on Goodreads. Even if I read 50 books a year that’s over 14 years before I get through that list. I have been on Goodreads since 2007, that’s also 14 years. and I have read 726 books. I’ve been adding books for 14 years, but I don’t think I’ve ever done an audit of all the 700+ books on my to-read and I can’t remember why I added some that have been there for over 13 years.

So in the last few years, I have gotten better at writing notes in Goodreads as to why I added certain books, then when I come back later I can see if that reason is still enough to keep the book on my list given that I will probably have added even more books. But again, I hadn’t reviewed the list.

Now that we are up-to-speed, I’ve started to review them over the last few weeks. It’s hard. I’m afraid to take anything off my list because I assume that I had a good reason to add them in the past. Why do I think that past me is smarter than present me? So, I have to be brutal in the culling.

How I’m going about it. When I come to a book on the list…

  • If I don’t immediately know that I love the book and can’t wait to read it
  • I look to see if there are any notes on the book from myself or better yet a recommendation
  • If no recommendation then I look to see if anyone I follow has done a review
  • Lastly, I read the book description
  • If after reading the description I’m still on the fence then I look at some of the reviews

Reading the reviews is hard because everyone is so different. Many people don’t just randomly pick a book and start reading. They have an interest in the topic a reason for picking up the book in the first place, so you have to take that into account. Plus, those that write reviews are invested in the book enough to create a review.

I usually review every book, more for myself than for other readers to see if they should read the book or not, I look at it as a history or journal of what I’m reading. But we can assume that not everyone is like me and that those writing a review have strong feelings one way or the other. So you tend to get people that hated it or loved it not too much in between.

I’m still making my way through all 730ish books on my to-read, but so far I’ve already taken off 100. It’s going to take a while and I can’t be in a rush or somethings will be dropped because I’m in too much of a hurry to complete the task. I could also keep things I shouldn’t because I’m rushing.

I’m thinking this is something I should really do yearly as well. Since many times my interest ebb and flow. I may lose interest in a topic and don’t want to invest the time in a book that is on a subject that no longer interests me.

Book Review|The Spy

The Spy by Paulo Coelho
The Spy by Paulo Coelho

The Spy by Paulo Coelho is of course about the famous Mata Hari who was a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War I and executed by firing squad in France.

I picked this up because it is history, with a great twist. An exotic dancer who may have also been a spy. I’m convinced she was a spy, but I don’t know if she ever really understood that she was. She seems to have been very caught up in herself.

The book was difficult for me to follow because of those. The author, Coelho, seems to weave a somewhat confusing story about her. She knows what she is doing, she doesn’t. At times she wants to get away from the man she is with, at other times, she wants to meet another.

As you can see from the below graph, other reviews on goodreads were torn too. It wasn’t amazing and it wasn’t terrible, its somwhere in between, a solid 3 star book.

It is very unlike me to not write a GoodReads review, but on this book I did just that. I finished this back in April of 2017 and I think I was baffled by what I just read, with no way of knowing what to write for this book. Like many of my GoodReads peers I also gave the book 3 stars.

The Purge

KonMari-ing my books
KonMari-ing my books by Flickr User: Kars Alfrink

I want to read more.  When I get in this mood and I’m totally pumped to get reading more.  You would think that I read right?  Well, sometimes you can’t.  If the kids are all over the place I can’t read, I have to stop every few seconds to do something.  Not that I mind.  I love my kids, but it is not the best way to get through a book.  So sometimes, when I’m psyched to read, but I can’t actually read, I spend time on Goodreads.  It is the facebook of reading.  The social site for readers.

I have been on there more frequently in the past few days, and I take a look at the number of books read and the number of books I want to read.  This is scary.  I’m upside down on my numbers.  While it is encouraging to know I have no lack of books that I want to read, I would really like my read number to be higher than my to-read number.  As things stand now I’m at 717 to-read and 595 read.

This is after a few hours of purging already.  I didn’t write anything down, but my to-read number before the purge started was around 760 or 770.  That means I purged around 23% of the books on my to-read pile already.  What did I drop from the to-read shelf?

Goodreads Finding Duplicates
Goodreads Finding Duplicates

My first stop was finding duplicates.  I didn’t know that Goodreads had this tool, but it was there when I went looking for it, so no idea how long it has been there, but it made dropping the duplicate books very easy.  I had about 25 duplicate books.

Then I started to go through my to-read list book by book.  This is the super frustrating part.  As I look through the list I keep seeing books I don’t remember adding.  Why did I add this?  I click on the book to look at the detail page.  No friends have read this and like an idiot, I didn’t put anything in the recommended by field.  SO frustrating.  The next step is the read the synopsis and figure out if I still want to read this book, if not it’s gone.

This is how I’m purging or if you like “pruning” my Goodreads to-read list.  I’m about halfway through my shelf now.  I’m hoping to get that 717 number down to something that is more manageable.  On the bright side, I’m spending so much time on Goodreads that I found this beauty of a 404 page:

Goodreads 404
Goodreads 404

Rating Books on Goodreads

Rating Books on Goodreads
Rating Books on Goodreads

Cecilia Lyra published an interesting article on Book Riot yesterday.  Many of you may have read it since it is making the rounds in book circles.  The article, The Perilous Process of Rating Books on Goodreads, talks about the difficulties of rating books that you don’t finish.  Are you allowed?  What does the rest of the Goodreads community have to say about this?  She doesn’t rate all the books that she reads.

I mark the books that I did not enjoy as Read without rating them

I take issue with this.  This is the exact reason that goodreads exist, to rate books.  If you don’t like it and you belong to the community you should rate it.  But what about books that you really didn’t like.  I mean so much that you didn’t even finish it.  You didn’t read the whole thing so, should you rate it?

A book is meant to be judged in its entirety. It isn’t fair to read part of it and give it one star (or five). An argument can be easily made that it is a disservice to the Goodreads community to have overall ratings be compromised by readers who only partially read a given book. What if the book has a very satisfying ending?

So says “Charlie” a member of Cecilia’s book club when posed the question above.  I can see where Charlie is coming from, but I would argue that if the book is so bad in the beginning that you just can’t bring yourself to finish it, then that is deserving of a rating.  If I already know that this book has put a bad taste in my mouth after only say 50 pages, then why should I have to suffer through the rest.  It’s going to put me off reading for a while.  I’ll be afraid to pick up another bomb like that book.

We already know we didn’t like it: after all, we did give up on it. Besides, Goodreads may be an online community, but it provides its users with customized recommendations. And when we give a book a one-star rating, we are sending the Goodreads algorithm a clear message: this book was awful. Brutal, but also useful.

I agree with “Jenny” who says the above, she is also in Cecilia’s book club.  Plus as Cecilia mentions in the full posting, then I won’t get other books like this recommended to me.

Abandoned Books
Abandoned Books

I don’t give up on many books, but it does happen.  My solution for this is to create a custom bookshelf called “abandoned”.  This is my compromise.  I get to rank a book I could not finish, but I will let you know that I didn’t complete the book by putting it on this shelf.  This shelf is the worst of the worst.  Marked read, given 1 star and put on the abandon self.  Done and done.

Do you rate the books you don’t finish?  Let me know below in the comments.