Susana has recently written a great post, “Do I Want to Read My Goodreads Recommendations?“, where she explored whether her Goodreads recommendations appealed to her. She was inspired by Sophie‘s video “If Goodreads was a dating App”, and I felt curious to try something similar.
I used to log on Goodreads most of the books I read, as well as my tbr and my wishlist. In 2021, I decided to delete my data, and only kept the books I had written about on this blog. I just didn’t want to keep all my reading data public, and, since I already log my books on my spreadsheet, the app was not useful to me. So, it is possible that it will recommend me books I already read but did not log. Let’s see.
Based on my Favourites Shelf, Goodreads recommends me 40 books. Like Susana, I will not mention all of them here, but it was interesting to notice that:
a) 7 of 40 I had already read (& mostly liked):
- Adas Raum, by Sharon Dodua Otoo (2021)
- Mephisto, by Klaus Mann (1936)
- Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller (1949)
- Sprache und Sein, by Kübra Gümüşay (2020)
- Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges (1944)
- Der Untertan, by Heinrich Mann (1918)
- Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo (2019)
b) 9 of 40 were already on my tbr:
- Junge Frau, am Fenster stehend, Abendlicht, blaues Kleid, by Alena Schröder (2021)
- Business as Usual, by Jane Oliver (1933)
- Poor Things, by Alasdair Gray (1992)
- Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson (1938)
- A Far Cry from Kensington, by Muriel Spark (1988)
- Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell (2020)
- A Month in the Country, by J.L. Carr (1980)
- The Summer Without Men, by Siri Hustvedt (2011)
- Vanish in an Instant, by Margaret Millar (1952)
c) 4 of 40 were not on my tbr, but sounded like something I would enjoy:
- Poesía y Poética, 1911-1948, by Vicente Huidobro (2000)
- When I Sing, Mountains Dance: A Novel, by Irene Solà (2022. Original: Canto jo i la muntanya balla, 2019)
- We Made a Garden, by Margery Fish (1956)
- Varamo, by César Aira (1999)
The rest of the recommendations were oddballs I don’t think I will be adding to my tbr any time soon. So, out 40, only 4 were added to my tbr. 2 of them were written by authors I’ve read before & enjoyed: Huidobro and Aira.
One curious Goodreads feature, though, is that you can get a different set of recommendations for each of your shelves. The app also tries to justify why a particular book is being recommended. For instance, it suggested Junge Frau, am Fenster stehend, Abendlicht, blaues Kleid because I had read Anna Seghers’ Das siebte Kreuz & Tove Ditlevsen’s Childhood. Since I am fairly certain that Alena Schröder’s book is not a mix of these two, I believe the app takes into consideration other books read by the people who have read the same books as me. Or something along these lines.
All in all, the app recommendation feature was not particularly useful to me – and, to be honest, I never use it. I prefer to get my recommendations from people – book bloggers, booksellers, and friends. Let’s say I am bit of a luddite when it comes to books.
The cool kids seem to have migrated from Goodreads to Storygraph now, so I decided to try my hand at it, to know how it would fare in comparison. I exported my Goodreads data to the app, and got 30 reading recommendations. Again, I will not list all of them here, but I noticed that:
a) 9 of 30 I had already read (& mostly liked):
- The Lesser Bohemians, by Eimear McBride (2016)
- Chelsea Girls, by Eileen Myles (1994)
- The Female Man, by Joanna Russ (1975)
- The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing (1962)
- The Hour of the Star, by Clarice Lispector (1977)
- On Photography, by Susan Sontag (1973)
- Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, by Judith Butler (1989)
- Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866)
- The Mandarins, by Simone de Beauvoir (1954)
b) 3 of 30 were already on my tbr:
- The Last of Her Kind, by Sigrid Nunez (2005)
- Putney, by Sofka Zinovieff (2018)
- The Red Word, by Sarah Henstra (2018)
c) 1 of 30 was not on my tbr, but sounded like something I would enjoy:
- A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, by Janna Levin (2006)
The rest were oddballs I don’t think I will be adding to my tbr any time soon (such as Complex Variables for Scientists and Engineers: An Introduction…). Again, this app was not particularly useful to me, when it comes to book recommendations – out of 30, only 1 book was added to my tbr.
One curious Storygraph feature, though, is that it tries to label the books and match them according to what the app identifies as your reading taste (or your “reading mood“). For instance, the app says that I mainly read books that are “slow-paced, reflective, challenging, and emotional“. And then, it goes on to recommend me books that fit these categories.
According to Storygraph, for example, Crime and Punishment is “dark, reflective, and slow-paced“. The app goes on to add that the book is character-driven and does not feature a diverse cast of characters. As for the question whether Crime and Punishment features “loveable characters“, the app says: “it’s complicated“. This way of labelling books just sounds laughable to me – but, then again, I am a luddite. I am cranky. And I am definitely not one of the cool kids. Soon, I will be extinct.
Do you use Goodreads and/or Storygraph? What do you think about their book recommendations?
How do you come to new books and what makes you curious to read them?
Have you read any of the books these apps recommended to me?