10 Goodreads hacks for homeschoolers, home-edders and all book loving families

“When I was in second grade, I discovered the Hardy Boys series. Ever since, I’ve loved to read — both for fun and to improve my mind. And I’m always looking for the next great book.”

– Otis Chandler, co-founder of Goodreads.

And so, he and his wife Elizabeth built a website. Or more than a website…

Goodreads is a book lovers paradise. The place to log all the books you’ve ever read and want to read. The ultimate reading resource for all families with children. Whether you home-educate or not, goodreads has so many features you’re bound to be bowled over by its bookish beauty.

What is goodreads?

Goodreads is a site where you can create your own virtual library. Keep track of all the books you and your children are currently reading, have a permanent record of all those you’ve loved before and those you dearly want to get around to 🙂

It’s a social sharing site and so members must be 13 and over to join. But whether or not you have older children who’d like to create their own accounts, goodreads is an easy and enjoyable way of tracking your own and all the family’s reading. 

Getting started on goodreads

Signing up for an account at goodreads.com is easy, you’ll be guided through the whole process simply and quickly. You can manually create a log in or sign up with your account details from other sites like Google. It’s worth noting that goodreads is now owned by Amazon and so you can link your accounts if you choose.

Once you have a goodreads account, you’ll be invited to start adding books. And that’s where our helpful hacks come in.

We’ve been using goodreads now for about eight years, almost every day 🙂 In our family of 6, the only one who doesn’t have an account is our 7 year old, obvs she’s too young. But even without her own account, goodreads enables me to keep track of all her reading adventures.

And so, on with the hacks…

1. Start creating your own bookshelves

We all start with the same three shelves – read, currently-reading and want-to-read. Each book added to goodreads is placed on one of these exclusive shelves.  

But in addition to these, we’ve found it really helpful to create our own personalised shelves. A way to sort our books in our own special ways. So far, I’ve got over 40 different shelves, including a classics, poetry, and humorous-travel, mostly full of Bill Bryson and Dave Gorman that one 🙂 

But you can create bookshelves to suit any interests or help you sort your books in any way. One of my daughters has an I-cried shelf, and the other I-wanna-suck-your-blood (ahh, the vampire phase), while my son loves his star-wars shelf.

Some useful shelves to start with might be audiobooks, read-alouds, home-education and parenting books. 

2. Add shelves for each of your children

Each year I start a new shelf for each of my two youngest children. Although my son has his own goodreads account he doesn’t always add in the books we read together and so I like to keep my own record. 

As we’re very early in January, my 2020-read-with-*daughter* shelf only has 4 books on it, while my 2020-read-with-*son* stands at just the one. Don’t worry though, they’ll soon fill up. Our 2019-read-with… shelves had 193 and 38 books on them respectively.

Keeping a hand-written book log of all those titles could be enough to put them off reading altogether. Luckily, now we don’t have to write them all out by hand. We don’t even have to type them, but more on that in hack number 4 🙂 Back to those shelves…  

3. Expand those exclusive shelves

When we create personalised shelves, books can appear on as many as we choose. So, along with my read shelf, all the Harry Potter books have a place on my audiobooks, fiction and read-more-than-once shelves, as well as various year and children shelves where we’ve read them together.

But remember those first three shelves we started with. The exclusive ones. You’ve either read it, are currently-reading it, or want-to-read it. Simple. Well, maybe.

What about those books you just can’t bring yourself to finish, or would dearly love to, but just don’t have the time right now. What to do with them?

That’s where an abandoned or paused shelf might come in really handy. Or maybe you’d like a currently-listening shelf? Just click on the edit shelves feature and tick the exclusive box, that way any book that has been abandoned can’t also be added to read, currently-reading, or want-to-read.

4. Scan all your books

This setting up a goodreads library lark might be starting to feel like a lot of work. But remember my promise in hack number 2… ‘we don’t even have to type them in’

It’s true, my friends. The goodreads app contains a cool scan feature that’ll help you bulk out your bookshelves in no time.

Simply scan the barcode, or even just the front page of any book. And they’ll magically appear ready to be sorted into their appropriate houses shelves 🙂

Occasionally the scan might reveal, ‘No books found!’ Usually a quick manual search will locate the slippery customer. But if that brings you no closer to finding your favourite folio then don’t give up…

There is always a way, Wooley.

– Commander Cody, Clone Wars, Season 1

I share some ways round this in Part 2. But for now, let’s keep scanning…

5. Scan while you’re out and about

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you could be scanning more books 🙂 For years I kept written notes of books I’d seen and wanted to read. Then I moved onto phone notes, and then photos.

But all I really needed was the goodreads app and now I can scan any books, anytime, in the library, at a friends house, in the bookshop. And *mindblown* they’ll be right there patiently waiting for me on my want-to-read shelf.

But for those of us who love reading A LOT, that want-to-read shelf is likely to get pretty over-crowded, pretty soon. While goodreads doesn’t mind how many books we add to our collection, there’s only so much scrolling we can deal with. So, you know what you need to do…

6. Sort your want-to-read shelf

Want to avoid complete overwhelm at the sight of 336 books on your want-to-read shelf? Yep, that’s my current total. So many books, so little time 🙂

Well, just the other day, I had an epiphany.

‘An ‘epiphany’ in case you have yet to have one, is when someone encounters truths about life with which they were previously unfamiliar.’

Maryrose Wood, The Hidden Gallery. Book 2 of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.*

It came to me, or to be honest, I realised my daughters had been doing this for years.. Whenever we scan books to our want-to-read, how great would it be if we also added them to another shelf. A shelf that’s going to jog our memory later, and provide vital clues on why we added it.

Perhaps we want to-buy-for-Johnny or want-to-read-with-Jess or remember all the books recommended-by-Julia.

We might be gathering ideas for our reading-around-the-world-challenge or sourcing some super scrummy-shakespeare-studies. We can simply add them to an existing shelf. Or create a new one right there and then.

That’s all well and good I hear you say. But, what if your want-to-read shelf has already got way out of hand? When you have some serious sorting issues, you’re going to love the batch edit function.

From your want-to-read shelf, click on batch edit and you can choose another shelf, perhaps your want-to-read-with-Jack. Select all the titles you’d like to add to this shelf and away they’ll go. Well, not strictly away, they’ll remain safely on the original shelf too.

But now we’ve got that additional shelf to help remind us, say 2 years down the line when we’re wondering why on earth did we think we wanted to read this? Yep, been there, done that 🙂

*Though jolly useful, thankfully my epiphany wasn’t of the magnitude I suspect Penelope Lumley will likely face in the later books. We’re loving the Incorrigibles at the moment and would highly recommend them. I love them. Both my 7 and 21 year old daughters love them. And now my sister-in-law’s on board too. And we’re both a little bit beyond the 21 mark. Wonderful books to read aloud that we can enjoy just as much as our children, perfect 🙂

7. View multiple shelves.

And when we’re working through that reading-around-the-world-challenge we might want to check out the ideas we had way back when. But now we’ve added all the books we’ve already read for the challenge to the shelf as well. And we don’t want to go trawling through a zillion books.

The multiple shelves feature helps us identify what books appear on specific shelves. We can filter out the read books and see only those that we’ve marked as BOTH want-to-read and reading-around-the-world-challenge.

Select the challenge shelf and scroll to the bottom of your list of bookshelves. Choose multiple shelves, add whichever shelves you want, in this case want-to-read and now we have a nice tidy pile of all the books we’ve been considering for the challenge.

8. Find bucketloads of new books

And books you actually want to read 🙂 The goodreads site has so many ways to find recommendations for books, you’ll never be at a loss for what to read again. 

  • Recommendations section

Under the Browse tab, you’ll find your own personalised recommendations section. Here you’ll get tons of suggestions for books goodreads thinks you’ll like based on the books you’ve added to each shelf. 

  • Readers also enjoyed

Check out your favourite books on goodreads and in the top right hand corner you’ll find the Readers also enjoyed section. On individual book pages you can also find other books in the same series or by the same author, nice 🙂

  • See what your friends are reading 

If you know that one of your friends has the most excellent taste in books, go check out what they’re reading or have recently added to their bookshelves. This only works if you’re goodreads friends and not just real lifey friends, although once they hear about goodreads they might want to join you on there and then you can…

  • Get recommendations from friends 

If your friends have been bending your ear for the last six months about how you really must read some Brandon Sanderson. Sound like very good friends to me 🙂 Then ask them to send you a link. Again, top right hand side of the book page, it’s easy-peasy to recommend any books to your friends and send them a nice wee message explaining why you just know they’ll love it.   

There are oodles more ways to get great book recommendations on goodreads and I share more of my faves in Part 2. But for now, I’m pretty sure these’ll keep you going.

But how can you be sure these recommendations are any good?

9. Get the lowdown on any books 

Every book on goodreads has it’s very own power page packed full of useful and interesting information. Publication dates, formats, links to author info, ISBN numbers and even how many pages it has. 

And if you’re keen to know whether or not it’s worth investing your valuable time or money on a particular book, you can check out the cover, read a short synopsis and see at a glance ratings and reviews from your friends and other goodreads users.

10. Join the annual reading challenge

If we want our children to love reading then what better way to inspire them to pick up a book than to get reading ourselves. The annual reading challenge at goodreads allows you to set a target number of books you’d like to read in a year.

As the year marches on, you can see just how many books you’ve read, how far ahead or behind schedule you are and just what proportion of the challenge you’ve completed.

There’s even a snazzy stats page ‘Your year in books’ that lets you know how many pages you’ve read and how popular your books are with the rest of the goodreads community. And if you love stats head over to Part 2, 10 more goodreads hacks for homeschoolers, home-edders, and all book loving families.

Do you love goodreads? What’s your favourite feature? Let me know in the comments below.

Have a wonderful week, and keeeep reading 🙂

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