Umm… No! 5 GoodReads Myths Debunked

12 May, 2012 Musing Musers 85 comments

GoodReads logoAh, GoodReads. I can’t deny that I love that site. It’s where both Kat and I first entered into the big world of reviewing before we started blogging. And even today we are very active there partially because we are crazy addicted and we have no lives. But seriously, there is no better site to get great book recommendations and find hidden gems. It’s a gold mine full of people who love books just as much as I do.

Of course, with every person who says they LOVE GoodReads, there is another who would find no greater happiness than watching the site burn to the ground. They’d probably even dance on the ashes like it’s no tomorrow Footloose style. At first, I couldn’t understand it, but I’ve been watching the author meltdowns, tantrums and the like for a while now and I think I have it figured out. GoodReads has this reputation, especially in Young Adult land. There are these preconceived notions about what GoodReads is or rather, what it should be. Unfortunately, all this does is detract from an awesome experience with fellow book geeks. And dammit, I’m a little tired of it all because you think you know, but you have no idea. So maybe we should sit back and talk about this. Maybe we should all join hands in a circle and search our feelings. Wait, does that sound lame? Okay, well how about I just do a (possibly) humorous run-down and debunk some myths? Yes?

1. Professionalism

Myth: GoodReads reviews should be professional and unbiased. Being the good reviewing site that it is, it’s full of professional reviews giving feedback on books that will always help other readers with purchasing a book. The reviews found there are concise and to the point, never overly harsh or snarky. It is their duty and the only way to be taken seriously.

Truth: *runs out to check mailbox* Damn, it looks like the Big Six forgot to mail out my check. Again. Look, the reality is GoodReads reviewers are not getting a paid for what they do. Hell, I wish I did get paid for reviewing books on that site. Maybe then I’d have a more plausible explanation for being on there at the strangest hours of the night. No, scratch that. I like that I work for no one. It allows me to not have to play the Be Nice rule. I don’t want to Be Nice, I want to be honest. We are all (mostly) normal people chatting about books. It’s a social networking site where readers gather together and either gush or bitch about books. Sometimes more bitching, depends on the day or alignment of the planets.

2. Yin & Yang

Myth: There are so many negative reviews on GoodReads, hardly any positive reviews.

Truth: There are positive and negative reviews to every book on GoodReads. Do some books have more negative reviews than others? Sure, but c’mon. Let’s be honest here. Not every star shines just as bright as another. Sometimes a book sucks. Hard. That’s not a reader’s fault. Blame Mufasa and the circle of life.

3.  Haters Gonna Hate

Myth: The ones that write those snarky reviews are all haters! They just love to hate and tear apart books for fun. They’re probably spawns from the Grinch and kick puppies just for laughs! Evil reviewers! I hope you step on a Lego!

Truth: Yeah, that’s right. We just love reading sucky books because we are haters. We climbin’ in your windows, snatchin’ all your books, tryna review ’em…  (<=== In case you missed it, that’s sarcasm.) The truth is we hate wasting our time. Who wants to sit around reading bad books all the time just to spend hours pouring over a keyboard tearing it to shreds? Not me. And I would say most reviewers don’t like writing negative reviews, but someone’s gotta write ’em. Not to mention we have lives. Outside of reviewing. I know, it surprises even me sometimes too.

4. Shit Stirrers

Myth: Those darn GoodReaders are always starting drama. They just love to stir shit up. Damn trolls.

Truth: *snort* Okay, I won’t sit here and deny that GoodReads doesn’t have a fair share of drama. It does. However, it’s not because they are actively seeking it. No one is huddled together like gremlins plotting their next big trollish prank. Now, of course, when drama does break out everyone and the Drama Llama’s gold-fish seems to flock to it faster than the Playboy bunnies to Hefner’s mattress. They just can’t help themselves.

5. The YA Mafia

Myth: The real problem with GoodReads is that there’s a group of reviewers that lead witch hunts against poor authors: The YA Mafia! *gasp*

Truth: “You’re so vain. You probably think this song is about you. Don’t you? DON’T YOU?!” Lolz. This one always makes me laugh. A YA Mafia?! Really? Lolz. Like the Godfather?

I think some give YA GoodReads reviewers a little too much credit. It surprises me to believe people actually think I would go out of my way to make someone else miserable. Do they envision us running after ogres shouting, “Grab your torch and pitchforks!” Hahaha! That would be pretty funny. But, real talk. No one is out to “get” anyone. They only time reviewers band together is if one if their own has been attacked by an author. In those cases, while there has been overreactions on both sides of the fence, there is no mafia. I mean, really. What’s the worst we can do? Shelve a book on our “Do Not Read” lists? Unfollow someone on Twitter?

Yes, that just screams world domination.

But… Just for kicks, if I were to lead a YA Mafia, I’d do that shit in style. We’d all go around dressing in badass, black suits, wearing shades even when it’s dark out. Then we’d carry these shiny, high-tech guns with tons of buttons specializing in blowing stuff up. You’d never see us coming because we’d be that good. Omg, I’m a freakin’ genius! Oh, wait…

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

85 Responses to “Umm… No! 5 GoodReads Myths Debunked”

  1. Nicola

    I LOVE this post! I love Goodreads and even though I enjoy the blogging world, GR will always be my ”place”. It’s such an awesome community and I hate when I see it being attacked. It’s actually been really interesting getting used to the blogging world. I just don’t see as many snarky reviews on blogs… and I love me some snark to validate my low opinion of a book. 😉
    Nicola recently posted…Review: Black Dawn by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires #12)My Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      I agree. GoodReads feels like “home.” I love meeting new people there and chatting with others. The blogging world is so different!

  2. Luan Pitsch

    I’m in the camp where I think Goodreads provides a great service for authors as well as readers in cyberworld. If you really like a book you can use Goodreads to link to an author site or blog.

  3. BarkLessWagMore

    I love Goodreads. I don’t what I was doing with all of my time before I discovered it. Oh wait, I know. I was actually reading. The drama however does get ridiculous but usually it begins with an author behaving very badly. They forget that Goodreads is populated by readers for the most part and that they can’t write out vitriol online, delete it and pretend it never happened. I do my best to stay out of it because there’s enough RL drama surrounding me already.

    I hate reading bad books but I have to admit writing those reviews are sometimes so much easier because they write themselves. The middle of the road books are the tough ones I agonize over.
    BarkLessWagMore recently posted…FMMFC: Documentary Film Review: The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      That is a great point. Negative reviews do seem to write themselves. I actually have to sit and think about positive reviews, but negative reviews? Piece of cake.

  4. Archer


    “I don’t want to Be Nice, I want to be hon­est.”

    This is my mantra. I’m so sick of people quoting these myths. It’s horse pucky! Without Goodreads there’d be very little honest interaction with readers. Cause let’s face it… Shelfari sucks ass
    Archer recently posted…Cinder by Marissa Meyer – ReviewMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      That is so true. LibraryThing and Shelfari have nothing on GoodReads. I think this also has to do with their sites not being very user friendly.

  5. SueCCCP

    I don’t quite understand why a reviewer is only supposed to be overly positive about every book they read. I look at some Goodreads reviewers and they give everything 5 stars, which always makes me wonder: do they simply not list the other books or are they afraid to express an opinion? If I find a book that I think is 5 stars, I will write a glowing review and annoy everyone I know by recommending it to them until they read it. Equally. if I can’t finish a book, or finding it really bad I will give it 1 star and say why. Many of my most critical reviews are for those books which show great potential but then mess it up somehow and end up being a 2 or 3 star review full of ‘if only’ comments.

    I always take reviews on Goodreads with a pinch of salt, just like those on Amazon, if I am unfamiliar with the reviewer, but it is certainly a wonderful place to waste hours of your life! 😀
    SueCCCP recently posted…Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie & Bob MayerMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      I do know that some bloggers won’t mention books they didn’t like on their blogs, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there are some GR reviewers who feel the same way.

      And I don’t read any of the Amazon reviews (even though I do post a few of my reviews there) because some are fake.

  6. Georgette

    Goodreads, to me, at least- is a great breeding ground for soon-to-be book bloggers. I would NEVER have entertained that idea until getting on the site in July,2010. Before that I laughed and said “Me? A blog?” Well, thanks to having the freedom to review books, positive or negative(I’m blunt to a fault, if I don’t like it, I’m going to say it, and hopefully people reading the review don’t take it as a witch hunt, for it’s not intended that way.), I gained the confidence to start a blog. People should be allowed to be positive or negative, there are good reviews, there are bad reviews, that’s how it works. I like the giveaways, even if you don’t win anymore past the first couple of months you’re on there. 🙂 And I love being able to interact with authors, publishers, and new friends about books. What better way to discover books if you do not interact with fellow booklovers? I like the design of Goodreads, and I think it’s a great medium. That people bitch, moan, and complain about it, well, I don’t get that at all.

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      I was the same. I would have NEVER began blogging if it hadn’t been for me getting a good start on GoodReads. I’ve grown so much as a reviewer. It’s really amazing.

  7. Cassi Haggard

    I don’t know about you but going to start climbing in people’s windows and reading their books. Stephanie I love this post. You’re spot-on about the worst we do is shelfing the books on goodreads.

    The truth about goodreads is its an excellent place where you can actually find reviewers with similar tastes based on comparing books and reading their reviews. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of finding books. I could write a whole love letter to goodreads (heck maybe I will!) for the difference it has made in my reading habits.
    Cassi Haggard recently posted…Follow Friday – Mothers Day editionMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Cassi Haggard:

      Lol! Climbin’ in the windows Pedward style!

      I love how I know if a few reviewers that have really close taste to my own dislike a book, I’ll probably feel the same way. It just frees up more time for me to hang out on GR!

  8. Sarah @ Smitten over Books

    “Some­times more bitch­ing, depends on the day or align­ment of the planets.”

    lol! I love Goodreads and even though I don’t really understand the angst about this site, I’d never stop using it. I would have never read almost all the books I have read now if I haven’t come across GR. So brava to Goodreads and the amazing reviewers for fueling up my reading addiction.
    Sarah @ Smitten over Books recently posted…Random Ramblings (17): TBR Overload! SOS!My Profile

  9. Fangs for the Fantasy

    So many good points here. I also wish that “professional” didn’t mean “not overly harsh or snarky” – especially since these sentiments seem to be held in far more regard than being HONEST

    People complain so much about negative reviews – but what value would positive reviews have if every review were positive? If someone had nothing but nice things to say about every book they’ve ever read I’d assume they’re a) lying or b) hogging all the good drugs

    And the Drama and the “mafia” comment tends to go together – half of the “drama” seems to come from authors and their fanpoodles flocking into to yap at someone who dared to disagree with their precious!
    Fangs for the Fantasy recently posted…Secret Circle. Season 1, Episode 22: FamilyMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Fangs for the Fantasy:

      Lol, the good drugs. I completely agree with you. Even the most professional reviewers are harsh, even harsher than some reviews that I’ve read or wrote myself. I’m not sure why people think the book world is excluded from that type of criticism.

  10. Cyna

    Hmmm…good post, except…this is exactly what the hate-mongering hater hate hate leader of the YA mafia *would* say!

    You almost had me!


    Anyway, I thought the mythical YA Mafia referred to the secret cabal of YA writers who wouldn’t let you get published if you were mean to their book? Are there TWO now? Someone needs a new title.
    Cyna recently posted…064 – All Just Glass by Amelia Atwater-RhodesMy Profile

  11. ExperimentBL626

    Those people may dislike GoodReads all they want (as it is entirely their right to do so) but they got to admit GoodReads is top place, beside Amazon, where readers go to read reviews. Nobody ever talks about LibraryThing or Shelfari or the publishers-built aNobii. Perhaps it is because GoodReads afford readers the highest level of freedom to express ourselves.

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      Excellent point. I haven’t even heard of aNobii. Shelfari is owned by Amazon, so I really don’t expect much from them. I do have an active Shelfari account since that is where I started before I discovered GR, but I love GR so much more.

  12. VAL.

    I thought that the term “YA mafia” was coined to refer to authors, not reviewers, because of their tendency to outwardly support each other, bash negative reviews, remind reviewers to “Be Nice” if they want a future in publishing, etc.

  13. Kate C.

    What a great post! It’s about time someone set the record straight. Although, I don’t tend to think of reviewers, but rather AUTHORS as the YA mafia. Seriously, I was surprised when you said that.

    I think it’s just because many (but not all) of the authors that try to take down or marginalize reviewers have large fan bases they can call on. Not to mention they can also call on their friend authors, agents and editors, as well. Reviewers have each other and that’s about it.
    Kate C. recently posted…I Must Have Been HighMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Kate C.:

      Oh, them too! I think the other mafia (reviewers) stems from the “do not read” mass shelving on GoodReads along with the screen caps and status updates.

  14. Mary @ Book Swarm

    I love GoodReads. I mean, there’s bound to be some drama because there are actual people doing the reviews and people reading them but, yanno, there’s some really good stuff on it. I love creating a “To Read” shelf, love checking out what other people thought about a book I loved or hated, and sharing my own reviews. And the whole YA mafia thing is so ridiculous. *rolls eyes* Whether it’s the authors or reviewers, ganging up on someone is so not cool. In my world, it’s called bullying.
    Mary @ Book Swarm recently posted…Speed date with Kayla: TANKBORN by Karen SandlerMy Profile

  15. Laura Hunsaker

    This post rocks so hard! I’ve only had some minor kerfuffles with authors on GR, but the odd thing is-both were YA books. O.o

    Also, I thought the YA Mafia referred to the authors, not the reviewers?

  16. Alexia561

    Great post! I always seem to miss the drama somehow, so feel left out. Can I subscribe to the YA Mafia newsletter so I’m in the know from now on? :p

    Love GR and always check reviews there, as I trust it a little more than Amazon. And Fangs is right that all positive reviews would be boring, not to mention lose any impact. We need the negative reviews so we can appreciate the awesome ones!
    Alexia561 recently posted…My Bookish Wants & GotsMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      The drama can get a little crazy at times from both parties. But the YA mafia accepts firstborn children or IOUs for initiation payments. Lol.

  17. Andrea K Host

    I love being told to “Be Nice”. Because among the various meanings of ‘nice’ is ‘precise’. So someone is inviting me to tell them exactly what I think!

    ‘Be professional’ is also an odd one, because among reviews, professional reviews contain some of the nastiest, most disdainful reviews I’ve ever seen. And they usually don’t bother to entertain me with funny gifs either.

    I like to use Goodreads – as a reader and as a writer. People have had a wide range of opinions of my books, but on a personal level (rather than an opinion of books level) no-one’s ever attacked me. I suspect authors who approach Goodreads as readers and use it as readers, get a lot more out of it.

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Andrea K Host:

      I like that thinking! Nice=precise. Every time I hear of being professional, thinking of Simon C. From American Idol. People really look up to and respect his opinion because he is an intense critic and usually right. He’s not known for being nice at all and is pretty rude.

  18. Keru Faye

    Goodreads is great. I don’t have many friends on there right now, but I like that I’m able to keep a list of all the things I’m going to read. I like the YA community that maybe one day I’ll become a part of (right now, I’m just a stalker).

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Keru Faye:

      I stalked GoodReads for a good while before I really became a part of the community and when I did everyone was very friendly. The ability to shelve my books however I like them is an invaluable tool. I read way more that I did now because of GoodReads.

  19. Rachel Hartman

    Late to the party, here (because I’ve been writing! Put down the stick, Archer!).

    But I just want to say: I am an author and I love GoodReads. And frankly, I love it FOR the heartfelt, personal, passionate, “unprofessional” reviews. As a writer, I want to know that real people read my book and had real, human reactions to it. I don’t need someone dispassionately analysing the imagery or themes. I know what imagery and themes it contains; I wrote the damn thing. I want to know how my book makes people FEEL.

    I have never seen so many people passionate about books in one place. It’s probably not surprising that there’s drama, with all those FEELINGS swirling around (and we authors are generally highly sensitive, emotional types as well). But I really believe it’s all to the good. How else are books, as a medium, going to survive if we aren’t passionate about them?
    Rachel Hartman recently posted…More nice newsMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Rachel Hartman:

      This is Exactky why I love it too. I love seeing everyone’s opinions, even on the books I happened to love. It’s a really great site when you just look at it of what it truly is: Readers sharing a passion for the written word.

  20. Jason

    Myths? *snort* Right. Can anyone say echo chamber?

    Congratulations, Stephanie! You and your friends have once again proven that you haven’t matured past the age of high school. But please, continue. It is highly entertaining to watch you embarrass yourselves online.

    • Kat Kennedy

      If you want to talk to us, you can always email us. But perhaps leaving abusive comments on our blog isn’t the best way to prove that we are the childish ones.

      • Jason

        @Kat Kennedy:

        Prove that you’re childish ones? I don’t have to. You’ve done that quite nicely on your own.

        What’s wrong, Kat? Don’t like dissenting opinions posted on your blog?

        • Kat Kennedy

          @Jason: Here is the point we’re at: you can either choose to stay and civilly point out things you disagree with for the sake of discussion like an adult.

          Or you can continue to be inflammatory and rude. If you choose wrongly then your comments will be routinely deleted without response.

          We have never minded people disagreeing with us, but we do ak that they refrain from being hostile and abusive on our own blog.

          • Jan

            @Kat Kennedy: I think Jason is right. Stephanie’s post shows a great deal of immaturity. Posting a gif flipping off people who disagree with you is something I would have done at age 13 and Stephanie is how old? So basically what you’re saying is that he is not welcome to post his opinion stating that he thinks that kind of behavior is extremely immature for a grown woman who is married with children.
            I’m sorry but I have to agree with him. It is extremely immature.

  21. Stephanie Sinclair


    Hi Jan,

    The thing is anyone is welcome to post their opinion whether it is in agreement or not. The problem comes into play when a person repeatedly comes to the site to insult us. That is what Jason does and it crosses the line. Furthermore, if you have a problem with the post or what .jpegs or .gifs I chose to use you can directly reply to me or email me. The above post is written with sarcasm. I suppose I was not aware that reaching a certain age, marital status and the decision to reproduce automatically voids the ability to do so. You may, however, choose to disagree as that is your right. But please do not presume to assume my maturity level.

  22. Sarah (saz101)


    Ugh… you know, with the nagative reviews? If anything, I’d say there’s more positive reviews, surely. With people gushing about books and loving them and… I need to stop leaving rambling comments while on cold medication… so… uh… *waves*
    Sarah (saz101) recently posted…Spirit Bound (Vampire Acaemy #5), Richelle MeadMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Sarah (saz101):

      I think you’re already a member. 😉

      And I agree! There are a bunch of positive reviews and ratings on GoodReads. Some people just seem to forget about them when a negative review pops up.

  23. Trish

    I actually started book reviewing through a blog first. Which probably wasn’t the greatest idea in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE blogging, but well… that sh*t is hard. And people are really nice. Reaaaaly nice. Sometimes I feel like reviewers are so nice and don’t give bad reviews for fear of upsetting an author. If there is more than a handful of one star reviews that reviewer is seen as mean and not followed.

    The drama thing on blogs spread like wild fire through Twitter. It’s pretty vicious. Guys, DON’T PET THE DRAMA LLAMA! Just don’t.

    Trish recently posted…Online Life vs. Real Life {and the reason I blog}My Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      The blogging world does see very different from GoodReads. People tend to be nicer on blogs with reviewing whereas GoodReads reviews can be very blunt and honest. It’s why I love the site. Because when I’m looking to buy a book I’m not concerned with if the reviewer help the author’s hand through the review. I want the skinny on if it’s worthmy time and money!

  24. KM

    The YA Mafia thing cracks me up. I’ve heard it references in a number of different contexts, referring to different groups of people. I still haven’t figured out who these people are actually supposed to be. Is there a list somewhere? Because if there is, I want to be on it! 😉

    I <3 Goodreads. I think it's my favorite social networking site for books, just because it's less about people's social lives (I'm looking at you, Twitter) and more about books…which is sorta what book blogging and all this jazz is about.
    KM recently posted…Book Haul [3]My Profile

  25. Holly

    I had no idea people hated Goodreads so much, it’s one of my favourite sites to visit and I can’t imagine handling my book habit without it :S
    Holly recently posted…In My Mailbox #87My Profile

  26. Laura DeLuna

    I am SOOOO glad that you aren’t another one of those “rainbows and ponies and everybody be nice and only write positive world because butterfly shit is what were all made of” types… I’m getting really sick of hearing about how the honest reviewers are all a bunch of “big bad meanie heads”. I mean really, what is this? Grade school? If I wanted to hear the five alarm about bullying nonsense then I would go hang out at my little sister’s school… or take a child development class or something.
    Laura DeLuna recently posted…Day Ninety-Eight After the BreakoutMy Profile

  27. Ula @ Blog of Erised

    Awesome post!
    I do think some reviewers are rather mean and could tone it down just a little, but most often than not it’s the touchiness of the other party, the author. They write a book and think it’s a masterpiece because their momma said ‘you’re special and this book is the best in the world’ so now everyone’s gotta love that shit. If it’s a crappy book, I’ll tell people so because that’s my thing. It’s the whole point of reviewing – you have + and – reviews and then read both and decide whether you wanna read a book or not. I wouldn’t even be kind if I got paid for that because it’s not about that. It’s about honesty. And I’m not gonna feel bad because some snowflake is too touchy to handle me not liking their book. SMH.
    People are riddikulus!

  28. Tony

    Very amusing and I suspect truthful!

    In my book reviews and discussions on my site I have found Goodreads reviews are a really good and quotable resource resource. When I go to my favourite secondhand bookstore in Canberra nowadays and need help I always use Goodreads on my phone when I come across anew author (and hate myself for doing it)!

    I’m just a beginner at Goodreads but I find it is a great site in many ways. Superb post.


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