How I Use Goodreads to Organize My Books

May 11, 2015

A few days ago, I was listening to the most recent episode of the Read-Aloud Revival. Sarah Mackenzie and Allison Burr were answering reader/listener questions, one of which was, "How do you organize your books?" I have to admit, I was stunned to find out that neither of them use Goodreads as a way to keep track of which books they've read, want to read, etc. It might sound silly, but for me, reading and using Goodreads go hand in hand.

I joined Goodreads in 2008, and during the last seven years, it has been an indispensable tool for organizing my books. I don't know what I'd do without it (I guess I wouldn't be reading as many books, that's what). I'm not going to claim that Goodreads is for everyone (obviously, Sarah and Allison have found some other ways that work for them), but if you are already using Goodreads or are thinking of trying it out, I thought I'd share a few of the ways I use it to help me keep track of everything I've read and want to read.

How to Use Goodreads as a Book-Organizing Tool


Use the to-read, currently-reading, and read shelves

When you join Goodreads, they give you three shelves: a "to-read" shelf for books you want to read, a "currently-reading" shelf for books you're in the middle of, and a "read" shelf for books you've finished. These shelves are exclusive, which means that a book can only be on one of them at any given time. I love watching my reading progression, so I use all three shelves pretty diligently, and most of the books I read do the full migration from "to-read" to "currently-reading" to "read." Unless you're up to my level of nerdiness, you might not feel it necessary to use the currently-reading shelf, but the other two are really wonderful tools.

I used to spend a lot of time wondering, "What should I read next?" and I often ended up with poorly written, disappointing books that I had haphazardly grabbed off the library shelf. I never could remember my friends' recommendations when it was time to choose a new book. But Goodreads has solved that problem. Now, as soon as I hear about a book that sounds like something I would like, I add it to my "to-read" list. 337 books later, the only problem I have now is deciding which of all those great choices to read next. And that is a problem. (I know some of you limit how long you let your to-read list get, but I can't seem to do that.)

I also keep my "read" shelf up-to-date with all the books I've finished. Have you ever had someone ask you if you've read any good books lately, and you know you have, but for the life of you, you can't think of a single one? My "read" shelf helps my faulty memory. Also, I get an inordinate amount of pleasure in transferring a book from "currently-reading" to "read." It feels like I've accomplished something.

Add more exclusive shelves

One of the best things I ever did was add more exclusive shelves to my bookshelves. For a long time, I couldn't figure out how to keep track of all the pictures books we were reading or wanting to read. I didn't want to put them on my "read" shelf because that skewed my book count, but I also didn't want to forget about them.

For awhile, I considered just creating a separate account (or making a Word document for those books), but that seemed like so much hassle. Plus, there were other books I didn't know how to shelve, like ones I'd left unfinished for one reason or another. Which shelf should I put those books on? Or should I just delete them from my account completely? If I couldn't use Goodreads for all my books, then why bother with it at all?

And then I realized I could add more exclusive shelves. In an instant, my life changed for the better. It's really easy. Here's how:

On the home page, click on My Books.

How to Use Goodreads as a Book-Organizing Tool

Then go over to the left-hand side where your bookshelves are listed and click on "edit."

How to Use Goodreads as a Book-Organizing Tool

Type in the name of your new shelf, and add it.

How to Use Goodreads as a Book-Organizing Tool

Find the new shelf and go over to the column labeled "exclusive." Make sure it is check-marked.

How to Use Goodreads as a Book-Organizing Tool

And that's it! Now that shelf will be listed with your other exclusive shelves. When you find a book you want to add, simply go over to the book icon under the picture of the cover, and a little drop down list will appear. Select your new shelf from the list!

How to Use Goodreads as a Book-Organizing Tool

Categorize books

Besides exclusive shelves, I also add a lot of other non-exclusive shelves that help me organize and label all the books I've saved. Since these shelves are not exclusive, you can have as many of them checked at a time as you want. So, for example, if I wanted to add Neighborhood Sharks, I would first put it on my exclusive "picture book read" shelf, and then I would also click a few of the other shelves I've already created, like "animals," "educational," and "nonfiction picture books," so that in a few months when I'm looking for some great nonfiction picture books that we've already read and loved, I can go right to that shelf and find all the books I've labeled like that with one click.

How to Use Goodreads as a Book-Organizing Tool

It's extremely easy to add more shelves. Sometimes when I'm adding a new book, I might think, I want to remember that this was a great book about the seasons. If I don't already have a seasons shelf, then I hover over the book icon under the cover image and go to the bottom of it where it says, "Add shelf."

How to Use Goodreads as a Book-Organizing Tool

I click on it and then type in a new label. Then I save it so I can use it both right then and in the future.

Keep track of the books I own and the books I want to buy

Two of my shelves that I really love are labeled, "current home library" and "future home library." If we read a particularly good picture book that I would love to own someday, then I check "future home library" when I'm categorizing it. It takes all of half a second, and it saves me so much time when Christmas and birthdays roll around. I don't have to wrack my brain trying to remember which picture books I want to purchase for our collection. I simply click on "future home library," and they're all right there. (I also love having it for those times when my mom says, "Is there a book your kids would like for Easter?" Why yes, take your pick.)

How to Use Goodreads as a Book-Organizing Tool

The current home library shelf helps me remember what we have so we don't end up with duplicate books. It's also a great shelf for seeing which books we liked so much we decided to give them a coveted spot in our home library. These are our favorite-favorite-favorite books.

Are you a Goodreads fan? If so, do you have any great tips or tricks for organizing your books? I'd love to hear about them!

8 comments:

  1. I love Goodreads, these are great tips! I agree that adding more exclusive shelves can really boost organization. You gave me some food for thought on better ways I can organize my ever-growing use of GR, too. Great post!

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    1. Monika - I bet you have some great tips as well! I'd love to hear about how you get the most out of Goodreads!

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  2. I hadn't thought about adding new exclusive shelves, but that's a great idea. DNFs have been bugging me in particular.

    Hey, how is books-aaron-read exclusive? It won't be long before you'll need more shelves for the other boys, and sooner than you think you and he will be recommending books to each other. Of course, by then he'll probably have his own account.

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    1. You are so right, Beth! That shelf has been bothering me for awhile. I think I'm just going to have to change it to "Boys Independent Reading" or something like that and then have non-exclusive shelves for Aaron and each of his brothers. That way I can keep track of who has read which book, but I don't have to have "Captain Awesome" on MY "read" shelf. :-)

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  3. Thanks a bunch, I have been wondering how to better organize my shelves. I did not know about the exclusive option.

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  4. Hi! I came here from FB when Sarah Mackenzie linked to this post. Thanks for the tips! I usually use Goodreads from the app on my Kindle amd I can't figure out how to follow other people. Is that something I can only do from the full site?

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  5. This is so great! Thanks, Amy! :)

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