Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reading, Reviewing, and Sharing a Love of Books

This weekend I've thought a lot about books.  We'll blame that on my sister, Sam.  Over Thanksgiving visits, Sam sent me the link to saying, "You'll like this."  Trusting sisterly judgement and always intrigued by things having to do with books and reading, I gave it a whirl.  And a whirl.  And another one, just for good measure.  Wow - I spent literally hours on this website.  Score one for Sam.

So, the basic premise, for those of you like me who've managed to never see this website before, is sort of like a cross between Facebook and your own personal record of what you've read, when you've read it, and how you felt about it.  Once you get logged onto your account, you can create a list of books that you have read.  You get to rate them up to 5 stars, and if you feel loquacious, you can even write a review about how your felt or summarize the book so you'll remember it later. 

Then, enter the friends.  You can connect with friends already on the website, but, if that's not enough social networking for you, you can hook into your Twitter and Facebook feeds.  I did this, and now apparently every time I even update what page I'm on or rate a book, it Tweets for me.  (We may have to rethink that, because I'm a voracious reader, and that might get to be too much for my fellow twitter-ers). 

Another plus - reviews.  If you're a reader like me, you probably talk about reading with your other reader-friends.  You know who they are - the people that also read for pleasure and can plough through books like nobodies business.  For years, my reading experiences have included:  reading all the books by favorite authors (and eagerly awaiting the next), slumming to new shelves in the library and just picking up books whose brightly colored spines caught my attention, OR.....getting book suggestions from my fellow readers.  Once  you're in the "reading" group, you quickly develop those friends with whom you pass books around and around and around with.  Some of my books go to 4 people before coming back to me, and I'm on the receiving end as well.

Well, with this new website, now there are more options for reviews.  Of course, it's a "smart" website, which means it will take into account books you've already read and how you rated them, and then give you the computer's pick of what you might like.  (It's scary how accurate that computer is).  But, then you have all your online friends.  You get to see what they are reading and how they rate and review books, which gives you a good idea if you'd like to read it as well.  You might even find some of your favorite authors, and see what they are reading or what they've recommended.  Score!

One of the feature's that Sam mentioned to me that caught my attention was Give-Away Books.  Wow.  Someone gives away books for you to read and review?  Sounds like my kind of thing (well, I guess depending on topics).  So, I decided to check this out.  Sure enough, when I went to look on their page, there were 28 pages of multiple listings of all sorts of books that are being given away.  Now, it's kind of like a drawing.  You choose which books you are interested in and submit your name.  And then, if you get chosen out of the hundreds or sometimes thousands of entrants, you'll get a book.  I love the phrasing in the rules for how winners are chosen: "If more people are interested in a book than there are copies available, we will pick the winners at our discretion. The factors that go into our algorithm are: randomness, site activity, genre of books on your shelves, current phase of the moon, and more."  I've tried what I could to improve my chances of being chosen (rated lots books of several different genres that I've read, written several reviews, and participated on the website a lot.  Fingers crossed.)

Back to my activities that kept me on the website for so long.  First of all, I chose some of my favorite authors, and went back and rated all the books I could remember off the top of my head that I'd read.  That number climbed amazingly high - quickly into the hundreds.  You're supposed to write when you read the book.  Most, I'm afraid, I left blank.  Who remembers when you first read a book?  Especially one you're reread many many times because you love it?  (Some of them I cheated, and looked on to see when I reviewed or bought the book, but not many - that takes a lot of time).  So, as of right now, my number is up to a respectable 400+ books.  I have many more than that on my shelves alone, not even thinking of library books or borrowed books, or even books at school.  But it's a start.

Then I searched around.  Joined a few book discussion groups about topics or authors that I'm interested in.  Also - found some of my authors on the site, so followed them to see what they are up to and what they are reading.  Checked to see if any of my friends were on the site (no they aren't - or I'd already know about this this).  Invited a few select bookish friends to join to play with me.

However, the real time-hog are the quizzes.  Based on books you've read, there are quizzes available created by other members that test your knowledge of what you have read.  Now, I'll be the first to admit, when I read a book I am totally in the book, experiencing it.  When I love it, not a lot of deep thinking going on.  That may be why I can reread the books over and over again.  Objectively I do know what is going to happen next, but I re-experience it each time.  But, with some of the books that I've reread a lot, or studied, or are the basis for many literary themes - I do know a lot of details.  So, that is pretty addicting and fun for me to try that.  Not that I'm amazing at the quizzes by any means.  There is one quiz - the Never Ending Book Quiz.  It has thousands, if not more, questions.  I think it just picks a random set for you to try until you get tired.  And your scores just accumulate.  You can skip if you don't know the answer (well, you should, if you are in this for the scores).  Just last night I got on this, and there went a couple of hours.  600 questions later, my score is in the 50% range.  However, I did amaze myself with how much I remembered from classical literature and my school days (and how much I could somehow intuitively guess).  Because most of those questions were not about books I would choose to be quizzed over.  LOL.

So - if you are a reader, and interested in playing on a website with other fellow readers, look me up.  I'm the one that is always reading. 

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