Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer
Newsletter 1

My Goodreads Wish List: Four Features I’d Love To See

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Claire Handscombe


Claire Handscombe moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but actually – let’s be honest – because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan, and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives. She also hosts the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show of news and views from British books and publishing. Blog: the Brit Lit Blog. Twitter: @BookishClaire

I’ve used Goodreads for years now, and I love it—it’s not primarily where I go to interact with other readers (that happens mostly on Litsy and Twitter for me), but it’s a great place to record all the comings and goings of my reading life and to see how I’m doing with my challenge of getting through 50 books per year.

My life was changed in a small but not unimportant way earlier this year when the Reading Glasses podcast mentioned that it’s possible to sort Goodreads book lists by number of pages. I am, in general, a fan of shorter books, and particularly so when I’m trying to get ahead of my goal for the year or catch up when I’ve slipped—so that’s a feature that’s particularly useful to me in deciding how to prioritise my reading. (If you want to experiment with this, too, go to the “my books” tab and click “settings”—you’ll see a ton of items you can add to your lists, number of pages among them—and then when you view your book lists, you can click the arrow next to “number of pages” to sort your books in ascending or descending length order.)

But there are other features I’d love to see on Goodreads.

Half stars

This is by far the one I’ve wished for hardest and longest, and the one I see others mentioning most, too. In general, I only want to give five stars to extraordinary books, ones that completely blow me away, like Christina Haag’s Come to the Edge. Four stars, for me, is high praise—it’s a “this is a great book I’d recommend to others with no hesitation”—and even three is “I enjoyed this”. I’d love to have a four and a half rating for “this was amazing, but it’s not a five”, because to my mind, only a very few deserve a five and I want those books to have their own category. And in the three to four star range, there’s huge variation for me, from “this was fine to lie around the pool with” to “I’ll be recommending this for years”.

Private ratings and reviews

I’d also feel freer to use the whole range of stars if I knew that authors would never see the one-, two-, or even three-star ratings, or if I knew it wasn’t going to impact the overall score of the book. Three stars, for me, is a positive review, and Goodreads itself says it means you liked a book—but authors see it differently. I interact with authors a lot and seek to be a good literary citizen, and—let’s be honest—want everyone to give my novel good reviews one day, so it’s basically meant that if I’m not going to give a book a 4 or a 5, I don’t give it any stars at all. Which means Goodreads loses value for me—it’s no longer the place where I can record all my experiences with a book. And the same goes for comments—I’d love to be able to note down my thoughts for my own reference, without necessarily shouting about them to the world.

More specific, customisable, yearly challenges

I love watching the little bar that shows my progress on my yearly challenge. But all the Goodreads challenge does is record the number of books read in a year. I’d like to be able to add extra little bars for books by authors of colour, books by Brits, backlist, and books I already own, for example. (Oooh, and if the whole thing could be converted into a nifty graph at the end of the year, showing month by month progress on each goal, that would be even better.)

“On this day”

It’d be great to be able to go back, Facebook style, and see what I was reading on any given date in a previous year. It might remind me of books I’d forgotten, show me how my reading has evolved, or give me another chance to plug a book I love by tweeting out a screenshot: five years since I read this and life has never been the same! There are books that split life into “before” and “after” like that.  It would be great to have one more way to celebrate their impact on my life.