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Guest: Using Goodreads to Find Friends' Recommendations

Courtesy of Mike | Reading Mike | Originally posted 2.11.2012

One Way to Get Book Recommendations from Friends Without Their Knowledge

A while back on Fiftyfifty.me they posted a theme idea about recommendations. I'll admit that since I already have such a large to-read list, I generally just nod and smile politely when a book is recommended to me. Occasionally there is an exception, like from my mom or brother. Although truth be told their last few recommendations are still sitting on my bedside table, unread. Or if someone recommends something already on my to-read list, the book may be bumped closer to the front of the list.

The Fiftyfifty post is correct, recommendations aren't for the weak of heart. For book lovers, you run the risk of discovering someone you know has terrible literary taste. Or, perhaps worse for the book snob, someone you know is better read than you are. But it also represents a challenge to broaden your horizons.

The other day, while browsing some friends' lists on Goodreads, I had an idea. I noticed each of these friends, when comparing books we both had rated, were never more than one star off on our ratings. Sure, sometimes my five star book was only a four for them, and the book I thought was a two made it to three in their rating, but we were never that different. It made me wonder what I would think of their favorite, five star books.

What I decided to do, instead of asking for a favorite, was semi-randomly select a five star book from these three friends on Goodreads. I say semi-randomly because, in order to make it a bit of a challenge, I wanted to make sure these were books not already on my to-read list. They needed to be books I probably wouldn't read normally.

So I now have three new books checked out from the library. The first was a five star book from my college friend. We sat through many physics classes together, but I also enjoyed discussing books with her. I recognized several of those books on her list, but I settled on Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson, a survival story of a mountaineer in the Andes. I've heard coworkers discussing this book, and the movie based on it, before, but I was never motivated to pick it up.

The second was from my cousin. Almost everyone in our extended family is a reader, so I knew my cousin would have some good books on her list. I chose The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. This book has popped up here and there in reviews and blogs I've read, and while it's looked interesting, I've never considered reading it before. Based on her review, it looks like my cousin really enjoyed this book.

Last was from my brother. This was a bit harder to pick since a lot of his five star books are already on my to-read list, or at least they are books I could see myself picking up on my own. I've noticed our tastes aren't that different, although growing up he leaned more towards the fantasy side of things, where I read more sci fi. Anyway, I picked Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory.

I have read Graham Greene before. The one I remember was The End of the Affair, which was well written, but failed to make me care about the mentioned affair or its end. My brother, a self proclaimed Greene fan, says that one was probably his least favorite, but The Power and the Glory was much better. I said at the time that I would be willing to give Greene another go, but I've never felt the desire to pick up one of his books since then. We will see how this goes.

I'll admit I'm looking forward to reading these books. It should be an interesting twist to the fiftyfifty challenge.

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