The Best of the Social Media Apps

The most useful and benign social media app could just encourage you to be a little smarter or at least more well read.

So here’s a resolution that’s worthy of your attention and effort: read more.

As a teacher, I spend a lot of my days encouraging people — mainly the youth, but you’d be surprised — to read more than just their iPhones, Twitter feeds, and cursory looks at headlines. One of the best ways to lose yourself — and maybe forget about this horrid world or discover more about its depths — is through a book. And, like I tell my students, it’s not that you don’t like reading; it’s that you haven’t found the book, magazine, essay, or collection that speaks to you, but it’s out there. There’s a book out there for everyone.

Which is why Goodreads is by far the best social media site and app out there.


If hearing about Goodreads is new to you, first of all, it’s not a full-blown social media site/app like you’d think when your hear the sometimes dreaded words Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Goodreads is more of a site designed for you, a reader or prospective one, to create lists (or bookshelves, as the app appropriately calls them) of what you’ve read, what you want to read, and what you’re currently reading. But just like most social media, you add friends. When you do, you can see what they’re reading, have read, or want to read. It’s a great way to come up with ideas about what to read next if you’re ever stuck, like many folks, with that question, “But what should I read?”

My favorite aspect of the app is the “Want to Read” shelf that’s standard with an account (though you can change your shelves to be called whatever you wish and can create many more of them). The “Want to Read” shelf is perfect for that person, like me, who completely blanks on what to buy at the book store or check out at the library. The “Want to Read” shelf also allows you to play with the order of the list. You can organize it by the order you think you’d like to read the books (I find myself playing around with this order a lot), by their average ratings from Goodreads users, by the date you added it to the shelf, and other fun ways.

Goodreads also allows users to rate books out of five stars as well as write short or lengthy reviews, another great feature. I have found over time that I tend to agree with the average rating. Normally, if a book averages around 3.60 or above by Goodreads users, I’ve liked it. That’s not always the case, and it’s interesting to venture out and read a book in order to see exactly why it scored so low (or so high). Plus, you can see what your specific friends have thought about books that they’ve either recently read or old and on their “Read” shelf.

One of the first things I did when I created an account was listed all the books that I had read before (that I could remember) and gave them rating. That allowed the app to create recommendations for me on what it thought I’d like to read, though I find that friends’ suggestions and opinions can be more reliable than the app’s algorithm.

Finally, it being the beginning of the year, a nice feature among many is that the app lets you set a reading goal for the year and reminds you to keep going. I set mine at the low goal of 11 so that I can actually reach it this year.

I suppose that I’ve suggested the app to so many friends in the past few years that they likely think I have stock in it. (I don’t.) There are some downsides to it. Unless it’s improved, the only real way to create your account is on a computer, and even then, finding friends can be tricky unless you connect it to your Facebook account, which I’ve seen no drawbacks from doing. It does send you a daily email, which you can easily opt out of receiving, though I like getting them rather that relying on reading the newsfeed on the app. And the more you use the app, the better it seems to be for the user.

In this day and age of “fake news” and uninformed opinions, we all need to be reading more, whether it’s to get lost in another world or to elucidate ourselves the best way possible: seeking out the knowledge of the well researched and viewpoint beyond our sphere of the well written. Goodreads is one way to start figuring out what to read next. It’s one of the most benign social media apps out there, worth the space on your smart phone.

So when you do get it up and running, find me.

Let’s talk about what you’ve been reading.



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