How I Use Goodreads

January 13, 2020

(I will return to edit this post occasionally as I notice updates)

How I Use Goodreads (text over an open laptop, a pink potted flower and a cup of coffee)

Image Source: Canva

How I Use Goodreads

Are you a Goodreads Novice, Newbie, or a Pro?

Are you interested in learning more about Goodreads or in picking up some tips?

In this post, I promise that you will find the answers to at least two FAQ about Goodreads:

  1.  How do I shelve books that I do not finish (DNF) so that they don’t show up as read or in my Goodreads challenge total? Part two to the same question: How do I make an Exclusive shelf?
  2.  Why doesn’t a book I’ve read show up on my Read Shelf or on my Challenge?

Why I Like Goodreads:

  • I have my TBR with me at all times (because I also have the App on my phone)….this comes in handy at a bookstore or at a library.
  • If someone recommends a book, I can enter it immediately into Goodreads and not worry later about finding the note I wrote to myself.
  • When I sign up for the Challenge, it keeps a running total of books that I read.
  • I can organize my books on virtual bookshelves.
  • I have a record of the books I read so that I can refresh my memory.
  • I can share reviews with IRL friends and virtual friends.
  • I can join Goodreads Groups.

I’m NOT a pro, but I can definitely share how I use Goodreads. I know there’s more I can do, but for the moment I’m happy with my level of usage. I know enough to be comfortable.

If you have wanted to use Goodreads but don’t know where to begin maybe this post will be helpful. Most of what I’ve learned has been through trial and error….so don’t be afraid to jump in!

Or if you’re a Pro, please share a tip!

Important to Know:

There is a difference between the capabilities of the website version ( and the App. In the beginning, part of my frustration was trying to figure out how to make a few tweaks using the App, and it took a while to learn that some actions need to be completed on the website version. So, I keep both side by side on my iPad home screen now!


First, Sign Up For an Account.

  • You can do this in either version.

Create a Profile and a Goodreads Goal (a goal is optional).
You can actually set your account to private so that only your friends can see it. My Goodreads account is public because it’s connected to my blog outreach. But within the public setting, you can still make certain information private or visible to friends only.

goodreads profile

You can also set a numerical Goodreads Goal at the same time. The number can be edited up or down throughout the year so that you end up successful at the end of the year.

Goodreads challenge

At year’s end, you will get a nifty little report like this:



Set Up Shelves:

You can have as many shelves as you would like!

There are TWO types of shelves: EXCLUSIVE and REGULAR.

Steps For Making an EXCLUSIVE Shelf:

Exclusive Shelves: Everyone is provided with three exclusive shelves: To Read, Read, and Currently Reading. Exclusive means that you can only have a book on one of these shelves at a time. I set up one more Exclusive shelf: DNF (did not finish, abandoned). Because this is an Exclusive shelf, a book I put on this shelf cannot go on any other Exclusive shelf and it also doesn’t count toward my reading challenge IF I DON’T ENTER A FINISH DATE. I could just delete the book from any of my lists, but I want a record that I tried it and set it aside. Here is a picture of my shelves, and my four Exclusive shelves are bracketed in blue:


To make an Exclusive Shelf, you will need to use the web version. It took me a while to figure this out! Here is how to do it step-by-step:

  1. Using the web version, click on the My Books tab and then on Bookshelves (circled in blue):


2. After clicking on “Bookshelves” (above), select “add shelf” (circled in blue):

goodreads add shelf

3. On the next screen, name your shelf and select “exclusive” (circled in blue):

goodreads exclusive shelves 2

***Important Note: If you are making regular shelves (not Exclusive), you will follow these same steps but do NOT check “Exclusive.” (In addition, regular shelves can be created on the App.)

There are several reasons for making an Exclusive Shelf: (1) a DNF shelf, (2) a shelf for children’s books (that you might want to keep separate from your own challenge), (3) a shelf for your library holds, (4) books that are recommended by friends, etc. Remember, whatever you put on an Exclusive Shelf will also count toward your Reading Challenge if it has a finished date….so edit your “dates read” to remove that finish date). Even though there are limited reasons for an Exclusive Shelf, I want to include the steps here because a FAQ is “How do I designate unfinished books so they don’t affect my overall total.”

Regular Shelves: You can make regular shelves (also called “lists” or “tags” in Goodreads) using the App or the website version (You can see in the above image all the shelves I’ve added). You can make as many shelves as you want. Some readers make shelves for each year, for star ratings, owned/not owned, genre, favorites, etc., etc.), but you can only make an Exclusive Shelf using the website version (because of placing a check in the Exclusive column). This took me a while to figure out! You’re welcome!

Steps for adding a REGULAR shelf using the App:

  1. Select a book that you want to read or one that you’ve already read.
  2. Select the “Want to Read” or “Read” pull-down menu and you will see “Create a new shelf” right under the “More Shelves” option (circled in blue):

***Note: Notice that there is also a “Remove book from shelves” option at the bottom of this screen.


3. Each time you read a book, you can access all the shelves you’ve added by selecting the “More Shelves” option.


As you think of a book you Want to Read, log onto the Goodreads app and use the search function to find the book (it’s very fussy and doesn’t like misspellings, etc)….you can also search by author.

***Note:: There are two options for searching: (1) use the “Home” view to search the entire Goodreads library, or (2 ) search only the books on your shelf (select the “My Books” view to search books already on your shelves).

If you are ready to read a book that is on your Want to Read shelf, open the Goodreads app and click My Books from the menu options (on my iPad, my menu shows up across the bottom of the screen). Find the book in your Want to Read list and click on the option to change it to Currently Reading (and the book will be transferred to that virtual shelf). You can also skip putting the book on your Want to Read shelf and designate it as Currently Reading from the beginning. If you want to remove a book from a bookshelf, slide the title to the left and a red delete option will appear.

***Note: Currently Reading shows up in a horizontal strip above your other shelves.

When you are finished with the book, return to your “currently reading” shelf and select the book and then select the “update your progress” option. You will select the “I Have Finished This Book” option and will have an opportunity to give a Star rating and write a review. Both are optional. The finish date will be set automatically when you update your progress to “I Have Finished This Book.”

***Troubleshooting Note: If the book doesn’t show up on your “read” shelf, make sure that it has a finished date (you can add that under the “edit dates read” option. A book will not show up without a finished date.

Goodreads uses a 5 star rating system with the following definitions:

1 star 1 star – didn’t like it

2 stars 2 stars – it was OK

3 stars 3 stars – liked it

4 stars 4 stars – really liked it

5 stars 5 stars – it was amazing

***You can find a more expanded definition of my own Star rating on my About Page.

***Note: You can also “update your progress” while reading the book by indicating the page number or percent (if reading on Kindle). Updating your current progress can be helpful in case your bookmark falls out of your book, or if you need to return a library loan and check out the book later, etc.!

If you read on a Kindle, your book can be synced with Goodreads and Kindle will automatically put the book into the Read category when you finish the last page (and enter the date finished).

The date began and date finished is usually automatic on Goodreads as you select Currently Reading and I’ve Finished Reading This Book options. You can always go in and edit “dates read” if you wish.

***Troubleshooting Note: If you finish a book and it doesn’t show up on your challenge, it’s most likely because you didn’t initially mark it as currently reading or click the finished reading option. It is easy to go back and edit “dates read.” After a refresh, the book should show up in your Read list and on your challenge. (for new users, this is a FAQ until you become familiar with navigation)

At the time you select the “I’ve Finished This Book” it will display the “Read” option….at this time you can go into the “Read” option and select “more shelves” and add the book to other shelves that you’ve created or make a new shelf. You can add the book to as many shelves as you wish.

You can always go back and edit your Star rating and/or review or add the book to other shelves or make new shelves.

Friends/Followers, Your Feed, and Reviews:

Honestly, Goodreads is more enjoyable with an active “Feed.” When you first enter the App, you will be in your “home” view and will see a “feed” that features your friends’ activities and reviews. If you do not have any friends (or have inactive friends), your feed will be filled with Goodreads book recommendations. If you don’t know who to friend, you can send a friend request to anyone whose review you have enjoyed. You will notice that as you bring up a book on Goodreads, you can also scroll through the reviews for that book. Goodreads users are comfortable with receiving friend requests from strangers (although they prefer to accept requests from active users who have a public profile). You do not have to friend request because you can always select follow….this will put their activity in your feed but they won’t see your feed unless they follow you. (at first, you may feel more comfortable just following) Very often if someone follows me, I will send them a friend request. For the most rewarding and interesting Goodreads experience, you will want to have a good number of friends or people to follow. You can always friend or follow me (or check to see who I follow and add them!). If I don’t accept your friend request it’s because your account is private or you don’t appear to be an active user (i.e. zero books). It will be a good idea to add your profile and build up your shelves a bit before friend requesting! To start, you can always enter books that you’ve already read!

As with other social media platforms, you may occasionally receive an odd friend request that doesn’t seem legit (I always click on the name and preview their profile before I accept the friend request). Feel free to delete or ignore! If someone follows you and you do not feel comfortable with their profile, you can block them.

In your feed, don’t be shy about “liking” or “commenting” on reviews! You will be notified if someone likes or comments on your review.

If you’ve never written reviews, you can begin simply by writing one sentence about why you liked the book. I have a post on How I Write A Fiction Review here for when you’re feeling more adventurous! I spent some time reading a variety of reviews before I began writing my own.

Advanced Options:


Once you become comfortable navigating Goodreads, you can tweak the categories on this report seen under the My Books tab on the web version. First, click “settings” (circled in blue):

goodreads report edit

When you open “settings,” you can select which categories you would like displayed. I opted to add “comments” so that I could make a note about who recommends the book to me. Be sure to SAVE THE CHANGES (circled in blue).



Another way you can enjoy Goodreads is by joining Groups. There is a search option for joining groups (on the iPad it’s located under the ‘More)” tab at the bottom of the screen. When looking for a group to join, choose an active group (the description will indicate the date of the last post). I checked my groups as I wrote this post and noticed that one group I joined hadn’t had a new post in over two years. I’ll be unjoining that one! You can check which groups I’ve joined by looking at the bottom of my Goodreads profile page.

Reese Witherspoon has a group you can join!

Import and Export

On the web version under the My Books tab… the bottom of the list on the left….there is an option for Importing and Exporting books (under Tools). I have only used the Export option so that I have a backup of my records. I recently discovered this feature and haven’t experimented too much with it…..a little above my comfort level at this time! But I wanted you to know it’s available!


Did I miss something? Is something unclear?

I promise you that Goodreads isn’t as complicated as this explanation appears!!!

I encourage you to play around with the App….most of it is fairly intuitive and you will figure it out and navigation will become more comfortable as you use the App. My biggest learning curve was realizing that I couldn’t do everything on the App and I would also need to use the website version.

I will be happy to address specific questions in the comments. I’d also love to know if this post has been helpful or encouraging! Please share your tips!

***Jonetta from Blue Mood Café shared her tip in comments regarding how to find out if a book is part of a series. She directs us to look at the gray shaded area directly under the title and click on it. This link takes you to the series list! Great tip Jonetta! I didn’t know that!

Are we friends on Goodreads?


My Most Memorable Reads of 2019

Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?
(join the discussion!)

Winter 2019 TBR

Nonfiction/Fiction Pairings

Favorite Nonfiction Books

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.


  1. I use Goodreads for everything reading and reviewing related. It is not unusual for me to visit Goodreads many times per day. If their site ever goes down… I am doomed. Lol

    • Right?! That’s why I’ve been experimenting with how to export my data! I’m not sure I’m doing it right though because I can’t find it after I export! I visit at least twice a day to catch some of the feed!

  2. Just thought I’d add that I have created an exclusive shelf for the books my kids have read. Just so I can distinguish them from mine, since they aren’t quite ready for their own account. And I wanted a list of what they had read so I don’t suggest the same books again lol. Great idea that really works well, but your comment that only books placed on the Read shelf will be counted isn’t true. If you put date read as anytime in the current year, the book is counted in books read that year challenge, regardless of the shelf it’s on. So I’m not keep dates read for the books my kids are reading, but just using it for a way to list them for myself.

    • Thanks for sharing! I love the idea of an exclusive shelf for children’s books! And thanks for the info on adding a date read will add it to the challenge despite the shelf ….I’ll edit my post to reflect that. I’m always learning something new! Thank you for commenting! 👍😍

  3. I love Goodreads, but I never realized you could make Exclusive shelves. I’ve set up a DNF shelf. Thank you so much for sharing that tip!

    • You’re welcome! I’m happy to have helped! Just make sure there’s no date read attached to your book so that it doesn’t end up on your Challenge! Beka just commented that a book can still end up counting toward your challenge if there’s a date read…so I need to edit post to reflect that! Thanks for commenting!

  4. Absolutely brilliant post, Carol. I love Goodreads for all these easy-to-access features even if the website does feel archaic at times, almost like it’s fighting against the user to make it seem slower and unintelligent hahah I especially love that you can set up your own shelves too. 😀 Thank you for sharing!

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  6. Carol, you’ve done your followers a big service. I’m what you might consider a Goodreads Pro having used the site now for ten years and am a Goodreads librarian. I’m amazed what users don’t know and one big thing is how to identify if a book is part of a series. Many don’t know that the series name is in the gray shaded area directly under the title and by clicking on it, it takes you to the series list.

    FYI, I’ve created a whole topics list of how to do things on Goodreads in a couple of my books as Goodreads could do a much better job of providing these kind of resources to members. Thank you for this post as I believe you’ve helped a lot of bloggers!

    • Oh thank you for your kind words Jonetta! Do you mind if I edit my post and include your tip? I’ll link to you! That’s a tip that’s new to me! I became inspired to wrote the post (and it’s been percolating for a while!) when I discovered how to make an exclusive shelf! I’m so happy to hear you think the post is helpful! I think I’ll make it a tab in my blog menu. Next time I have a Goodreads question, I’m coming to you! 😂😍

  7. Ahh this is such a fantastic resource, thank you SO much for sharing! I only recently found out about exclusive and non-exclusive shelves… and only recently organized my shelves better ahah 🙂 and I didn’t know you could export books ahh that’s great, will have to try out this feature 🙂

  8. This is a great post Carol. There is a lot of wonderful information here. I need to make a DNF exclusive shelf, thanks for letting me know how to do that.

    • You’re welcome! There’s a lot about Goodreads I don’t know yet. I think it’s because I use the app….and most tinkering needs to be done on the website version. I hope you get your DNF exclusive shelf set up!

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