My reading workflow for book recommendations

I am a fiend for book recommendations, especially if they come from people who (seem to) have similar reading taste to mine. Or from authors I follow. Or from friends whose insight and personality I like (and generally that’s all my friends, because kind of otherwise, why would we be friends? But anyway, that’s beside the point).

So I come across a lot of book recommendations on Twitter, and in email and sometimes Facebook and in a lot of the online reading I do.

I want to save these recommendations.

My old method was to open Amazon in another tab, copy-paste the title, find the book page, and add the book to a Book wishlist.

Okay, not terrible, but kind of unwieldy.

Also, using this method I end up having multiple  “books I want to read” lists going: one on GoodReads and one on Amazon. (I also have so many books lists saved on Pinterest, good lord, how am I ever going to read all these books? What a divine problem to have! We are gods, my reading friends! Gods of many universes contained in text on the page. Our most difficult choice is this: which universe will I visit next?)

What I want to have

I want to have one comprehensive reading list, both of what I have read (or started reading and then didn’t finish) and what I want to read. I often earmark recommendations Amazon gives me when I’m browsing or buying there, and then there are the various recommendations that come in via the web sources as mentioned above and generally get funneled to Amazon or Goodreads. I also have multiple book lists saved in Ulysses and on my own blog that, ideally, I’d like to add to my Goodreads to-read list.

I need a way to  collect all the extant reading lists into one place:

  • get my Amazon book wishlist to sync with my Goodreads to-read list and
  • manually pull the books from those reading lists I’ve saved into my Goodreads list.

I also want to set up simple, preferably automated, ways to funnel all future recommendations into Goodreads so that I have one gigantic reading list.

Zapier doesn’t seem to have any Goodreads recipes or connections or whatever they’re called.

And IFTTT doesn’t have Goodreads as an official channel, either. (Goodreads, um, you’re the common denominator here. Fix your non-integrativeness so we can all love and use you more.)

There are a few work-around recipes on IFTTT for using Goodreads. For example, here’s a nice guide to setting up an IFTTT recipe that uses RSS to automate a book journal in Evernote from your Goodreads Currently Reading shelf. I’m not an Evernote user but I could probably work this around with what I do use.

Note: I’m not an Evernote user but I found, via a recommendation from Daniel David Wallace, a lovely alternative interface for Evernote, called Alternote. I’m trying it now, because I loved the functionality and integration of Evernote, but I absolutely hated using it; something about the design, interface, I don’t know. It didn’t work for me. It made me feel ragey. I’m so excited to try Alternote, though, and have that streamlined, minimal, non-rage-inducing design plus the powerful possibilities with Evernote.  Anyway, Evernote/Alternote is not important at this stage in the workflow. Too soon!

Okay, reminder to self: there are two goals.

And those two goals are to 1) collect all my reading lists in one place and 2) set up automation/collection so that all future reading recs go to one place, quickly and easily.

First I’m going to tackle the second goal, to set up collection tools/actions/automation so that all future collected reading recs go to one place.

Tools I’m using

Chrome extension: Goodreads Right Click

This extension lets me highlight any text (say, a book title or author’s name), and right click to search for the highlighted text in Goodreads. It requires opening another tab with Goodreads (I wish it was a pop-up app that let me stay in the same tab, instead) but it’s still much faster and easier than my previous Amazon copy-paste method.

Browser extension: Amazon Bookmarklet

This bookmarklet works in many browsers. (Maybe any browser? Don’t know.) When I’m browsing in Amazon, I can click this little thing in my browser bar and save the book I’m viewing to Goodreads. The bookmarklets opens the book info in Goodreads and lets me choose the shelf it goes on.

So you go from the Amazon book page

to a new tab with the Goodreads book page. It works, streamlined and direct.


Actions I’m taking

When I see/receive a book recommendation on Twitter, I use Goodreads Right Click to quickly add it to my to-read list on Goodreads.

When I see a book I’m interested in while browsing Amazon (haha, do you like how I said that singular, “a book,” as if there is only one at a time? So funny!), I use the Bookmarklet to quickly add it to my to-read list on Goodreads.

For other random potential reads that I find around the web (usually on Book Riot or Books I Done Read or one of my other favorites), I can use one of the same two actions: highlight the text and right-click to save on Goodreads, or open a book’s link (on Amazon or elsewhere, as long as it has an ISBN number on the page) and use the bookmarklet to save to Goodreads.

So far, so good: but what other book recommendation sources?

Email: The book recommendations I get via email come either from trusted friends or from book promotion lists such as BookBub. For the trusted-friend recommendations, I’ll have to use my old manual copy-paste method and put it in the Goodreads to-read list.

For the book rec/promotion lists, those are always linked to Amazon or elsewhere. Often they’re free or on sale for a short period of time, so I want to go ahead and get them; ones that interest me for later I’ll click thru and save to my list using the Bookmarklet.

Word of mouth: This is the trickiest source, really. If I’m in the middle of conversation (which is, generally, when word-of-mouth recommendations happen), it’s rude/awkward to pause the person talking so I can quickly save the title and author. Not that I’m above being rude and awkward, but… My plan is to use the same method I use for saving ideas when I’m out and about: at the earliest opportunity, get the information down in my notebook or in my phone (I use the Notes app for this type of thing). Then during my regular review (which is absolutely the weakest part of my entire reading and writing workflow), I’ll collect any book recs (along with other information in the notebook/Notes app) and get them into the Goodreads list.


There aren’t any, really; there are helpful tools that make the process of saving book recommendations more streamlined. But the saving has to be done manually.

I’ll keep revisiting this periodically. I have some IFTTT recipes I’ve used in the past to save liked Tweets.

It would be nice to have a way to automatically funnel liked tweets containing a book title to a list and then bulk import to Goodreads periodically. The problem here is that a) Goodreads has zero straightforward/direct integrations and b) I don’t know yet how to distinguish in those automations which liked tweets are for books and which are liked for other reasons. I’m also not sure it’s worth the trouble. If I can quickly save a book rec when I’m on Twitter anyway – and then say, “Hey thanks for that book recommendation!” – I’m probably about as streamlined as I need to be.

Okay, now circling back to the first goal: getting all the book titles from those other reading lists into Goodreads. Oh dear, I feel like this is going to be painful.

Bulk importing a book list to Goodreads

I currently have book lists in these places:

  • An Amazon “book” wishlist
  • This blog post which has links to various lists (Some of these I’m actively reading from, so they’re important to include; others are more for reference/future reading use, so less important.)
  • Several lists I’ve personally put together in Ulysses.

Goodreads has a couple of options for bulk importing: importing from a .csv or .txt file, or importing from a webpage. (See the instructions here.) Importing from a webpage should work for that Amazon book wishlist, beautiful!

Importing a book list from a webpage

First try, not so good:

Second try, same result.

Okay. I decided to try another webpage, this list of top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books from NPR (it’s one of the lists in my Reading Lists blog post that I’m currently reading from).

Better success:

97 books, woohoo! The list is only 100 books, so I guess the “113 unsuccessful” are from my previous attempts to upload the Amazon wishlist.

Some notes: all of the 97 books that did successfully import were put on my “Read” list. Most of them needed to go on my to-read list, so I had to go through and batch edit about 5 pages of books. It didn’t take long, but it would be nice to have an option of which list to use for imported books.

Importing a book list from a CSV

Next option: transforming my Amazon wishlist to a .csv file for importing.

Surely, I thought, someone else has had this issue. And has created a tool that I can use and solve this very minor problem for me.

Lo and behold: The Amazon wishlist exporter, created by Andy Langton. Hi, Andy! Thanks for making this. You’re a lovely person.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work for me. I don’t know, maybe the URL I used was wrong or Amazon was being paranoid (likely) or who knows. So, after multiple unsuccessful attempts, I started clicking around and feeling overwhelmed by other solutions that involved SCRIPTS and JQUERY (?!) and TECH LANGUAGE I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

Finally I came up with this brilliant solution: move my Amazon book wishlist over to Goodreads one book at a time.

No books left behind.

I used the Right Click and/or the Bookmarklet and it didn’t take that long, really. I eliminated several books that no longer seemed appealing, found several that were already on my Goodreads list, and moved over the remaining 100 or so in 30 minutes or so. Not too bad.

I still have several lists I’ve compiled that I want to add, but those will have to wait. It’s not like I’m going to run out of books to read in the meantime.

Now I’m going to read a book. A delicious book.

(You can keep reading here for more cool stuff about Goodreads. Or go read a book.)

Tips and tools for using Goodreads

So in my Goodreads book recommendation integration exploration (latinate! words!), I came across some good articles and tips for Goodreads use:

10 Essential Goodreads Tips for Book Nerds  gives you some basic tips but a good place to start if you’re new to Goodreads.

11 Ways to Love Goodreads Even More  So much to love! I love the idea of connecting Kindle to Goodreads for progress updates and sharing quotes, but I’m still using a 2nd generation Kindle – which I love – and it’s not so integrated. But that’s a minor thing.

I also love the tip to follow your favorite authors so you’ll be notified when they’re answering questions. Um, yeah!

The library tip (as well as the Chrome extension) would be super useful in my previous living location, but the library here is a) tiny and b) not tech connected. As in, they still handwrite the due dates on paper slips which they tape inside the book covers. So, um, yeah. That’s not gonna happen. Also a minor thing, and one I’ll keep in mind when traveling. Also, why is a UNIVERSAL LIBRARY CARD not a thing? Is it a thing? Can it be a thing?

How to Become a Goodreads Power User is an article for authors to become (apparently) POWERFUL and AWESOME USERS of Goodreads. Cool, I can work with that. Another article in this same author topic is 8 Ways Authors Can Use Goodreads to Promote Their Book.

If you’re looking for ways to do some productive procrastination, check out Get Organized on Goodreads which will lead you step by procrastinatory organizational bliss and leave you with super categorized, sorted, labeled, orderly Goodreads shelves. Is it all necessary? No. Is it a better thing to do than, say, write a book or read a book? No. Is it fun and addictive? Yes. Yes, yes, yes it is.

I’m so thankful for the first tip to temporarily hide activity while you’re doing all your reorganizing because, um, I forgot a couple of times and suddenly my updates were in the many high numbers and I’m sure that was annoying.

Also! Great tip to create a “to be read” shelf exclusively for the books you already HAVE to be read, versus throwing them all on the one “want to read” shelf as I have, historically, always done. Um, I mean, duh! It makes sense to know what you want to read and already HAVE and CAN read, right now. On a side note, though, why do the books you want to read and don’t have yet always look more appealing than the books you want to read and don’t have yet? What is this sorcerous magic that gets me to keep buying more book? Authors, ye are wizards!

A short but helpful series from Julia Tomiak on How to Use Goodreads, the Adding Books post was especially fab because it introduced me to the Amazon Bookmarklet. I ended up using a different version (the one linked above by Cody Ray rather than the ‘official one’ on the Goodreads site) but I’d have never known to look without this tip.

How I Use Goodreads is not only a tip article but also an explanation of real-life use of a person who reads. Which is – shocker! – the kind of person I also am. A person who reads. I mean, also I write, but mostly I read. I probably chose writing as my work because it’s so closely related to reading that it lets me read and talk about reading and think about reading basically all the time.

Anyway, this post gave me some good ideas such as diving into reviews and info to help me filter the to-read books so I can choose the best ones for purchase. I mean, there are certain genres I enjoy, but within a genre there are wild and wide variations. I love sci-fi, for instance, but reading Star Wars books makes me gag.

I’m pondering the tip to post more thoughts and share quotes when updating your reading progress. I’m pretty bad about updating my reading progress. On one hand, I don’t like to get distracted when I’m reading, and I want to let myself be immersed in what I’m reading, not halfway thinking about a reading update I’m going to post. On the other hand, I want to remember what I read and keep track of my thoughts and particular passages I appreciate, and maybe this is a good way to do that. Pondering. Pondering.

Great tips on filtering (shelves, friends, and what activity shows up on your feed for everyone to see).

Next steps on keeping track of my reading:

  • Online reading (blogs)
  • Saving links and files for later reading
  • What about all those free public domain books?
  • Kindle highlights
  • Ugh there’s so much.
  • No more right now.