How to Find Great Books on Goodreads

Ever wonder how to find your next great read? Christine M. Fairchild gives us an overview of the Amazon owned GOODREADS

Besides our fabulous Beach Read Authors site, one my favorite book sites for finding great reads is Goodreads, because it's driven by READERS!

Finding Fresh Fiction

Goodreads is a great place to find fresh fiction voices and new or cross-genre stories.
First of all, nothing recommends a book like a bunch of positive reader reviews. Sure, you can find tons of reviews on Amazon book pages, but you have to search for the book or author name individually, which means you have to know who you're looking for already. Otherwise, you're stuck searching the Top 100 lists, which are dominated by the same-old bestselling authors.

When I'm looking for fresh fiction and undiscovered authors, I'm typically looking for mid-list authors and/or indie authors. Goodreads is a better place to search for that type of book/author because a great book can rise to the top of the pile more easily in the Goodreads communities.

I'm more inclined to pick a book based on recommendations from like-minded readers than from the traditional book shelf categories you find at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Fortunately for me,  Goodreads allows readers to recommend books to other "friends" as well as lump fiction into:

1) unique Groups, such as "Psychological Thrillers" and "The Romance Troupe"
2) popular Lists (aka Listopia), like my favorites "He's a lover and a fighter!" and "Hottest Guy on a Cover"
3) personal Bookshelves based on subject matter, such as "Hot Heroes" and "Popular 99 Cent Amazon Books".

I can also search books for tags, like Magic, Adventure, or Role-play. Better yet, you can even find regional Goodreads Groups. One Group for my area is appropriately called "Seattle Area Goodreaders". Another is called BookTalking, which is dedicated to the art of booktalking in the tradition of Nancy Pearl from NPR. I love that Goodreads allows for this level of creative grouping from authors and readers alike. Though I admit I'm still waiting for the Gerard Butler Look-alike book tags or Groups!

Interpreting Ratings

I also enjoy the diversity of book reviews on Goodreads. Now, you have to be aware that there are lovers and haters on Goodreads. That means reviews by folks who'd never give the book less than 5 stars or better than 1 star because they have some unknown agenda.

For example, I got a 1-star rating on my book, An Eye For Danger, from a reader who admitted she didn't read the book. When I asked her why she didn't like the book and if there was anything I could improve, she said she didn't go past the first couple pages because she doesn't like books written in first person (authors call this 1st Person POV). Do readers on Goodreads have the right to rate a book they haven't read? Sure. Should readers take a 1-star rating into consideration? Yes, if there is a pattern of several low-star reviews. Fortunately for me as an author, most of my book's reviews are 4 and 5 stars.

And that's what you want to look for:
1) the ratings most readers give the book (44% give my book 4 stars, and 45% give it 5 stars)
2) the overall average rating (my book's average rating is 4.32 out of 73 ratings)
3) how many ratings have been given (too few reviews may be a book that isn't vetted enough, while too many may signal a mainstream book I don't necessarily want to read).

How do you see these stats? Just click on "Ratings Detail" next to the book's image (see image of my friend and colleague, Lisa Costantino's book, Maiden's Veil). A good book lies between an average rating of 3.0 - 4.0; a better book sits strongly in the 4-5 range. Note that Lisa's Women's Lit book is a 4.43 average rating. That's a great sign that readers are consistently recommending her book to their friends!

Discovering Hidden Gems

Occasionally, a really good book gets mid-range ratings, because the story or the writing breaks with traditional or expected books in that genre. In the Romance genre, for example, heroes and heroines are expected to be together at the end of the story. If a book breaks that rule, it can get rated lower even though the writing is wonderful.

My suspense book, for example, has more subplots and characters than most romance-style books, so some readers felt overwhelmed by this, while others praised it through the roof. Just goes to show there's no "one" perfect recipe to please every reader. That's why it's important to read the reviews for clues to book elements you like, such as comments about strong character development or a intriguing plot twist or an engaging mystery. Personally, I look for words like "strong" female characters as well as "thinking" or "smart" heroes. Nothing bores me more than a hero that is a dumb dumb, no matter how hot his abs are.

Me (right) and Lisa Costantino at pre-season
Seattle Seahawks football game.
You should also compare the responses between men and women readers. A book that appeals to both sexes is likely crossing genres and offering characters both men and women can connect to. I find that cross-genre/gender books typically have unique or compelling elements in either the story or the characters that I want to read.

Most men who read my Romantic Suspense, which is part Thriller and part contemporary love story, give it a 4-star review. Some male readers told me they thought it was more of a Thriller and didn't understand why it was categorized as Romance (again, Romantic Suspense is more of a traditional category). Meanwhile, many female readers are calling the book a Mystery. That's some diversity!

As an author, that feedback tells me I might need to revamp my marketing approach. But as a reader, those comments would tell me to be curious about a book that could make women and men alike blush.

So head over to Goodreads, find your ideal Group/List/Bookshelf, interpret the ratings, and look for clues in the reviews to find your perfect story! And enjoy :)

So what's your favorite way to search for books on Goodreads? Share your thoughts in our comment section and win one free ebook from your pick of our Beach Read Authors books. It's on me! Thanks for visiting :)


Christine M. Fairchild, aka the Editor Devil, is a former journalist with 25 years' experience as a writer/editor, from technical to marketing to exec communications to entertainment.

She specializes in "tactical" editing and storytelling techniques for authors, offering writing tips and tricks at and through her Editor Devil Guides.

She's currently working on book II of The Goliath Conspiracy series, a follow-up to her popular debut romantic suspense, An Eye For Danger,

For free writing and editing tips and tricks, visit or follow her on Twitter @fairchild01.


  1. Fantastic article Christine! Goodreads is a curse and a blessing for authors. I try to ignore it as a writer because no purchase is necessary to review. But as a reader, I'm all over it. I just did a Goodreads promo to give away print books and had 567 entries so I'm thinking that might have helped my summer sales.
    I was interested in what you said about unique categories because one writer unpublished her book when many lumped her in a terrible madeup category like "I'd rather stick pencils in my eyeballs" or something equally mean. She was devastated.

    1. Thanks, Kim :) I agree that for authors Goodreads is much more difficult and sometimes painful. I've also gotten some of my best reviews there. Like I said, there are LOVERS & HATERS on Goodreads. So sorry your friend found the haters.

  2. Wow...I had no idea Goodreads worked this way. No wonder readers love it. Thanks for the info. I'm SO jealous that you were at a pre-season NFL game. I've never been to an NFL game, pre-season or otherwise. Would love to go someday. I've been to lots of MLB games, but my love of NFL only developed in the last six or 7 years. :-(

    1. Glad I could help, Alicia! And that was my first and only NFL game. Many thanks to Lisa for sharing the tix with me :)

  3. Wow! As of yet, I haven't found books to read through Goodreads, but I know what to look for now, thanks to this post. Of course, I check my ratings occasionally, and have been fortunate to stay within the 4-5 rating group. This is an awesome post, Christine.

    Oh, and I've been glued to the set all day long with the long awaited start of the regular football season. I've only been to one NFL game. The Saints way back when Jim Mora was coaching in the late 80's. Hoping my Saints whip some bum this year. LOVE football...going to miss my mom calling during the games to discuss it. :(

    1. Thanks, Lori, for the kudos. I'm so glad your books are getting fine ratings :) Wow, Jim Mora was a name from the past! You are overdue to get to another NFL game. And just know that your mom is now watching the game from 50 yard line seats and thinking about you :)

  4. Thanks for this post! I keep meaning to explore Goodreads more but it's kind of overwhelming. I feel slightly less so now. So thank you.


    1. I'm sure there are even more tips and tricks on Goodreads, because I'm always learning something new there. For me the trick has been to explore a little more with each visit to check my ratings. Good luck!