Can Reading Be A Social Experience?
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social readingReading has a reputation for being an isolated activity. We often think of people in their pajamas or bathrobes, sunk into a massive armchair in front of a roaring fire, with a mug of hot cocoa in one hand and a page-turner in the other. Books have the unique ability to suck us into a whole new world where our imaginations are the only limit. So how can reading be social?

Discussion, that’s how. I know that when I finish reading a well-written book, I need to go out and tell somebody about it. I need to find someone else who’s read that same book so we can talk about it, maybe for hours if the book was that good. Reading may be an individual activity – nobody sits around in a circle and reads aloud, right? – but the social aspect afterwards is what truly completes the joy.

So, yes, reading is an intensely social experience. One way to partake in that experience is to join a local book club, but if you’re looking for more of a technological, modern medium for reading socially, then here are some great communities that you should consider joining.


social reading

It’s impossible to talk about “social reading” without mentioning Goodreads. Launched in 2007, Goodreads started off as a cataloging website that acted as a database for books, book reviews What Are The Best Book Review Sites? What Are The Best Book Review Sites? I'm an avid reader, getting through at least one book a week. I often have several on the go at once - usually a novel, a reference book, and an autobiography - which are consumed... Read More , and annotations. Within one year, Goodreads boasted over 650,000 members and 10 million books. Within five years, the member base increased to over 10 million and the database is constantly growing.

When you sign up on Goodreads, you can manage something called a “bookshelf”, which is just a collection of book titles that you’ve read, are currently reading, or plan to read one day. Once you’ve read a book, you can give it a rating and an optional review. The social networking aspect involves the ability to make friends with other readers so you can see each other’s bookshelves and discuss certain titles together.

Based on what you’ve read and liked, Goodreads helps you discover new books that fit into your interests. Personally, I’ve been using Goodreads for about two years and I’ve found dozens of great books that I never would’ve read if I hadn’t joined. Highly recommended, and not just by me: check out Erez’s article on why Goodreads is a must for readers Goodreads Reviewed: A Must-Use Site For Any Book Lover Goodreads Reviewed: A Must-Use Site For Any Book Lover If you enjoy reading, and like to use the Internet for finding great new reads, you may well have heard of Goodreads before: This is a superb website hosting a vibrant community of book lovers,... Read More !


social reading sites

LibraryThing is like a less hip, more cerebral version of Goodreads. Even though it debuted nearly two years before Goodreads, their minimalistic interface and their refusal to catch up with the times has kept their community from blowing up. Depending on your viewpoint, that can be good or bad. Still, LibraryThing has over 1.6 million users and 78 million books.

With LibraryThing, you can create and manage your own personal library of books: books you’ve read, books you’re reading, books you wish to read. You can tag, rate, and review books. Since everyone builds their own personal libraries, you can browse them and interact with other people through comments and forums. LibraryThing gets their book data from Amazon and over 700 libraries globally.

Most book-related social networks will let you read and write reviews and leave comments, which LibraryThing does, too. However, the big draw of LibraryThing, in my opinion, is their Talk forum section where you can have high quality book discussions. And let me tell you: their forums are extremely active.

One cool feature is their Early Reviewers program, where you can receive free books in exchange for well-written reviews. In addition, they have a version of their site that’s optimized for mobile devices so you can participate on the go.


social reading sites

BookLikes is a newer social network that focuses on allowing users to share their thoughts on books in their own space. In a way, you can think of it as MySpace for books: everyone can create a shelf of books that they’ve read/are reading/will read (nothing new here) but everyone also has a blog for expression. The networking aspect is that you can search and browse the blogs of other users.

Honestly, it’s a great concept when you want more substance than simple book reviews and forum threads. The blog format allows for deeper thoughts while giving users the freedom to follow whoever they’d like to follow. Being able to see the shelves of your friends is useful, too, especially when you want to start reading the favorites of someone who thinks like you.

The only downside is that they’ve currently limited registration. Instead of instantly creating an account, you have to request an account and wait for them to approve you. Perhaps they’re still developing some features behind the scene and will open the gates soon. If you don’t mind waiting a bit, go ahead and request an account now.

Online Book Club

social reading
Let’s say you want to be a social reader but you don’t like dealing with social networks. Sounds a bit contradictory but it’s entirely possible. If blogs and social networks aren’t your cup of tea, then what about good old-fashioned forums? Forums are great for digitally enacting the oldest form of social reading: book clubs.

And Online Book Club is aptly named. Their forums are quite active with daily threads that cover topics such as: book discussion, author discussion, reviews and recommendations, e-book discussions, books of the month, and there’s even a subsection for aspiring writers. You’ll find a lot of reading enthusiasts at the Online Book Club and it’s an entirely free community.


Reading is both an isolated and social activity. Sure, you can enjoy your book and lose yourself into the mind of a compelling protagonist, but who are you going to talk to when you’re done? Sharing in the experience of that book is just as important as reading it, so use the communities above to find like-minded readers with whom you can discuss stories.

Know of any other social reading websites that I missed? Please share them in the comments. I’d love to check them out and see what I’m missing out on.

Image Credit: Reading Girl Via Shutterstock

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  1. Titanik
    June 29, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Hi Joel, I am looking for a website for keeping track of my friend mini library , lots of them I haven't read and don't intend to read, which website do you think would be best to add and remove books ? ( I tried Goodreads and I don't like it when I add any book to my own shelf, it marked the book 'read')

    • Joel Lee
      July 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      I recommend Goodreads. You CAN add a book to a personal shelf without marking it as "Read" (I just tried it and it worked). :)

  2. Ali Khan
    May 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    You can include Bookish. Here's the link -

    • Joel Lee
      May 24, 2013 at 12:09 am


  3. Guy McDowell
    May 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    There was a time when "Read any good books lately?" was the third most popular small-talk starter: right behind, "How about that weather?" and "How about them Leafs?" or any other sports team.

    Reading is becoming cool again, which bucks what the tech pundits said would happen. Thank goodness!

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      May 13, 2013 at 9:28 am

      I always think people who don't enjoy reading miss a lot of things from their life. Maybe it's because they were required to read whatever title the school assigned for them, but in real life you can pick just any topic that comes to mind. Isn't it ironic?

  4. macwitty
    May 11, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Book clubs are great both for discuss books but also to get tips on books that are not on top of sales charts.

    I'm from time to time active in a Swedish book club

  5. Chow Y
    May 11, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I was using BookJetty, but BookLikes looks pretty!

  6. Shail Hu
    May 11, 2013 at 4:06 am

    quite an instrumental stuff for all book addicts