Goodreads is the Best Social Media App

Goodreads is the best social media app. Sorry flickr or medium or whatsapp or whodunnit or whatnot, but Goodreads is so good it should be called Greatreads. Weather Channel app? Uh, looks like a big front of fuck you is rolling in—Left on Read stans Goodreads as the best app of all time.

What other app lets me subtly perform my own wokeness (why yes I did just recently finish How to Be an Antiracist, and of course I gave it 5 stars) while judging others for their hollow performity or failure to even try (The Help: The Book???). And what other piece of technology can give me a sense of what percent of a book I’ve gotten through—something that, before the Goodreadaissance, I had to figure out by flipping to the back of the book every five minutes. Sure it might be owned by Bad Bad Daddy Bezos, but as far as I can tell Goodreads hasn’t influenced an American election or been a Trojan Horse for Chinese spyware. 

Goodreads is an app that reminds me how many of my acquaintances are over-achieving nerds who like to announce how many books they want to read in a year to strangers. But it can simultaneously tell me how many of those dweebs are also willing to broadcast to that same audience that they have thoroughly enjoyed Jock Blocked (“She can’t let him score…”). 

At Goodreads’ best, it promotes an almost unqualified good (reading). And even its worst elements (reducing the complex nuances of a piece of art down to a five-star rating system; the incessant gamification of everyday activities) aren’t the worst examples that we’ve seen from apps such as Robinhood or Yelp. With Goodreads, I don’t have to like other people’s activity. And I don’t have to worry about whether other people have liked the fact that at some point I intend to read The New Jim Crow (yes I know I’m at least five years past due on this). Better yet, I can shout into the newsfeed void that, yes, I have read all seven Harry Potter books, and also yes, I think they’re excellent—all without having to go on Twitter to catch the latest updates from the TERF-war front

At the end of the day, Goodreads is all that I want out of a social media app: A nerd’s hot-or-not ranking of all of literature, combined with a way to judge the people who voluntarily give their time and money to the Ayn Rand estate. And that’s a beautiful thing. 

White People Didn’t Know This Would Be On The Test

Listen closely. Do you hear it? Do you hear the sound of millions of white people furiously cramming for a test we had 400 years to prepare for?

Nationwide, bookstores and retailers are sold out of titles about how anti-Black racism has remained at the center of our society and how white people of all political persuasions have played an active role in upholding that intolerable status quo. Book clubs are eschewing Sheryl Sandberg for Robin DiAngelo, and local booksellers are placing bulk orders for How To Be An Antiracist

In film too the cramming is apparent, if a bit less heartening. Even as America reopens from the first part of Wave 1 of the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, citizens are staying home to watch The Help (sigh) and 13th (lfg). Even that sacred safe space for white complacency, podcastdom, has been overtaken by a fervor for racial justice.

In other words: at least 401 years after the first America-bound slave was kidnapped, brutalized, and brought to our shores; 237 years after the Constitution falsely claimed that its authors believed all men were created equal; 155 years after the enslaver’s rebellion was put down by force; 134 years after Rutherford B. Hayes traded generations of Black dreams for four years of power; 99 years after Black Wall Street was pillaged and burned by domestic terrorists; 65 years after Emmett Till was murdered; 57 years after Bull Connor’s attack dogs; 55 years after Malcolm X was murdered; 52 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered; 28 years after Rodney King was beaten; 8 years after Trayvon Martin was murdered; 6 years after Mike Brown and Laquan McDonald were murdered; 3 years after Eric Garner was murdered; 4 months after Ahmaud Arbery was murdered; 3 months after Breonna Taylor was murdered; and 2 weeks after George Floyd was murdered… white people have discovered we may have some work to do to dismantle white supremacy. 

Now, that sounds like a condemnation—and in part, it is. Cramming for a test we’ve had our whole lives to prepare for is deeply embarrassing. But feeling embarrassed and trying to educate ourselves are two of the better things we can do right now. The situation is deeply embarrassing and at the same time it’s encouraging. Understanding that contradiction is central to how we maintain the momentum of the last few weeks.

We wrote after Ahmaud Arbery was hunted and killed that we’d been here before, and that it had all become so sickeningly familiar. Now, this time feels different, no doubt. But for it to actually be different it’s going to require white people to finally do the work we’ve been putting off for half a millennium. 

So reading up, getting educated, and sharing resources is a good start. But it really is just a start, a bare minimum first step, and we can’t lose sight of how much damage has been done by waiting this long. If the last-second studying gets us anywhere, it’ll hopefully be a place where we start to conceptualize the work and time that’s needed to repair that damage. 

Image credit: 12 Books Written by Black Authors You Won’t Be Able to Put Down ✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿

When Can You Stop Reading That Book?

There’s no universal rule of thumb for when you can stop reading a book after you pick it up. Some say after you get through 50 pages. Others say after you skip to the end and read the last sentence (if you’re a crazy person). But here are some of the most useful standards our panel of experts has come up with:

  • When it’s time to head to this month’s book group.
  • When the book cuts to an entirely different scene/set of characters, and the dialogue is just as horrid as before.
  • When you see a NYT controversy raging about it.
  • When God rests on the seventh day.
  • When you give up and look at the Wikipedia summary.
  • When you’ve exhausted all the good stuff from the book jacket.
  • When the author is credibly accused of sexual misconduct.
  • When you see the movie.
  • When your friends, strangers, and twitter bots make fun of you for reading Infinite Jest.
  • When you’ve bought two new books since you started reading this one.
  • When you haven’t opened it in like six months and three books have since been stacked on top of it. 
  • When the HBO adaption is better than the manuscript.
  • Never. Don’t be weak. Don’t give up. 

Our “Harper Lee Book of the Week” Is…

To Kill a Mockingbird

Of all the entries in Lee’s bibliography, this one definitely stands out. An endearing tribute to how self-centered Truman Capote could be even as a child, TKAM is a towering work of fiction and a no-brainer for this week’s selection to our Harper Lee Book of the Week list. 

Tune in next week to find out which Lee book makes the cut—will it be her take on Alan Moore’s classic superhero deconstruction, Go Set a Watchman, or her short story collection, A Good Man is Hard to Find? Since you’re a member of the #LeeLegion, we guess you’re okay with waiting a long time for the sequel!