02 April 2012

Goodreads: Classics recommendations

One of the more interesting features of Goodreads is the "recommendations" page where the site recommends books according to an algorithm. They based their recommendations on the books I've added on my shelf (taking into account my reader ratings) and books which were enjoyed by other readers with interests similar to mine. How they do this thing was a mystery.

According to Goodreads, I'll enjoy the following 10 books in the "classics" genre. They actually named 50 titles, but it's too bothersome to list them all.

1. The Divan by Hafez, because I added Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám of Naishapur.

Unless a copy landed on my desk, I don't foresee myself buying this book.

2. Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, because I added The Ubu Plays by Alfred Jarry.

The book was edited and selected by Susan Sontag, the probable connection with Jarry. 720 pages. It's not on the reading horizon for me.

3. Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, because I added The Plague and The Stranger by Albert Camus and The Castle and The Trial by Franz Kafka.

I have a copy, so Goodreads scores this one.

4. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil, because I added the two Kafka novels and The Loser and Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard.

I am interested.

5. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, because I added Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Maybe. Because I thoroughly loved Saint-Exupéry's book. And because of the kick-ass title.

6. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, because I added A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.

Maybe not.

7. The Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip, because I added the first three books of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle.

Not in this lifetime, no.

8. Selected Writings by Guillaume Apollinaire, because I added two books by Jorge Luis Borges.

Finally, a poetry book! I'll read it, given the chance.

9. Q by Luther Blissett, because I added Umberto Eco's The Island of the Day Before.

I think I won't enjoy it. The premise is insufferable. 

10. Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser, because I added a book each by John Williams, Kafka, Stefan Zweig, W. G. Sebald, and Bernhard.

This turned out to be a Euro-centric list of recommendations. But Walser has long been on my wish list. So, I'm good with it.

At 5 out of 10, Goodreads barely passed my unscientific bookmatching test for classics.

The other genres which the site provides recommendations for are: fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, and philosophy. They also give recommendations based on your entire "read" shelf or any shelf category you happen to create (e.g., favorites list, postmodernism, procrastination).


  1. So I don't need to join Goodreads then, Rise? Or are there good reasons to do so?

  2. Not done enough ratings yet, to get my own list, but may go back & do some more when time allows as this has pricked my curiosity on what it would pick for me.

  3. Séamus, there are always good reasons. But you can scout the site and see if it holds interest enough to spread your online time thinly. Iit could very well eat some reading time.

    Gary, even with two books on the shelf, the algorithm can already recommend many titles. I forgot to mention that you can "improve" your recommendations by selecting only the titles that really interest you.

    1. I'm afraid I'd like it and then that's another site to visit when I should be reading. Curiosity, though, is a demon.

  4. Rise, the Céline and the Apsley Cherry-Garrard are two of my all-time favorites (I hope to reread the Céline this year, in fact). Loved the Walser and love the Musil so far as well. Enjoyed Apollinaire and Artaud back when I was Ulisses Lima's age. In short, this list may not be as big a fail as you might think despite a possible dud or two (the great stuff on it is truly great, too, which should be weighted accordingly). Cheers!

  5. Séamus, you can also use it with an App on your phone obviously dependent on type etc.

    1. I don't think apps work on my phone. It's cretaceous, I believe.

  6. Richard, glad to hear that. I'll be looking closely at more Goodreads recommendations.