An Overview of LibraryThing

I created a LibraryThing account over ten years ago, and I’ve been using it consistently ever since. I use it to keep track of the books I own, the books I’ve read, and the books that I would like to read. I’ve posted reviews and chatted about books with other users in the forums. I’ve spent hours rating and tagging and having fun with the statistics. It’s been one of my favorite websites for a long time, and I’d like to give a quick overview of features, as well as give a few tips for how I get the best use out of them.

The add books feature on LibraryThing, showing a search box, options to add tags, and checkboxes for collections

One of the most important features is the ability to add books to collections. These are totally customizable, and you can see the ones that I use here. I like to keep track of books that I own as physical books, as well as ones I own in digital form. I tend to prefer physical books, but because I only have so much shelf space, I like being able to have a listing of just those books, as well as a listing of books that I own in other formats or have read and really enjoyed as an easy reference for if and when I do get a new shelf or decide that I would like to replace one book with another one. I like to keep track of every book I’ve ever read because it’s nice to remember books that I enjoyed when I was a kid, for example, but I don’t want those to feed into the recommendations the website gives me. Nor do I want recommendations based on books I read but didn’t end up enjoying or even finishing. By keeping them in separate collections, I can easily control which collections feed into those recommendations while still keeping track of what I’ve read the way I want to. Similarly, I can keep track of my “to read” list separate from my wish list of books that I would like to buy in physical form someday.

The Your Books page on LibraryThing, showing books and information related to them

After a book has been added to a collection, you can then see it along with all the other books in that collection. You can view all collections at once or one at a time, and you can sort them according to any column you want. I often like to sort by reading date so all my most recently read books show near the top. I also like to sort by rating so that I can easily give people a list of all my favorite books when they ask.

The Your Books page is, again, very customizable. You can decide what data you want to show, as well as what order you want it to show in. You can even decide how many books you want to show per page. You can also edit information right in here by clicking on the number of stars to add a rating or change it, clicking into the reading date field to add a start or end date, and more.

The work page on LibraryThing, showcasing a book with lots of information about it.

You can click on a book anywhere you find it to be taken to the page specific to that book. It will show a lot of information about the book, both in general and specific to you. You can see how popular and well-received it is, what its genre and main topics are, and books that are considered to be similar to it. You can scroll down to read reviews and see even more information, which I find really helpful because it lets you decide whether you want the risk of spoilers. You can also make changes here, like adding ratings, tags, your own review, and more. You can also change the cover that displays, which I often find really nice when I’ve added a book that has been printed with many different covers and I want it to match the one it had when I read it. Sometimes I even change it to the one I like best just because I can!

I find work pages to be particularly helpful for books that exist as parts of a series because it will link you to a page for the whole series right on top. Sometimes I didn’t even realize a book was part of a series until I saw that. Sometimes I’m trying to jump into a new one and want a quick reference point that will tell me where to start.

The series page on LibraryThing, showing all books included in the series with covers, story order, and more

After clicking to this page, you can easily see which books you own or have read, as well as story order and publication order, which can be very helpful for a series like this one, which had a prequel published after book one. In this case, it also shows a book that has yet to be published but that has been announced, so readers can add it to their “to be read” lists.

A graph showing the height of various landmarks, with one bar added to represent a stack of books

The Charts and Graphs page includes a lot of fun visual data, including how many books you’ve read over time, what genres you read most often, which countries those books were originally published in, and more. This example shows how tall the stack of books in my collections would be if they were all stacked on top of each other, which is one that I find particularly fun.

I also enjoy this collection of charts because I find that it encourages me to expand my reading horizons and try new things. (The blue bit on the dead or alive is for “not a person”, which can happen when a book has been cowritten or written under a pen name used by multiple people. Also, if I expand the gender chart I can see two other categories, for unknown and for not applicable, which I assume includes those “not a person” authors as well as authors who identify in a different way.)

Charts showing various demographic information about authors: dead or alive, nationality, and gender.

Finally, the website includes forums with many different groups that you can join or just drop in on. It can be a good way to find people with similar reading tastes and chat about books you loved, join reading challenges, or read a book along with other people.

Overall, it’s a website that I’ve really enjoyed using, and there are so many more features and pages that I haven’t even mentioned. It’s a great place to explore, and I would use it to search for books and see information about them even if I didn’t have an account. I would encourage anyone who’s interested to check it out for themselves.

Author: Shannon Fallon

Shannon Fallon is an aspiring author currently seeking representation for her debut novel The Binding of Magic. She lives in Wisconsin with her cat Willowstripe, who loves to sleep on her lap while she writes... and pester her when not being given enough attention. She graduated from Cardinal Stritch University in 2014 with bachelor's degrees in writing and computer science. She currently works as a Senior Programmer Analyst for a property and casualty insurance company that creates much of the software used by its employees. When she's not wrangling unruly code, she enjoys reading a mix of modern and classic literature, exchanging feedback with other writers, and relaxing with a good video game.

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