Columns > Published on July 22nd, 2013

A Taxonomy of the Strangest and Most Unexpected Goodreads Groups

The best part of the Internet is that there’s a place for any interest. It doesn’t matter if you’re into succulent pine needle recipes or horseback minesweeping, there’s a site somewhere that caters to you.

Goodreads, a site dedicated primarily to books and the reading thereof, has become a haven for special interest groups of every conceivable kind. There are fan groups for famous authors, beloved characters, and every subgenre in the history of the written word. Yoga? Sure. Alternate History? Yep. BDSM? Fifty shades of it. Harry Potter? Obligatory. The site gives book lovers a place to commune together. Any book club that claims to be worth its weight in hardbacks and wine glasses has a group site on Goodreads.

But once you start digging into the list of groups, it quickly becomes apparent that the purview of Goodreads groups extends well beyond just books.

So, because the Internet is nothing if not a series of lists about whacky things on the Internet, I’ve laid out a basic taxonomy of the various kinds of groups you will find that seem a little out of place.

Animal Lovers United

Perhaps you’re familiar with the Calico Corollary to Godwin’s Law, which states that as the comments section of any given Web page grows longer, the probability that someone will post a LOLcat image approaches 1. The Internet practically runs on hairballs and kitty litter, so it comes as no surprise that cat-lover groups abound on Goodreads.

But the enthusiasm for animals doesn’t stop there. For instance, there are groups dedicated to the love of guinea pigs or naming your rat. What these people lack in discussions about reading and books, they make up for in manic squeak impressions and semi-adorable enthusiasm for balls of fluff.

The Pig Lovers Fan Club, on the other hand, is much more surprising. This group is dedicated to the adoration of swine and little else. To be a member in good standing, you must literally pledge allegiance to “the holy pig of the Goodreads pig lovers fan club.” One nation, under piggies and … okay, I’m a little uncomfortable here.

The Misguided Social Media Marketers

You hear it from media evangelists everywhere: "Use social media to empower your business! It’s free marketing! We’re out of our minds!"

I’m paraphrasing that last bit. But it’s commonly accepted that only stodgy and completely ungroovified people avoid the use of Facebook, Twitter, and the like to tap into the zeitgeist of the next gener—I’m sorry, I just can’t keep a straight face any longer. It’s all just a bunch of interns responding to each other and posting LOLcats (see the Calico Corollary above).

Apparently, Goodreads qualifies as a social network worthy of marketing attempts, which makes sense if you own a bookstore or a publishing company. But some of these groups seem like particularly inept attempts at a “social presence.”

Take the Ask Former Fashion Model & Published Men's Lifestyle Writer Dating Higher Quality People group, for example. Let’s set aside the obvious problems with the title for a moment. At least it’s about a book, right? It’s a group started by a writer, no matter how disconnected he is from reality and his audience in general, right? He’s a male model telling women how to date, right? Oh, wait.

There are many more, but the list is as uninteresting as it is eclectic. It’s like watching someone shout into the darkness and wait patiently for an answer. But all they ever hear is their own echo.

The Miracle Weight-Loss Spammer

This category is related to the social media marketing category. However, it’s different in that it skews closer to the spam in your email inbox.

This should come as no surprise. No matter how serious or prestigious the venue, spammers will come in with their tenuous grasp of the English language and clutter up the place. While the Goodreads group spam is varied, the majority of examples fall under diets and miracle weight-loss supplements.

It’s well worth your time to check a few of them out, and not just to laugh at the terrible names (such as: Take Flat Belly Looks Awesome, Take Awesome Thin Belly and Fit Body Hurry Up, for example). The creator of Lose My Weight Just a Minute Very Soon seems to be stitching together two conversations because each sentence doesn’t fit with the one before. In fact, it’s almost like the creator can’t make up his/her mind about whether this is worth your time, eventually concluding the description with, “It wasn’t that well thought out.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Those Who Want to Talk about Movies

The next four categories are closely related. These groups indulge the people who don’t really want to talk about books at all. This may seem strange on a site dedicated to books, but I think you’ve already seen the logic so far. So … yep.

The first of these four categories is for groups that would rather talk about movies. They range from the very broad A Conversation about Film group, to the very current Movies We’ve Just Watched group, to the specific Pixar Ultimate Fan Club. Despite there being countless numbers of sites dedicated to discussing movies, these people have decided to set up shop at Goodreads. Maybe it makes them look more exclusive.

Those Who Want to Talk about Other Stuff

The theme of disinterest in books continues in this category. It’s just like the movie groups, except that any topic is fair game. Everything from a self-professed cult of David Bowie (Who can blame them?), to a bunch of Yu-Gi-Oh card collectors (It had to happen), to the obligatory conspiracy theorists (Those darn Rothschilds). There’s even a serious campaign against slavery, though I’m led to understand that Goodreads pays all its employees fairly (Three beans per hour).

The only recurring theme with these groups is the apparent disregard for reading in general. There’s nothing wrong with these interests. Who doesn’t have a customizable card game in the back of their closet, just waiting to be optimized? But there are hundreds and thousands of other sites dedicated to these interests specifically, where people can interact with those who love the same things. Why are all these people creating groups on Goodreads?

There’s got to be a conspiracy theory that explains this one.

There is one exception, though. There is one group that’s completely unrelated to literature, but I cannot think of a single other place on the Internet where these eight people belong, so it might as well be on Goodreads. A kind-hearted woman created a group for the sole purpose of thanking the medical team that removed an 11lb. mole from the back of a six-year-old boy. She doesn’t know the boy or anyone else with oversized moles; she just read an article about the operation and felt like it was the right thing to do. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely joining this group.

Those Who Want to Complain about Something

Next we have people who want to talk, but not about what they love. They want to talk about what really gets their biscuits a burnin’. What’s most surprising is that some of the groups don’t particularly care what your problem is; they just want you to complain about it.

Some of these groups, such as the Relief group, want to help you move on from your troubles, whereas others, such as The Vent, just want you to scream good and loud. Given all the explosion imagery accompanying this group page, you’d think that the vitriol flows free and deep. It turns out that most of the posts are relatively mundane, and the good rants are over pretty quickly. Maybe they get tired and go back to reading a book after a certain number of words.

Those Who Just Want to Blabber Incoherently

If groups dedicated to complaining seemed strange to you, then you’re about to hit the Twilight Zone of Goodreads. There are a multitude of groups with the express purpose of letting you go on and on about anything you want. Nothing is off limits, and nothing makes sense.

The group Talk About Anything That Needs Talking About, which sounds like a hilariously unfocused therapy session, seems to be the most sedate because topic titles appear without multiple exclamation points. If that sounds too boring for you, don’t worry. It gets weirder.

The group We Are Awesome! ;) implores you to “go crazy” and talk about anything your heart desires. No one there has yet expressed any opinions about group titles that wink at the audience, so obviously the breadth of topics is more limited than they let on.

Let’s jump right to the mother of all babble groups. I give you the Crazy People of the World! group, which, among other things, purports to be the only group on Goodreads with a topic dedicated to beeping. And boy, do they deliver. Beeps as far as the eye can see.

They take the crazy schtick as seriously as any mentally unstable person can, with a myriad of topics about anything and everything, as long as it can be expressed in capital letters and exclamation points. Fortunately, books do show up in there somewhere, but it’s a tiny broom closet in a giant apartment building of crazy. In fact, this particular group seems to be the embodiment of nearly all these other group categories, if those categories were melted down in a vat of sweetener and pumped through a neon-colored firehose at speeds approaching the SQUEEE! barrier. If you’ve ever wanted to feel what it’s like to be a teenage manic pixie dream girl, spend a day scrolling through this group’s topics.

Another group of note in this category is the Try to Be UNIQUE! group. Though the name sounds like a taunt from that second-grade teacher who hated your parents, the site is supposed to have a positive influence. You can say anything you want, and you should! It’s only later that you realize the entire group is judging you silently, waiting with bated breath and arm raised, ready to slap any post you make with a giant rubber stamp that says “Not Unique Enough.” Yep, it’s just a bunch of people trying to outdo each other in an endless cycle of false hope and failed execution. Welcome to high school, again.

The Very Narrow Audience

Amongst the thousands of Goodreads groups, there are plenty that serve a small crowd. Take the Zookeepers Who Read group, for example. There are so few zookeepers in the world that you’re unlikely to meet one unless you get caught breaking into a gorilla enclosure or start your own PBS science show. But the name implies that the group is intended for an even smaller subsection of zookeepers: those who read. I don’t know the literacy rate for zookeepers, but this Goodreads group doesn’t make it sound very high.

The Chemical Injury Books group, which serves people who have sustained injuries from chemicals and toxins, seemed like it has a small audience at first, but then it got me wondering. Maybe people are injured by chemicals all the time. Is this common? Am I at risk? Is Two-Face a member of this group? So many questions.

The Poorly Named

Some of these groups are still focused on books, but they have been given unfortunate names that confuse the issue. One of the biggest tragedies of Goodreads is the misspelled group title. There are plenty of them. Either the Goodreads system won’t let you change the title of a group after it’s created, or there is no correlation between interest in books and spelling aptitude. It’s probably both.

Other group titles are spelled perfectly fine but are still confusing because they make no sense. I never did find out what the Foggy Ballers are into, but their name sure isn’t making it any clearer.

I had the opposite reaction when I found the BALLS group, though. I thought I knew exactly what they are about. There are plenty of erotica groups on Goodreads.

Then I realized the name was an unfortunate acronym for the Bay Area Literary Society. Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to call the group BALLS? How do you bring that up at a party?

“So what do you do in your spare time?”

“Oh, I’m a big fan of BALLS. I’ve been working with them for years. It’s great to see their impact on the community.”

Not only that, but in order to make this acronym you have to add in an extra L for no reason other than to make it say BALLS. Sure, BALS isn’t really compelling, but it’s exactly one letter better than BALLS. It’s not like you can shrug and say, “Well they probably didn’t think about the acronym when they named the society.” Nope. They deliberately augmented the acronym so that it spelled the word “balls.” They can’t even explain it away by saying they’re a sports organization.

The Gwuh Factor

Finally, we have the strangest and most unexpected of them all. These are the groups that defy description, the ones that make you scrunch your nose and say, “Gwuh?”

The Subversives are one such group. At first, they seem to be a band of merry rebels fighting against the tyranny of the Big O, the Oprah Book Club. I appreciate a book lover that doesn’t follow the status quo. But then I discovered that The Subversives also want to install a platypus in every major political office in the world, which suddenly makes them much less menacing as guerilla warriors and far less compelling as political scientists. It does sound subversive to the extreme, though, so mission accomplished.

Still, they have nothing on The Micro Book Group when it comes to gwuh factor. When I saw the title listed on the site, I thought it was for people who like really small books. Then I saw the description: “A book group for people with a very very very small penis.” To be honest, I have no idea if that’s what the group is really about. I was too scared to click through. Now that I know the NSA is monitoring all our Internet usage, I don’t want a data analyst in a government building somewhere making assumptions about my manhood.

The Truth

Weird interest groups aside, Goodreads has always been about more than books. The love of books is so widespread that it brings in people from literally every other interest group out there. Books help us share a common experience. That’s what makes them, and the crazy people who read them, so great.

What's your favorite weird Goodreads group?

About the author

Daniel Hope is a writer, ukelele player, and unrepentant nerd. He has worked as a technology journalist (too frantic), a PR writer (too smarmy), and a marketing writer (too fake). He is currently the Managing Editor of Fiction Vortex, an online publication for science fiction and fantasy short stories. At FV, he's known as the Voice of Reason. That means FV staff members wish he would stop worrying all the time. He thinks they should stop smiling so much.

Daniel Hope lives in California and dreams of writing more. When distraught about his output, he consoles himself with great beaches and gorgeous weather. He recently published his science fiction novel, The Inevitable, on the Kindle Store and Smashwords. Find out more at his site:

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