{Opinion} How I Met Tom Mackee (or A Defense of Goodreads + Libraries)

If you’re a sports fan, and you’ve ever made a comment on a sports blog or Twitter, you’ve been trolled.

As a female sports fan, and Asian to boot—before the Jeremy Lin phenomenon, thank you very much—well, you just have to learn to roll with the punches or punch back even harder. It can be ugly and unpleasant.

Then I found Goodreads.

Goodreads quickly became my happy place. More than that, it felt like a safe little corner of the internet where book lovers discussed what they were reading and what they wanted to read. And then things turned ugly in a very familiar way earlier this year with authors attacking reviewers and vice versa. But that’s not what this post is about. You can find posts about all that other bullshit elsewhere.

This is about how Goodreads reviewers and my local library led me to Tom Mackee and one of my favorite authors.

Last year, Noelle and Sarah—two of my three Goodreads friends at the time—read If I Stay and gave it 4 stars. I looked at the summary, saw it involved death, and decided to pass. But friends don’t let friends pass up good books. After Noelle’s third email, I was like, “FINE. I’ll get it from the library and give it 100 pages.” (That’s my general rule of thumb with unfamiliar authors.) Well, the book is only 200 pages. However, that didn’t matter because I was pretty much hooked from the get. After I finished the book in one sitting (minus the emergency tissue run), I went to Borders (RIP) and bought Where She Went.

I loved Where She Went, even more than If I Stay, and wanted to see if other people—besides my little circle of three—felt the same.

At this point, like anyone who spends a little bit of time on Goodreads, I came upon Tatiana’s review. She referenced a Tom Mackee from The Piper’s Son. Curiosity piqued, I clicked on the link and saw that it was the sequel to Saving Francesca by some author I’d never heard of named Melina Marchetta. To the library! (Mine is the Los Angeles Public Library, by the way.) I grabbed a copy of Saving Francesca and headed home.

When I added Francesca to my Goodreads, Sarah mentioned Jellicoe Road, one of her favorite reads. So Jellicoe got added to my to-read list. Meanwhile, I started Francesca. Correction: I savored Francesca. I laughed with her. I wept with her. I knew I was reading something special. Once I finished that, I couldn’t wait for the library to open for The Piper’s Son so I bought the Kindle edition. Instant gratification!

The Piper’s Son made me a Melina Marchetta fan for life, and I had to read her entire bibliography.

But first, I needed to buy a physical copy of The Piper’s Son because I loved it so much. I got the hardcover from Borders (RIP my Borders Gold membership). A few days later, Noelle sent me a link to a review which showed the cover of the Australian edition. Once I saw that, I needed that too. Anyway, long story short, that marked the beginning of my Fishpond addiction and opened up another sub-genre for me—Aussie YA! And I haven’t been the same since. 

What was the point of that very long winded story?

None of this would’ve happened without Goodreads reviewers, reading enthusiasts and my library.

The idea of authors undermining these same reviewers is as ridiculous to me as publishers refusing to sell to libraries. I can assure you that half of the physical books currently residing on my shelves are there because my library gave me a taste for them. Library ebooks opened the field up even more because they are so easily accessible and they don’t get musty.

Restrictions and reactionary posts don’t equal sales. They close the door.

Why would I buy the book of an author who I’ve never heard of when I can try a hundred different new authors at my library and figure out who works for me and who doesn’t?

When I do find those special authors who work for me, I make sure that they become part of my shelves, country restrictions be damned. This year alone, I’ve ordered books from Fishpond in New Zealand, The Book Depository in England, B&N and Amazon. I’ve also made at least 10 trips to the library, including the grand opening of County of LA’s Topanga Library, and I check Goodreads 10 times a day.

Authors and publishers: biting the hands that feed me—my library, Goodreads and readers—may hurt me, but it will definitely hurt you more.

Editor’s note: You can find Maggie’s wonderful reviews of Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son, mentioned in this post, on Goodreads. 

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