I only use Goodreads because it's directly integrated into my Kindle (which I love) so I can easily track when I start and finish a book.

However, Goodreads itself is terrible for data, either losing the data, corrupting it or just not having it.

So I've fixed that.

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Good old reliable web scraping. It worked 20 years ago and it still works today. In some cases I'm forced to use Puppeteer, but I try to avoid it if I can (to reduce the overhead) and in this case, it's not required.

I've written a dual platform script that will work either from the command line using Node, or it can be pasted directly into the browser's console. Both versions will spit out a full JSON object of the books I've read.

I strongly recommend running the script on a signed in page, and have a look at the README for the project for prerequisites for the Node version.

This is the typedef of the Goodreads object (which the parseBooks returns an array of):

 * @typedef {Object} Goodreads
 * @property {string} title
 * @property {string} seriesEntry
 * @property {string|null} [seriesNumber]
 * @property {string|null} [series]
 * @property {string} author
 * @property {number} pages
 * @property {number|null} rating 1-5
 * @property {string[]} read timestamp of times the book was finished, or if missing "?"
 * @property {string[]} start timestamp of times the book was started, or if missing "?"
 * @property {string} published year the book was published
 * @property {string} goodreads
 * @property {number} goodreads_id
 * @property {string} cover url to cover scaled to 315px wide
 * @property {string|null} [review]
 * @property {boolean} spoiler whether the review contains spoilers
 * @property {string} slug the slugified title

There's a few things to note that might not be immediately obvious about the data:

  1. The seriesNumber is the number of the book in the series, e.g. 1 for the first book in the series. If the book is not part of a series, this is null, and series is an empty string. In addition, if the book is not part of a series, the title and seriesEntry are the same.
  2. The start and read (the date the book was completed) are arrays. This allows for repeat readings. If there's no date, then the value is a ? string.

You can look and poke around my own book reviews on jqTerm.


The script is available on github to download. Feel free to use, adjust and fit to your own needs.

Some code notes

I don't really know why I decided to make it work both in the browser and in Node - probably for the simplicity of use and experimentation.

To pull this off, I created a simplistic implementation of Cheerio (which is used in the node version) to support the map, find, text, and a few other methods.

What was fun to find out was that Goodreads is using (I think) Prototype and the Array.map method (and probably others) had been overwritten. So I had to create a hidden iframe to reclaim original Array.map method.

Speaking of map - since Cheerio implements jQuery syntax, it also implements the (slightly) backward map argument signature of (index, value) (instead of (value, index)). So I had to port that over too (:shivers:).

There was also some fun finding out that Firefox and Chrome implement slightly different Date parsers (I'd assume because that particular API is so old there's legacy bits of cruft laying around).

Specifically Chrome can parse new Date('18 Nov, 2023, Z') but Firefox can't. And Firefox can parse new Date('18 Nov, 2023, +0') but Chrome can't. So if you look at the code, you'll see I try both!