Welcome to our special interview with Nadia Odunayo! Nadia is the founder of The StoryGraph, an online service that helps you find books to fit your mood. After you read the interview, head over to The StoryGraph to sign up and find your next read!
What is The StoryGraph and what does it do for readers?
The StoryGraph is a website that helps you to find perfect books for you based on your mood and the types of books you like to read.
Our magic feature is “Ordered for you.” Users fill out a short survey — it takes anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes to fill out — letting us know their favourite sorts of books to read, down to specific topics, types of authors, themes, genres etc. — and we order all of the books on our website for them based on how well they match their preferences.
Combine that with our filter menu, where you can filter down by moods, pace, genres, book size, and more, and you’re never more than a few clicks away from your next perfect book!
Can you tell us what sparked the idea and how The StoryGraph has evolved since you founded the site?
The StoryGraph started life as a side project to create and share personal reading lists on anything you wanted.
However, when I started showing early demos to people, I realised that it didn’t solve the biggest needs for readers: better tracking tools and having one place to consistently find great book recommendations.
That’s when I started to pivot the product towards what it is today!
How do you categorize books? Why moods?
Moods are the main ways to characterise books on The StoryGraph because when I was researching how users discovered new books to read, they often spoke about books they loved in relation to how it made them feel and wanting to find books that made them feel a similar way. And yet — there was nowhere to plug in those feelings and see what came out the other end. Until now!
What are the main moods on your StoryGraph profile?
Reflective, dark, and emotional.
What are your favorite books/authors?
Some of my favourite books are:
- Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
- Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
- The Big Short by Michael Lewis
What was the hardest mood to categorize?
“Challenging” can be, well…challenging! Sometimes it can be because a book’s writing is dense or complicated, or because it can make you think hard about your beliefs, and then both of those things are incredibly dependent on who the reader is — what is complicated to someone else might be easily digestible to another. Then again, all of the moods are subjective — we try to find the labels for each book that the vast majority of readers would agree on! If readers disagree, they can express that in their reviews, and eventually we’ll use data from our community reviews to update the mood tags on each book.
Are there additional moods that you are hoping to add in the future?
Before building the beta site, I did a lot of research with the books community on Instagram to come up with the initial list of fourteen moods. The goal was: can we produce a relatively short list that covers every book?
So far it looks like this list is really working out, and if we don’t have to adapt the list then that would be great. That’s not to say a new mood won’t emerge in the future. But rather than us actively seeking to add one, I think the need for it will become obvious at some point based on people struggling to classify a certain group of books.
What features are you most excited to add to The StoryGraph?
I’m really looking forward to adding support for trigger/content warnings.
Books with sensitive content will be flagged on the site. On top of that, users will be able to specify which content they’re sensitive to in their “Ordered for you” preferences and books matching that content will be hidden away from those users.
It’s going to be a tricky problem to solve though, but I’m up for the challenge!
Finally, where can we find The StoryGraph on social platforms?
I also write a 1-min read weekly newsletter explaining a little bit more about what’s going on behind the scenes. You can read some past issues and sign up right here.