By Adam Fortuna
In the last year Hardcover has grown from just over 1,000 members to over 5,000 (!). In that time readers have saved over 400,000 ratings and written more than 70,000 reviews.
This year we launched the Trending Books page – a place to see which books are being read the most over the last 3 months, 12 months or all time. I loved seeing this insight into what books are rising to the top. As someone trying to spend less time on social media (which is ironic, I’m aware 😂), I loved being able to see this list and know it’s influenced by BookTok, Book Twitter, Bookstagram and even Bookstodon.
But the trending book page still left me with a lot of questions. What NEW books are popular? What book are popular in a specific genre? What about books by BIPOC authors? Or even which authors are most popular?
Answering those questions was one of the goals of The Hardcover 2023 Year in Books!
I’m a big movie fan. To the point where I track all of my watches on Letterboxd and have been a decade. Each year they create an incredible Year in Movies page (2022, 2021, 2020) that I immediately devour and save a bunch of movies to watch.
For years I’ve wanted something similar in the book world. We wanted to do something similar in 2021, but we didn’t have enough readers using Hardcover to generate the kind of definitive insights that would be useful. Fortunately, more readers have joined and now we’re able to offer some truly insightful highlights based on what readers are focusing on for 2023!
Writing books is tough. I’ve written exactly one draft of a book (and a lot of blog posts). Taking a book from an idea to a draft, then iterating on it based on feedback to get it feeling just right while maintaining continuity and all of the points an author wants to hit is an incredible undertaking. We want the Year in Books to be a celebration of all of those authors who released something new into the world in 2023.
This is our first attempt at this, but we plan to do this again in 2024. If you have any feedback for us, please join our Discord and let us know. Feedback helps us know how we can improve next year.
If you’re an author with a book featured in The Year of Books, we’d love to send you a sticker & Christmas card! We’ve reached out to a bunch of authors already and many of these have already gone out.
If we missed contacting you and you’d like a sticker, please email me at adam at hardcover.app and I’ll drop one in the mail for you. 📫
The creation of The 2023 Year in Books took over two months. It started as a Google Doc where the four of us picked out categories to include. A bunch of these ended up being scrapped. For example “Top Rated” books ended up matching “Popular Books”, and we didn’t see the need to have two lists that were roughly identical.
Once we decided on which sections to include, we began prototyping our what each section would look like in our weekly Hardcover Live streams. In these sessions we’re prototyping together in Figma to get a static version of what we want to create.
Much of the time we can’t decide on which version of a design to go with. In that case we create multiple versions and share them on Discord to get some feedback. Here’s the first version of the top 10 design.
The first design ended up getting the most votes. After a few more rounds of design updates and iterations we arrived at the version you see today!
From a technical standpoint this page is a single React page with a bunch of reused components from across the site (book button, cover, title, review, list, prompt, etc). We needed to create a few custom components for things like “Top 10 List”, “Top 5 List”, “Book Trends List”.
One of the tricky parts was hardcoding the books. While we could make this dynamic and hit our database to get the most read books in a month while keeping that up to date, we wanted to include artwork for the featured books. If those books changed in the future the art would be out of sync!
Instead we chose to hardcode the book ids at the time we launched. If another book becomes more popular in the future it won’t impact this page. In other words, it’s a snapshot of what was popular for the year as of Christmas 2023.
We also wanted to show reviews for some books. For that we hardcoded those reviews and their reviewer into the page. This means if a reader with a featured review changes their username, avatar or review it won’t be updated here. That was a tradeoff to guarantee that the page doesn’t change and we don’t need to babysit it.
We had a blast building this. It’s exciting to take a little time away from other projects and build something that’s just a fun celebration of books. We hope you enjoy The 2023 Year in Books as much as we’ve loved making it. 📚
If you do enjoy it, we’d love for you to share it! If you’re logged in and click the share button on the Year of Books page, it’ll generate a link with a referral code tied to your account. Refer two readers and you’ll earn a free month as a Hardcover Supporter. 👨🚀