Website review by
Polly Conway, Common Sense Media
Shelfari Website Poster Image
Cozy social book nook, but use privacy settings.

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Educational Value

Kids can learn to talk about books in a casual way, setting them up for more serious analysis later on in their educational paths. Shelfari will help kids think critically, make decisions, and really reflect on what they loved or hated about a book. They'll learn that literature is capable of bringing people together, and how to find their place in a community of like-minded readers. While not as comprehensive as some of its competitors, Shelfari is a comfortable place for teens to share and make connections with the books they love.

Positive Messages

Kids will feel honored that a website would trust them to edit information available to the general public. Shelfari also instills a love and respect for books.


Dark fantasy, horror, and some comic/manga groups may contain violent or upsetting imagery, but people talk about violence on Shelfari mostly in a literary context, e.g., a discussion group about the ultra-violent novel Battle Royale and whether it promotes violence or not.


Under the group heading "Sexuality," which contains 560 groups, kids can find some pretty explicit content. Groups like "Wet and Wild" and "Virgin Slaves" don't even discuss any books, but are simply a jumping off point for fantasy sharing. Also, each of these groups is accompanied by a photo, some of which are highly suggestive (no nudity, but very close). On the other hand, some of these groups could prove helpful to exploring teens, like "Gay/Straight Alliances," a place for GLBT and straight people to talk about books in a safe environment.


There are no filters for profanity. Because the site is user-edited, kids may come across some content that's been added for shock value or that has nothing to do with the site. Bored teens have created groups like "Justin Bieber Sucks ass!" and filled them with personal chats that sometimes include profanity like "bitch" and f--k."


All Shelfari pages contain links to Amazon, where users can purchase books, as well as a link to Amazon's Kindle at the bottom of each page. Unlike other book review sites, Shelfari doesn't have sidebar ads, which is nice.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are few references to drugs on Shelfari. Most of the drug-related content is anti-drug, but there are a few groups dedicated to the discussion of medical marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shelfari is an online gathering place for readers and book lovers to share information about books. Part social network, part crowdsourced encyclopedia, Shelfari's main focus is on reviews, but it also lets users add and share additional information about their favorite books. It's recommended for kids over 13, who should be able to handle the social aspect of sharing opinions and creating appropriate content. Default privacy settings for Shelfari profiles are public, so teens who don't want to share all their activity with the world will need to make adjustments.

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What's it about?

Shelfari is a website for book lovers that allows users to create a virtual bookshelf, write reviews, and participate in discussion groups. In partnership with retail giant Amazon, Shelfari's mission is \"to enhance the experience of reading by connecting readers in meaningful conversations about the published word.\" Kids can read the entire first chapter of any book featured on Shelfari for free, using Kindle For the Web. It's also a little like Wikipedia in that any user can edit public content about book background, characters, and plot.

Is it any good?

Shelfari is a smaller, more intimate community than the sometimes-overwhelming Goodreads. The ads are subtle and unobtrusive, and while the design isn't that exciting, it's simple and easy to navigate around the site. Shelfari also has some neat little touches that set it apart from the rest; for example, while reading the reviews of The Three Musketeers, you can click the "Hide all spoilers" box to make sure there are no ruined endings in your future. The free first chapter is a huge bonus for kids who may be on the fence about buying a book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about appropriate online behavior, respecting opinions, and keeping conflicts to a minimum. How can you disagree with someone in a respectful way? How should you respond if someone makes a mean comment about you online? Check out our Social Networking Tips for ideas.

  • Families can also talk about favorite books. Why is your favorite book your favorite? Is it the characters, plot, and setting that you like best? What rating would you give it? 

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