GoodReads Universal App Development - API [Part 1]

UPDATE: I actually started this app before universal apps were announced and was using PCLs for the shared bits, but I have since updated that project to a Universal App.

Well, I have a backlog of apps I want to build, and I’ve decided to start with an app that uses the Goodreads API. I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time as I’m a bit of a bookworm, and there are a few features that come in very handy with a tablet or phone, and so far there’s no Windows 8 app that fulfils my needs, so I thought I’d get started on something for both platforms.

My plan is to do this in 2-3 steps: first I want to get my API calls doing what I need, then I’ll build the actual Windows 8 app with the data from the API calls, and later, since most of the work will already be done, I’ll extend it to Windows Phone.

Simple! So let’s get cracking!

Setting up a basic API call

So, the first thing on the agenda is to get familiar with the API that GoodReads kindly supplies and get a library making the calls I need, and processing the data. Some API calls require a user to be authenticated, while others are free to use at any time. Well deal with authentication later, right now I just want to get the basic calls working, get the response and see the data I am given to work with. The search function is called like this:

First, we need to hit this with an with an Http Get Request:

private static async Task HttpGet(string url)
    HttpWebRequest Request = (HttpWebRequest)WebRequest.Create(url);
    Request.Method = "GET";
    string httpResponse = null;
    HttpWebResponse response = (HttpWebResponse)await Request.GetResponseAsync();
    if (response != null)
        StreamReader data = new StreamReader(response.GetResponseStream());
        httpResponse = await data.ReadToEndAsync();
    return httpResponse;

We set whatever we want to the query parameter, make the call, and get a neatly organized XML encoded result. Looking at the returned XML, and making some other calls for other functions we can easily construct a few data structures to store our data, so we can go ahead a process the response:

string results = await HttpGet(BASEURL + SEARCH + "?q=" + query + KEY);
var document = XDocument.Parse(results);
var items = document.Descendants("work");
var data = new List();
foreach (var item in items)
    var xmlbestbook = item.Descendants("best_book").ToList()[0];
    var xmlauthor = xmlbestbook.Descendants("author").ToList()[0];

    var author = new Author()
    ID = Int32.Parse(xmlauthor.Element("id").Value),
    Name = xmlauthor.Element("name").Value,

    var bestbook = new BestBook()
        ID = Int32.Parse(xmlbestbook.Element("id").Value),
        ImageURL = xmlbestbook.Element("image_url").Value,
        SmallImageURL = xmlbestbook.Element("small_image_url").Value,
        Title = xmlbestbook.Element("title").Value,
        Authors = new List() { author }

        new Work()
            BooksCount = Int32.Parse(item.Element("books_count").Value),
            ID = Int32.Parse(item.Element("id").Value),
            OriginalPublicationYear = !String.IsNullOrEmpty(item.Element("original_publication_year").Value) ? Int32.Parse(item.Element("original_publication_year").Value) : -1,
            OriginalPublicationMonth = !String.IsNullOrEmpty(item.Element("original_publication_month").Value) ? Int32.Parse(item.Element("original_publication_month").Value) : -1,
            OriginalPublicationDay = !String.IsNullOrEmpty(item.Element("original_publication_day").Value) ? Int32.Parse(item.Element("original_publication_day").Value) : -1,
            RatingsCount = Int32.Parse(item.Element("ratings_count").Value),
            ReviewsCount = Int32.Parse(item.Element("text_reviews_count").Value),
            Averagerating = Single.Parse(item.Element("average_rating").Value),
            BestBook = bestbook

Done! Looks good so far. I will need to add a few changes to this call since it only returns the first 20 results by default, there is a ‘page’ parameter that can be sent with the GET request, but I’ll work that in later.

Next up, user authentication.

Filipe Duarte

Filipe Duarte
Hi, I’m Filipe. I’m a Software Engineer, from Portugal, currently living in London, building stuff for NewDay.

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