Reading is for nerds. Or is it? Recently, it seems like reading is for comfy sweater–wearing trendsetters who love spilling spicy details about their favorite must–read books. On TikTok, enjoying books has gained a massive cult following as users around the world build a community over their shared interest in reading.
BookTok is a community within TikTok where creators review, recommend, and discuss books. As of March 2022, the BookTok hashtag has 42 billion views, and these views only seem to be growing as readers rush to join this thriving community.
BookTok creators react to a host of different genres including young adult, romance, fantasy, and more. Popular creators include @caitsbooks, who has amassed over 277,000 followers, and @abbysbooks, with over 428,000 followers. These creators embrace books to the fullest by recommending personally impactful books and encouraging readers to enjoy the reading experience to the fullest, even if that involves dimming the lights and lighting a candle for ambiance.
Overall, the BookTok community acts as a safe space for readers of all levels to embrace their favorite tropes and aesthetics, voice their opinions, and even gain a mass audience for themselves. BookTok content can vary from memes to live reactions to book suggestions.
The scope of BookTok is immense, sparking even popular fashion and lifestyle trends. For instance, the popular dark academia aesthetic trend emerged from a spectacular collision of BookTok and FashionTok. Dark academia books usually feature the hijinks of attractive and intelligent main characters traversing higher academic spaces such as boarding schools and elite universities. To keep it simple, the literary traits of dark academia can be best described as if Harry Potter went to Oxford University. With respect to fashion, dark academia features muted color palettes of beige, brown, black, rustic oranges, and lots of tweed. Creators embraced the trend in various ways. Some made memes and skits about the aesthetic, while others posted outfits and book suggestions.
BookTok also allows for any reader to express their opinions and emotions on books. Crying over a main character's death doesn’t have to be done privately in a dark corner. Instead, you can cry to millions of users that simultaneously validate your feelings and empathize with your emotions. This was the case for Adam Silvera’s stunning novel They Both Die At The End. Readers were shocked by the ending and took to BookTok to express their heartache.
As Silvera's work blew up on TikTok, he was pleasantly surprised by the unexplained uptick in book sales. Unbeknownst to Silvera, BookTok was set ablaze by reactions and reviews of his book. Currently, the Adam Silvera hashtag has over 33 million views, with fans discussing and reacting to his work.
If an author uses BookTok intentionally, they can grow a mass following and propel their book to the New York Times Best Seller list and beyond. Former Penn student Chloe Gong (C '21), grew a massive fanbase on BookTok through expressing her love of literary works and her own authorial aspirations. Eventually, Gong released the novel These Violent Delights to mass support from her own BookTok fans. Her novel was propelled to the top of the New York Times' Bestselling list, and it seems clear that Gong’s bright future as an author will be aided by her commercial success and internet following.
Mass retailers are also taking notice of the incredibly engaged and enthusiastic BookTok community. Barnes & Nobles now proudly touts online and in-store sections displaying “The Most Popular TikTok Books” from a variety of genres. While BookTok may just seem like an internet niche or popular fad, it serves as a leading community amongst book readers. Whether you love to read or just dabble in the occasional novel, BookTok is an inviting community that welcomes all readers to explore new book series and engage with other likeminded users.